I recently read "Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes. It is a number one "New York Times" bestseller that was just made into a movie. The two main characters in this novel are Louisa Clark and Will Traynor. Will is a quadriplegic and Lou is his caretaker. The novel is about the romance that ensues between the two.
It was a charming and romantic read that I would definitely recommend to anyone. However, "Me Before You" did more than just tell a fictional story. It brought my attention to a form of discrimination I was not previously aware of. A large chunk of "Me Before You" is about Louisa trying to keep Will happy and encourage him to go out more. Although she has good intentions, Lou begins to see just how difficult it is to live as a quadriplegic. Casual activities like going to the horse races, parking and navigating streets have to be carefully planned.
My sister and I were recently in London where they have a subway system. The tube, as Londoners call it, is so efficient. You never have to wait more than five minutes for a train and there are tube stations around every corner. Unfortunately, the tube is full of stairs, escalators and crowded hallways. Even though it’s efficient for the average person, a disabled person could not use it.
At my workplace, we have a public restroom. People will often come into the store just to use the bathroom and leave. The bathrooms are on the second floor. I once had a lady in a wheelchair ask me where the bathroom was. I told her it was upstairs and that there was an elevator she could use. She looked relieved. Right after I told her this, my manager whispered to me that the elevator was broken. I turned back to the woman and apologized. She looked so sad when I told her she couldn’t access the bathroom. I felt guilty and also angry that the broken elevator had caused someone discomfort.
Discrimination towards those with disabilities is more common than one might think. Any building without a handicap entrance is discriminating against disabled people. If a person can’t enter a building because it does not meet ADA standards, this is architectural discrimination. After reading "Me Before You," I became aware that every high curb and unpaved sidewalk could be a challenge for someone. Although people with disabilities are a minority, they deserve the same treatment as everyone else. They should be able to enter buildings through the same entrance, enjoy the same view, and use a public restroom with ease.
Disability rights deserve to be recognized. Although it is relatively new, the disability rights movement is in the works. In 1990, Americans with Disabilities Act became the official protector of disabled peoples of the United States. My university and others have started Abilities Advocacy Clubs. The best way to begin helping somebody is to understand how they are struggling. The more you understand someone’s struggle, the better equipped you will be to help them.
I don’t know if Jojo Moyes intended her book to be informative on disability rights, but it was to me. Thank you.