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Report Card

My sixteen-year old daughter could get better grades than she's pulling. She's very bright and capable but nevertheless a lazy student. I've tried a lot of strategies to get her to change her ways but the most recent one seems to be working well...

She wants to drive. With just slight grade point average improvements, the insurance cost of adding her to my policy will change significantly. So, I've made that improved report card a condition of her ability to get her license and oddly enough, she has found stores of memory and intellect sitting idle in her brain. Miraculously, the grades are coming up.

Give me an A

I am not an easy sale though. One good progress report does not mean things are permanently better so I need to see a continuous pattern here (like two consecutive, good report cards) before I grant access to the almighty keys.

This requirement has brought about a lot of protest and that's the very argument we were having last week when I was driving her home from cheerleader practice.

Distracted as I had become, I failed to realize that I had fallen in behind a small yellow school bus that suddenly came to a stop in front of a small, tidy, well-manicured home.

Her words, "Not Fair," were hanging in the air like the balloon script of a comic book character when I stopped my car behind the bus, as required by law, and we both watched the scene before us unfold.

In front of the house stood a man who looked to be retired for some years, but not elderly. His hands were locked behind his back, his cap on snugly and he rocked back and forth athletically, seemingly oblivious to the wind-blown snow. His breath was visible and consistent in cadence.

The bus door opened and the man took a few steps toward the curb. Emerging from the bus was a boy of about 15. The "Special Olympics" emblem on his book bag was obviously worn proudly and the bag was strapped tightly over both shoulders. He walked very erect and deliberately and stopped abruptly at the foot of the bus door stairs.

The look in his eyes behind thick black-rimmed glasses was very serious. Suddenly his eyes came to rest upon his father or perhaps what could have been his grandfather. Each of them lit up like a Christmas tree. The man's arms opened wide and the boy ran to the man as if they had not seen each other in 20 years. The embrace was long and the face of the man over the boy's shoulder was clamped tight, squeezing back tears.

Suddenly, the boy broke away and dug frantically in his book bag, retrieving a paper that likely held a picture he had drawn. He presented it to the man with great pride and they embraced again. The door opened behind them and a woman inside the house beckoned them inside. Arm in arm they climbed the stairs and went in the house.

We sat there for a moment as the bus chortled away and as I choked back the emotion in my throat, Tila turned her head entirely, looking out the window at nothing in particular, hiding her face from my eye. I heard her gulp. The car was deathly quiet. I cleared my throat and turned on the radio.

We didn't speak again the rest of the way home. When we did get home, the walk to the front door was awkward with silence and once inside, she sprinted up the stairs to her room. Ten minutes later she reappeared and joined the family at the table for dinner avoiding my eyes and smiling nonchalantly.

The topic of her license hasn't come up since but I presume when the next report card arrives, she'll be ready to refresh this whole conversation. After all, this little scene was a poignant lesson, not a miracle. Sixteen-year olds only have so much conscience; but what about the rest of us?

Point-of-View

Some time ago the American Disabilities Act put into law the requirements of making sure that facilities and amenities were accessible to all people regardless of their challenge or impairment.

Many operations immediately complied, installing a lower drinking fountain next to the standard one, ramps next to staircases leading to buildings, one double-wide bathroom stall at the end of a series of standard stalls and of course a row full of handicapped parking spots in front of every store.

It's very nice of us isn't it?

You challenged people use this one, and us non-challenged people will use the regular one. Regular... then perhaps implying that the other is... irregular?

Now don't get me wrong here. When it comes to politically correct I still use terms like "women's lib" but wouldn't we really take the sting out of being challenged if we truly exemplified the fact that we could all take other's challenges in stride and accept some of the responsibilities for being blessed?

Stay with me here.

Look at this like a photographic film negative where black is white and white is black.

A bank of bathroom stalls with various signs. The first two have a silhouette of tall and thin people on them -- Really Blessed. Then the shorter people and wider as we went down the line until the last blue-and-white sign was merely a circle with a sweatband on it -- Barely Blessed but Working Out.

As far as entrances to buildings we could have the ramps, an escalator, the stairs and then one of those climbing walls with a bucket of chalk dust next to it to get a really good grip.

Again the blue-and-white signs could indicate accordingly --

Needs the Ramp, Couch Potato Wussy with Electric Stairs, Out-of-Breath Stair Climber Trying to Prove Something, and finally a big blue star next to the climbing wall.

I'll stop with the melodrama since my point is not that complicated. Fact is there was a time when we needed a law to be sure to regulate the simple consideration we should have always had for each other. That was some time ago and hand in hand with the passage of that time is the growth that should have accompanied it.

Making fully accessible facilities isn't a matter of building separate but equal amenities. It's not cold, hard decisions made by engineers on a stack of paper labeled ADA-COMPLIANT.

The notion is that the access should be a consideration in the early part of the design… maybe even the concept. As a person who, only at the moment and by the grace of God, does not require special considerations, I can honestly say it wouldn't bother me to bend a little lower to get my drink of water or walk up a series of ramps instead of stairs.

Perhaps if we looked at challenged considerations through the other side of the looking glass and considered what fully physically capable people were willing and able to do, the entire concept would take a different tack and disabled people wouldn't have to endure constant reminders of what they can't do.

Ronald D. Ciancutti is the purchasing manager for Cleveland Metroparks, a metropolitan park system that encircles Cuyahoga County and includes more than 20,000 acres of natural land, six golf courses, seven nature centers, a variety of special interest facilities and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Ron can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.

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