Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Guaguas & Privillege

One of the things I enjoyed most about DR was travelling by guagua. Guaguas are like minibuses that seat about 24 people and travel between different cities and towns. To get on a guagua you just stand on the side of the road you want to travel on and flag one down. When you want to get off, you just shout "afuera!" and the guagua pulls over. They are ridiculously cheap to use (for us anyway) and they're fun. I really liked travelling on the equivalent of public transportation.

Some time during a trip on a guagua it occurred to me that it was a privillege to travel this way. Guaguas are totally inexcessible to people who have mobility disabilities. This made me think about how I would have enjoyed the trip if I was in a wheelchair. It would have been difficult. Traffic laws are less formal, sidewalks are narrow and obstructed, accessbility laws are either non-existant or ignored. Of course, it doesn't have to be this way. Laws can be changed and enforced, rennovations can be made. Often I'm so impatient with these kinds of situations in the US. The newer city buses are very accessible and the older ones are not. I can't stand that not all of the older buses have been replaced by the newer. An elevator is being installed at the subway on 125th St and it's frustrating that it's taking years (literally) to complete. These changes are occurring (though at an absurdly slow pace).

But I must confront my privillege once again here. It is only the privillege of living in a country like the US that makes me assume that these sorts of changes should come about now in order to reduce the ways that inaccesbility is built into our environment. In a country like DR, long exploited and colonized and now extremely poor, what hope is there that public transportation will be made accessible, curb cuts & other simple yet necessary modifications will occur.

After continuously confronting my privillege for years and years I am still taken by surprise at times by the sheer extent of my privillege.

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