Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Lesson

The most valuable lessons in life are sometimes those which happen when you simply think about everyday things in a new way.

 I remember in 1990 when the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed. I was working at the Public TV station in Flint at the time and we were required to sit through some videoconferences explaining the law and its ramifications. I figured it was only marginally relevant to me. I didn't have a physical handicap. Neither did the employees I supervised. If the new laws made the lives of disabled people a bit better, that was fine, but as far as I was concerned this was all stuff that would take place in the background.

 One of the immediate results of the ADA was the rather old building which housed the TV station was upgraded to make it more accessible to those with disabilities. One such upgrade was the addition of a push button outside the entry door which would automatically open that door when pushed. I had no problem opening that door anyway, so I figured it made no difference to me either way. But then we started airing telecourses for a local Community College. One of my jobs was to haul the weekly load of videotapes from a building located across campus back to the TV studio. On some weeks, these heavy tapes had to be carried by yours truly in an cumbersome box requiring all my strength to carry. And guess what? When I arrived breathless at the entry door and my hands were full, I was able to push the access button with my elbow, have the door automatically open and easily walk inside.

 I've often thought about that incident in the years which followed. In making things a little better for one group, we - sometimes in unintended and unplanned ways - make things a little easier for ourselves as well. Ever since, when questions of rights for minority groups have come up, I have tended to err on the side of wanting to maximize the rights of such groups. My reasoning is that not only would expansion of those rights be good in and of themselves, but there might, when one least expects it, be benefits for us all.

No comments:

Post a Comment