Because of my privilege, I've never had to give accessibility much thought outside of appreciating “spacious” bathroom stalls, and wishing I could park in the spots near the entrance at Lenox Mall on Saturdays. I was participating in ableism.

It wasn't until I had to push my mom and her wheelchair through those stalls, that they didn’t feel that spacious anymore, and when I had to unpack a wheelchair from the trunk that I started checking to see if cars parked in handicap spots actually had passes.

Without being disabled or having someone close to you who is, accessibility may never be an issue for you because our world has been built for people without disabilities (physical, sensory, or mental). 

All places, especially places meant for people to optimize their health, should be inclusive of everyone. My mom used to go to the gym at least 5 days a week, so getting her a gym membership after she ran out of physical therapy sessions was a natural next step. However, with full strength in only the right side of her body, it was difficult finding a gym where she could use equipment effectively or comfortably outside of the treadmill. 

Even when I brought my mom to Atlanta’s Google office, and wanted her to get some exercise in while I worked out- the building’s elevators only went down to the second floor, while the gym was on the first. The only way to the gym was down 2 very long flights of stairs, or to go around the building to an alternate entrance. Not anticipating that she would need to walk for any extensive distances that day, we did not pack my mom’s wheelchair, and the building did not provide any. My friend and I pushed my mom around the building to the alternate door in a rolling office chair in good spirits, but the blatant barrier for people with disabilities and lack of accommodations for disabled trying to access the gym was disappointing, especially for a building hosting Google, a company that prides itself on bias busting.

Her first time back on a bicycle at LA Fitness.

Her first time back on a bicycle at LA Fitness.

These are things to take into consideration when we navigate our surroundings, before consistently choosing the handicaps stalls, or parking in the handicap spots to run into the store for a few minutes. Since many of my friends are aspiring entrepreneurs- this is especially important when designing your business to ensure that your store or facility is accessible. Ableism and accessibility take many forms though, not just in the physical capacity. You can read more about this often invisible bias here.