I am a trained historian. I love history. I bask in the eras I study, I immerse myself in the language of times past, in fact, I’m enough of a historian that I get paid to write alternate history.
Which also means I like to go places where history has been made. I have used my cane to climb the steps in multiple castles, I have wandered the halls of Versailles (and been allowed to touch objects of history in order to get tactile experience), I have stood as a groundling in the Globe Theater, and I have managed the stairs at Paul Revere’s house in Boston, despite their lack of accommodation.
I understand that some historical buildings are impossible to make accessible. I make them accessible where I can, and sigh at the places where I can’t manage. My husband, my friends, they have all been my guide dogs through historical areas.
But the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission has done something that really irritates me.
You see, they voted to deny access. They voted against putting in tactile ramps at crosswalks so that the blind (like myself) can cross the street safely.
LOOK – I get that you want it to be a beautiful colonial area, but you can’t make your entire neighborhood into a museum. You just can’t. People have to go places, and live their lives. It’s bad enough the neighborhoods that still have cobblestones are around. I mean, they’re beautiful, but my cane catches in each single stone, and I can’t tell what’s something I’ll trip on or what’s just meant to be there.
History is important. But being able to access the world and to access history is just as important. The City of London is one of the most historic cities in the world, and yet they didn’t bat an eyelash at tactile crosswalks. They are used to adding the old to the new.
Boston can be like London, it can be a city of history which all can access.
But only if those in power allow it to happen.
This is like when the people who live on the Upper East Side in NYC complained about the sound emitting crosswalks which are used to help the blind. The complaint was that the blind aren’t going to be out late at night, so why can’t they be shut off after dark?
Well, as a blind woman who uses those to not get hit by a truck, I actually am out past 10pm.
Sometimes, it feels like no one thinks that the disabled live lives like everyone else. We go on dates, we have one night stands, we go out to parties, and yes, we hang out in bars until closing.
Let us access the world. I love history, but I don’t love history at the expense of access. If you can make it accessible, do it.