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Chronic Illness - Chronic Pain Articles

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Can 1 Person Make a Difference: Advocacy for the Chronically Ill and Disabled

By Linda Dalgliesh

Advocating accessibility has been a pet project of mine since fibromyalgia forced me to go on long-term disability. Using a walker and wheelchair have forcibly brought home to me how inaccessible most towns and cities are.

Ever since Moses had to have help holding his rod up high to part the Red Sea, people have needed help to overcome their personal lack of strength. Ever since the friends of a man who could not walk had to open up the roof and lower him down to Jesus to be healed, Christians have been working on access to buildings.

Millions of people around the world experience daily some restrictions on their movements due to lack of proper accessibility. I cannot change the world, but I am determined to change my corner of it.

disabled parking placard and handicapped parking, invisible chronic illnessHeavy doors with strong springs prevent access into some buildings. For elderly people and those without sufficient strength to push these doors open, it's a daily struggle. This can be overcome by putting in a mechanical door which opens by an electronic signal or a manual switch. Ramps to get into buildings with steps or high thresholds are needed even in churches. Signage, large enough to be read by those visually impaired, should point the way to accessible doors and washrooms.

When something like this comes up, I think of all the hundreds of other people who cannot speak up for themselves, and I take action. I write a letter and send it to the stores or offices where I have experienced difficulty accessing the building. After conducting a conversation with the aide to my provincial elected representative from the street, because I could not enter his constituency office, I wrote to him, giving him directions from his own government's documents on how to build a portable ramp.

Street lights or pedestrian corridors which are not placed close to where many people cross, a busy street or street lights, which do not allow a person who walks slowly to cross before it changes, take persistence but can be overcome. Contacting the department dealing with streets and roads and pointing out the hazards and that they are an accident waiting to happen is often enough. Again, a letter generally carries the most weight. If that doesn't work, contact the local or city representative and ask him how soon he wants to have someone killed because he did not take action. That works wonders around election time. Contact the police and get them to assess the danger of the situation. Your next step is to contact the media through a call-in show or a letter to the editor.

"But I haven't the time to do all this," you may say. My response is
"If you can write a letter or make a phone call, it will help many others
who are in the same position you are. You can change your corner
of the world for better."

During the past six years, besides the local constituency office made accessible, I have had street lights installed to cross a busy intersection; small concrete ramps put in to get over the high thresholds of a nearby strip-mall; new doors put on the closest supermarket because the automatic doors kept slamming on my scooter and me; a human rights tribunal intervention was necessary to make a store install a mechanical lift to its underground location; a table was placed in a local restaurant that did not force a person in a wheelchair to sit in the aisle, while others sat in a booth; the heavy door to a so-called "wheelchair accessible" washroom was removed and the doorway was entered by switchback walls; my church put up signage about the accessible washroom, and the ramp has been rebuilt; a ramp has been installed at the curb to my apartment building, and the wheelchair loading/ no parking zone has been enforced with tow-away.

You, too, can make a difference. "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'....He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me' " Matthew 25:40, 45. What will you tell the King on Judgment Day?

Linda Dalgliesh lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where getting around in winter on snow and ice with wind chills that regularly go below -40 F. and summer humidexes that can easily reach +105 F., can be challenging for even the fittest. For someone with fibromylagia, myofascial pain syndrome, migraines, and numerous other chronic illnesses, it is daunting to say the least.

Reprinted from ...And He Will Give You Rest
monthly support newsletter, Volume 5, Issue 1. ©

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For more information on what is required for disabled access in the United States or to make an official complaint about a business or building, contact the US Access Board or by calling (800) 872-2253.

They are a federal agency committed to accessible design and have a wealth of information on what is required, how to enforce it and how to make a difference in your neighborhood.