Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

Land Use Regulation, Disability, and Aging in Place

Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

Land Use Regulation, Disability, and Aging in Place

Article excerpt

1. Introduction. Inclusion by Design: Thinking beyond a Civil Rights Paradigm

1.1 Pauli: Age 28

Pauli was a passenger in an automobile being driven by his mother when they were hit by a drunk driver.2 The accident left Pauli unable to walk, paralyzed from the waist down. That was 11 years ago. Today, at age 28, Pauli has just been promoted to junior partner of a local management-consulting firm.

While he finishes his work for the day, Pauli looks forward to attending a celebratory party for all the newly promoted people in the firm. The party is being held later this night at the home of the firm's senior partner. Pauli organizes his desk, makes a call to request a wheelchair-accessible bus, freshens up in the men's room, and then rolls himself down the hallway to the elevator. He makes his way out the front door of his building and rolls his wheelchair down the sidewalk to the curb cut, where he crosses the street to wait for the wheelchair-accessible bus that will take him to his home. Two regular city buses that cover his route come and go while Pauli waits the 40 minutes that will be required on this day for the accessible bus to arrive with one other passenger already on it. As Pauli waits for his bus, he thinks about the way his life has changed since that accident 11 years ago. In his wheelchair, life is so much different from the time when he played football, ran track, and danced with his high school sweetheart at the junior prom. Although those memories are cherished, he has since adjusted to a new life and reflects positively on the many changes that have recently improved his quality oflife, such as curb cuts, accessible buses, roll-in entrances to buildings, bathrooms with lower sinksand light switches, and new building designs with doorwaysand facilities that provide adequate space for moving and manipulating his wheelchair.

He knows that such changes have come slowly and that there is a need for additional design changes, but he also appreciates the increasing community awareness of the need for greater accessibility. While acknowledging that much work needs to be done, Pauli feels lucky because his office is in a new building with many inclusive design features, which was not the case in his prior job location, nor is it the case in many of the office buildings downtown, some of which were built 40 or more years ago and have done a poor job of updating. Pauli also feels fortunate because the city, after threats of litigation, recently purchased two new wheelchair-accessible buses, and he now enjoys being able to take advantage of one of the few bus routes served by such a bus, even if service is often slower than that provided by the regular city bus service. The city still has not looked at demographic trends and the need for future bus routes, but at least Pauli can see improvements in transportation and building designs that are beneficial to many people with low functional mobility, not just people in wheelchairs. Within a few minutes, the bus arrives, and Pauli, aware of all the hard work that has gone into becoming a junior partner, rolls onto the bus and is headed home.

After arriving at home, Pauli changes for the party and, together with his wife, drives to the home of the senior partner. The senior partner lives in a newly developed suburban neighborhood to which Pauli has never been before. By the time they locate the partner's home, there are already a number of cars parked along the street. From their car, they can hear the music of laughter and joyful conversation spilling out into the neighborhood. They park the car and head toward the front of the house. There are no sidewalks in the neighborhood, and Pauli's wheelchair does not work well in the soft grass, so they make their way down the center of the street and past the wall of parked cars. Pauli's sense of excitement dissipates, and his gut wrenches as he looks out at a tiered three-level stone sidewalk terracing up the front lawn to a porch with a two-step entry to a relatively narrow front door. …

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