Garden Station is a community garden in Dayton, Ohio. I was invited to a Facebook group to Save Garden Station and some friends want me to work on a video about it because a great injustice is occurring there. The city of Dayton made an agreement to allow the space to be turned into a city garden for $1 a year as the lease price. Now that the city is being revitalized, they want it back so they can take it for their own purposes. Many people in the greater Dayton community have made the garden into a beautiful spot and by the city going back on their deal they are going to take this beautiful space away from a community that has worked hard to maintain it.
David Esrati is running for Dayton City Commission. I was sent to his website several months ago to respond to a topic he wrote about on disability parking spaces. He argued that parking spaces were not necessary for all buildings, especially ones that offered apartments on the second floor. To me, this shows a lack of understanding for disability rights. I responded, in turn, that disability parking is not just for people in wheelchairs. It is for people with a variety of disabilities and chronic illnesses, as well. As a child with a progressive neuromuscular disability, I could both walk and climb steps, but walking long distances was hard. Disability parking helped me out significantly. People with Lupus, Cancer and other debilitating diseases and disorders often get disability parking placards and license plates because they get tired easily and they have a good reason for needing them. Yet, they can still live on the second floor. His argument is laden with able-bodied privilege. He shows little understanding of the intricacies of people who use disability parking permits.
So, what does this have to do with Garden Station? I am a part of the Defend Garden Station group on Facebook and Mr. Esrati posted in it about how the “man who provided the free hosting and web design for the Garden Station” only had 300-ish followers on his Facebook page (insert link to his Elect Esrati page). He also castigated Nan Whaley who is running for mayor of Dayton. Granted, Whaley seems to have little care for Garden Station, but this was hardly the place for a political showdown, in my opinion.
NOTE: I added a transcript at the end of the article so that people who are blind can read our conversation. So, if you cannot read graphic images, go to the bottom of the article to read the full transcript for further information on what was said.
I responded that I had neither Whaley nor Esrati liked on Facebook and mentioned offhandedly that I didn’t like his page because I wasn’t fond on his stance on the ADA.
Mr. Esrati responded to me on Facebook personally and that’s when things exploded. I think it is best summed up in our own words, as not to lose the quality or meaning behind them.
It begins with Mr. Esrati asking what problems I have with him in relation to disability issues. I responded about my concerns I had brought up on his blog, and that’s when Mr. Esrati began to display signs of able-bodied privilege.
From there, he pointed out that he wouldn’t support older buildings being made accessible if they didn’t need to be made accessible. He also started making assumptions about who I plan to vote for and who I support in the Dayton elections.
Let’s get real. I am a wheelchair user, so anyone discussing legislation about things pertinent to disability is going to get my attention. At the same time, one single position isn’t going to make me vote one way or the other. I have several issues I look to find politicians agree with me on or disagree with me on before weighing in on who deserves my vote. I attempted to explain this to Mr. Esrati. I also pointed out that I was using his own words.
He was also referencing a post I put on my public wall. I mentioned our discussion on my wall and that I was:
“Not impressed by David Esrati at all. He picked the wrong disabled guy to single out and question about knowledge on the ADA….”
“He is very condescending because I don’t agree with him on the ADA. He tried to tell me there are buildings that don’t need to be made accessible. If it’s a public building offering goods or services then people with disabilities deserve access. He also said some buildings can’t be made accessible. Tell that to Europe who has found ways to make Ancient built structures accessible in spite of their age (particularly France).”
I did mistakenly say he was running for mayor, but it is City Commission and I corrected that. If that is the inaccurate information he believes I said, sorry for that, Mr. Esrati. My faux pas. The rest I took from your own words!
Mr. Esrati continues his ableist ramblings by postulating that a family grocer shouldn’t have to make their grocery store accessible because it’s “not fiscally smart”. So, Mr. Esrati clarifies he has posted about how he doesn’t support people with disabilities when it comes to business before, but I point out this was not the instance I was discussing. It was, in fact, his stance on parking spaces for people with disabilities.
It’s good to know that he believes disabled people should not have access to use the public restroom at a family grocery store though, if it is not fiscally responsible for the owners. Heavens forbid someone in a wheelchair has an emergency or need for such a restroom. Unlike their able-bodied counterparts, they should go elsewhere!
I find that when people can no longer debate their points, they tend to turn to insulting the person personally. While I tried to keep my Facebook arguments above the belt, Mr. Esrati decided he was done talking to me!
I then reminded him it was he who sent a message to me to clarify my views. Apparently, if you disagree with him the only response is to call you names to try to discredit you.
Because calling me names is exactly what he started doing in the Garden Station group!
I saw Mr. Esrati’s initial post as self-promoting. He pointed out he gave free web space and hosting to Garden Station in an attempt to get more likes to his political campaign’s page. At the same time, he took pot shots at someone who is not even his political opponent. She is running for mayor not city commission.
Then he pointed out how I have been unable to react as quickly as others to help Defend Garden Station.
The worst part is how clearly ableist Mr. Esrati is, and I don’t even think he recognizes it. In the span of just a few hours he managed to:
-say businesses should not follow ADA compliancy if it costs too much money
-parking spots should not always be available for people with disabilities – it is an able-bodied world we live in, and apparently we should only be allowed spaces in places where we live
-claim blind people shouldn’t be allowed near gun ranges – now I am all for gun control, but if people are allowed to have guns saying one group cannot have guns over another is not right. Besides blind people CAN shoot guns with accuracy: SEE HERE, HERE, and HERE and some blind people have made it to the Olympics in events deemed strictly for sighted people such as…ARCHERY – SEE HERE. Let’s also not forget that his assessment about gun ranges not being accessible for blind people goes against a blind person’s 2nd amendment right. Look, I hate guns, personally. I’d never own one, but his assessment that people who are blind have no need to go to a gun range are just plain discriminatory! In fact, since their other senses are heightened, some blind people can better gauge where a bullet goes, as they can hear it’s movements.
-call me an idiot
-tell me to go to hell
-tell me I’m not needed to help out
Further, he asserts I’m not doing enough because I haven’t started filming a documentary style video about the space. My friend and fellow filmmaker Eryn Montgomery planned to go with me to the garden to film this Tuesday because she has classes and work before then AND our friends who help at the garden were not available when I wanted to come this weekend. Ash and I still planned to come this weekend and shoot our own footage, but I also don’t drive and make plans for who can drive me places. Usually this happens with some advance notice, so I couldn’t get there today, when I found out about what was happening to the garden.
Mr. Esrati should not run for political office if he cannot handle public criticism of the things he says and the way he treats people! Further, I just moved in to my new home, so that is why I was slightly confused about who I can vote for, since my mailing address says Dayton.
In short, in my attempt to keep things on task when it came to the issue of saving the Garden Station community garden I failed. Instead, I was led to realize there still is a long way to go when it comes to able-bodied privilege, even in Dayton. What Mr. Esrati needs to realize is that I may not matter since I live in Washington Twp., but the thousands of disabled folks living in the city of Dayton DO matter and they need someone running for city commission who gives a damn about their rights and their place in Dayton, too.
Oh and if you want to support Garden Station: PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION!!