To Kimber: It always comes down to the restrooms – a universal need.
Let’s talk about ‘ADA Restrooms’. Please stop calling them ‘ADA’ restrooms. By now, we must all be familiar that any new public construction must be ADA compliant and for that there is a very good reason we will discuss another day. For this reason, we would not identify a restroom by ethnicity, race, or religion, why would we call out the disability community? They are restrooms! Perhaps this is a strategy to deflect our attention from the original desire of a new theater lobby. What is primarily important is that these new restrooms are universally designed so any person can access them with full respect vs. ‘men’ or ‘women’ restrooms. Again, this is a conversation we can have later.
I too was at the November and December 2020 NCRD Board meetings. While “the [NCRD theater lobby] plans were drawn by a professional experienced architect with the express purpose of meeting all ADA requirements, and that the plans were approved by the county, and that they met precise state and federal ADA specification”, what I heard, at the meeting, was one of our brave theater patrons ask that before we start construction we consider if the new restrooms are usable by those claimed they are for. What Kimber and I are asking is, if access to them is prohibitive then what good are they? The best way to know would have been to listen to someone with the true lived experience of relying on a wheelchair for mobility, BEFORE construction began. If we are unwilling to do this, are we truly serving our entire community? These are not a “select few seeking special privileges”. These are your neighbors trying to attain the same good experience that others are afforded. I have been told by my friends who use wheelchairs, not being able to access a restroom without someone’s help is not independence, nor is it dignified. I believe them.
For the time being, what’s done is done, the construction moved forward. Now we live with what we have, but it doesn’t change the fact that we must learn to listen in order to hear. For now, our patrons who use a chair will hopefully find a friend to help them to the bathroom.
At that board meeting, Constance really listened, heard, changed her mind, and acted upon it for a better solution toward true inclusion, and it speaks volumes. She is on the right side of inclusion in its most authentic form. Instead of belittling someone who sees it different she saw it through their eyes and has acted with grace and class ever since. It seems like this boogey-monster ‘change’ has some scared; of what? If folks are having a hard time working with ‘different’ please ask yourselves why. If we truly want to practice inclusion, why wouldn’t we invite those in who are different than us to learn from them? If we are being inclusive, we will seek out what modifications or accommodations are needed so each of us can participate. This is not scary; in this case it is the very simple intentional act of assuring each person the same self-respect to use a restroom in our community building.
As the crisis of the pandemic lulls on, we are only beginning to see exposure of foundational weaknesses emerge. I am hopeful we can come together to offer our unique strengths and gifts to create stronger and better selves, systems, and communities. This conversation will continue. I thank Constance for raising the level of awareness on the serious issue of the need to advocate for inclusion with her candidacy. I trust that she will continue the work no matter the outcome of this election. I have given her my vote. Today, I ask my friends and my community… those of you that know me, my family, my ongoing efforts to make inclusion a natural course rather than a struggle…I ask each of you to do the same. If you cast only one vote for one race in this election let it be for Constance Shimek for the NCRD Board.
Please see what Oregon Parks and Recreation (OPRD) is doing after they looked at all of their Oregon parks for access deficiencies: https://www.tillamookcountypioneer.net/new-ada-transition-plan-will-guide-oregon-state-parks-improvement-projects/