How We Hurt Handicapped People and the Nation

As I write this, I am sitting at my desk in the front room of my home. From my computer, I have the vantage to see everyone that walks past my house and down my street. I sit here almost every day from about 8am to about 2pm.  Unless I am refilling my coffee or screaming at my cats for walking on the kitchen counters, few events on my street escape my view.

Last year I watched as street crews tore out the perfectly serviceable concrete curbs at the street corners and, over the course of a month or so, installed curb cuts. Curb cuts are ramps that lead from the surface of the street up to the sidewalk. They are usually placed on corners at intersections, and designed to make street crossings easier for wheelchairs.

I do not know the total number of cuts that were installed in my neighborhood. One on each corner of every street. A cursory glance at the map shows perhaps 180 corners.

 

I have not researched the cost, but a report from the city of San Francisco shows a project that included 30 curb cuts and costs the city $1.2 million. Let’s deduce from this example that my neighborhood may have spent $7.2 million on the project.  Oh heck, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say they managed to pull it off with just $5 million hard-earned taxpayers’ dollars.

Now in the six years that I have sat looking out this window, I seem to recall having seen someone roll by on a wheel chair.

Yes, one person.

So I wonder, how many of my neighbors are disabled and require curb cuts?   I do not know all the neighbors personally – only perhaps 40 households of the 120 houses that surround mine. 

www.disabledinaction.org claims that 11% of the population is handicapped and  www.city-data.com reports the population of my neighborhood at 3,268. That means there are approximately 359 handicapped people in my neighborhood.  That number seems high and, frankly I find that hard to believe, but let’s assume that it is true.

So we have spent $13,000 per handicapped person to ensure they can navigate seven tenths of a square mile freely unencumbered by the dreaded enemy – an obstacle called: the curb.

Now, believe it or not, the curb – in my opinion – is not a man-made object. It has existed for millennia…in form of rocks, streams, hills, mud puddles. Somehow, through the wonders of evolution and over tens of thousands of years, Man (and the furry creatures) have somehow managed to overcome these challenges.

Did man and the animals evolve by inventing jack hammers and concrete and smoothing out the rocks and streams into a worldwide network of easily navigable pathways?  Did nature, in her infinite wisdom, cause wheels and tires to sprout from the fore and hind quarters of man and the beast?  No. None of these things happened.

But good old Man thinks he is smarter than nature.

He has decided to ignore the lessons of evolution and modify the territory rather than the species.

Oh, the fools and their folly.  Let’s Level the Terrain!  Oh yes, that will help. That is the answer! Now, how much did you say Leveling the Terrain was going to cost? Just a few Billion dollars?   …per city.   No problem! 

Now assume that every neighborhood in the United States has spent an equal amount of money per resident modifying their own sidewalks. That shouldn’t be hard to do, considering that special interest groups representing handicapped people have won millions of dollars suing municipalities and state governments for lack of “handicapped access” and that the population density of my neighborhood is actually quite low, compared to normal metropolitan areas.

In addition to the money spent on residential streets, there is also the price we pay to convert public buildings (post offices, libraries, stadiums). Most of these structures were modified at exorbitant cost to bring them “up to code” to make it easier for wheelchair access. When have you not been at least mildly appalled at the lack of respect shown to the grand architecture of our nation, such as when a cheap plywood ramp has been grafted on to a noble flight of granite steps of a stoic courthouse or post office? 

Consider also handicapped modifications other than curb cuts: widening of doors, converting restrooms, lowering countertops, etc.  With a single uni-sex restroom conversion costing up to $100,000, I’d wager that these modifications probably exceed the cost of the curb cuts themselves.

Add to that, other liabilities heaped on the public burden to pay for handicapped access and I think you begin to see the full picture: The United States spends billions of dollars in attempts to Level the Terrain: sculpt the environment so that a few people can roll around in wheelchairs that have not changed in design since they were patented in 1869.

 

I say chap, I’ve just trotted up on my horse to the steps of the local post office. Where is the post so that I may tie up my horse?  What! No post here, you say? An abomination!  How could the government not make accommodations for my preferred method of travel?

“Um hello dude. We use cars now. There are lots of parking spaces and gas stations around. We don’t use horses anymore.”

And so it goes with wheel chairs… I should not have to tell you that there are MODERN wheelchairs. Made by companies such as Segway, these machines can navigate curbs, stairs and even water 3″ deep. 

 

The price? 

Well, they are a little steep at $23,000 each.

But remember, we’re already paying more than that to Level the Terrain, and did I mention that these babies can fjord a small stream?

So now, the question that must be asked is: with modern wheelchair technology available, why are we mistreating our handicapped citizenry?

Why are we pouring billions of dollars into terrain modification and leaving handicapped citizens to suffer with their 1869 wheel chairs? 

We could have every handicapped American in a modern wheel chair, able to leap curbs, steps and puddles in a single bound, if not for these asinine politics that defy science and nature!

But you know what the greatest tragedy is?  Politicians are not to blame. Industry is not to blame.  The blame lies heavily on Handicapped Rights Groups and the handicapped themselves.

For it is these folks who have narrow-mindedly focused their energy on litigation and complaints to compell government and industry compliance for Leveling the Terrain.

They’ve lost sight of the ultimate goal – making life better for the handicapped.

Sure there are those who fight for better wheelchairs and technology. But nearly all focus on the fight to level the terrain…  But what disservice we are doing to our Nation as a whole when we allow the handicapped to plod along a path we’ve flattened for them until finally, at some point in their lives, they will encounter …  a curb.

Yes, can’t we assume that it will be an impossible task to flatten the entire Earth?  Somewhere in their lives, the handicapped citizen, in their government-issued 1869 wheel chair will encounter a curb.  Or steps.  Or a puddle… 

By Leveling the Terrain, we are making the handicapped weaker and less able to overcome obstacles that will eventually pop up in their lives, here, there, anywhere.

Would it not be better to give them the tools to overcome these challenges, such as the new technology wheelchairs?   If we stopped wasting money Leveling the Terrain, we could afford to give one Segway to each handicapped person, make them stronger, able to travel to more places…even places that have curbs.

Imagine what would happen when an army of once-handicapped Americans roll out over the landscape in their new technology wheel chairs, able to conquer new challenges, new jobs, and newly increased productivity.  Instead of being a financial drain on the Nation, they would become an asset.

***

This tirade on wheelchair access is just a slice of what I think is wrong with America.  But I think it is representational of the kind of thought that will bring down our great country.  Lady Liberty and Mr. Work Ethic are already on their knees, pleading for us to pay attention to lessons taught by Mr. Darwin. 

What I mean by that statement is, in nature, the strongest of the species propagate their seed, and make the descendants of the group stronger. This works for species and also for a culture, such as the Nation. Ultimately, by promoting and making life easier for handicapped people, we increase their odds of survival, and perhaps their life expectancy. As we pour more public money into making life easier for handicapped people, it may even attract people who would otherwise struggle to recover, to rather claim a handicapped lifestyle. This all leads to an increase in the percentage of our population that is handicapped. By increasing the percentage of the handicapped population (without making them inherently stronger, or better able to cope with life’s challenges), we weaken the evolutionary position of the culture.

Wouldn’t it be better to make these people stronger and more able to survive the challenges of nature? Wouldn’t that make us stronger as a nation?

And isn’t it the most ethical and moral way of helping our fellow citizens?

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3 thoughts on “How We Hurt Handicapped People and the Nation

  1. While you make some valid points with regards to segway technology not being available to people with mobility issues through their insurance companies, who will provide for power chairs etc. but wont spring for the extra few thousand dollars to provide for this technology. I would like to point out that this technology is not always appropriate for every citizen with disabilities. Also it seems like the planning boards screwed up in the first place when they built the sidewalks with curbs and no cutouts, as such you can indeed blame the planners and the politicians. I’m very sorry you feel compelled to gripe about the spending on improving infrastructure for people with disabilities and mobility issues. Your passion could go to many other worthy causes and reckless fleecing of funds.

  2. Natasha, thank you for your comments. I am truly happy that you read my essay and commented.

    My “passion” is writing about the failure of our culture to address the challenges of politics, which, in my view is the practice of balancing the Economic Cost of providing society’s needs. Our culture is has failed (to the tune of a $16 TRILLION national debt) due to its obsession with “making things safe and easy”. However that is not the way Nature works; and this practice can not continue.

    Because I am a humanitarian, and also a Conservative Constitutionalist, my goal is to attempt to suggest realistic solutions to our society’s needs.

    My mission is to prove that it is not financially possible to make the world safe and accessible (to protect the weak from the process of Natural Selection) so I suggest instead that we maximize technology to make the Weak strong.

    I think this is a better solution, and, as I show in my essay, it makes financial sense.

    Thank you again for reading.

    -Scottie

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