I'll try to say something on this later tonight, but here's the placeholder with a link so you can go read all the great stuff people are writing now. I gotta do some work.
Okay, it's later and I'm way too tired to blog. What to say? How about some advice!
Don't be assholes and make a million assumptions! Try to contain the details of your curiosity! Be polite! Think once in a while about how an experience might be if you had different abilities!
Be a little gentle with those of us who have varying ability. Sometimes I can walk better or worse than other times. Sometimes that's my fault that I'm worse, sometimes it's not; sometimes I'm better because I did something right, and other times it seems so random. So, keep your advice to yourself unless I'm asking.
Aside from thinking, and empathy, and politeness, ACT.
Is somewhere you go pointlessly inaccessible? Suggest to that business owner that they make a small improvement.
Here are some small things you could do to make a space more accessible to people with mobility issues.
* install a handrail next to steps (and ramps)
* handrail in bathroom
* smooth out that one little step at the door. don't be telling me about building it to code. just get in there with some asphalt or cement or something and make it work.
* keep narrow hallways clear of junk and boxes (I am thinking of restaurant bathrooms)
* fix bathroom locks so people with limited dexterity or in wheelchairs can close the door
* my current pet peeve: stages. rrrrrgh. steps and a rail? portable metal ramp?
* provide seating, benches, for people who have trouble standing up in lines or waiting areas
* build accessible paths through gravelly areas
* Signs, high up, with indications of where the ramps, elevators, bathrooms, exits are.
I made a Flickr group called Inaccessible! meant for people to post photos of inaccessible places that bug them. Now, ideally, we could provide location details and contact info, and resolve to email or call around to try to get that space fixed. And for events, I think it might be helpful to document inaccessible ways of organizing space, and send the photos to the event organizers.
You don't need to be disabled to join that group and post to the group. You don't need to be disabled to mention a step, or a lack of handrail, to a business owner. Or even to put a rail or two in your own house or in the house of a relative who is having trouble.
Remember, you will get old someday, and you might be needing those ramps and rails and smooth paths. By the time you need them, you might have less energy to fight for them. So ask, and build, and fight, now rather than later.