Thursday, October 09, 2008

Simi Linton on disability and architecture

More on the subject; one of my local reading groups is discussing Simi Linton's My Body Politic next month, so I happened to run across this passage just after writing yesterday's post. Linton is describing the steps at Columbia University:
My earlier body had been trained to walk such steps and my eyes to appreciate their grandeur. I grew up thinking, although I'm sure I never said it out loud, that steps are either a pragmatic solution, a means to connect spaces of different heights, or they are an aesthetic element, added onto a design because it makes the building more beautiful. But now, with their function lost to me, their beauty began to fade, and I saw something I hadn't noted before--attitude. Steps, and particularly these steps at Columbia, seemed arrogant. The big buildings sitting up on top said, "The worthy can climb up to me, I will not kneel down and open my doors to those below me."... The design of steps forbids the wheelchair user, and the designer of these steps, deliberately or unwittingly, provided us only a solitary and difficult route to get where those steps took all others. (p. 57)

16 comments:

william Peace said...

This is a great passage from Linton's book. Remarkably there are many more astute and thought provoking statements such as the one quoted. As a wheelchair user and Columbia graduate Linton's words touched me deeply.

Kay Olson said...

Great passage. I have the book on my reading pile, so I look forward to anymore you have to say on it.

On architecture and the arrogance of steps: Historic buildings? Also not so impressive when you cannot get in. To hell with history if you can't visit it, I say. This in particular about historic buildings on universities.

Processing Counselor said...

Simi was my teacher and before she wrote that book but (very shortly ) after I took her class I had the injury that caused my disability.
I remember coming out of PT to confront the arrogance of the ONE step that confronted me as I longed to buy the stack of magazined that I longed for. I took my business elsewhere. Damn them.

william Peace said...

Kay, Columbia was both an architectural and attitudinal disaster for people with disabilities. This is based on my experience long ago--I graduated in 1992. From what I understand the university has a come a long way since. Students I talk to say that the university is responsive and accessible.

Liz Henry said...

Thanks for this! I'm ordering the book.

Liz Henry said...

I read Linton's book last week, based on your recommendation! Thank you - it was great!

And I linked to this post today as I wrote about the inauguration and Cheney's wheelchair:

http://liz-henry.blogspot.com/2009/01/deconstructing-cheneys-de-inaugural.html

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