Wednesday, December 19, 2018
For my work with LoopNaz, I’ve been commuting downtown using public transportation. Now, while I’ve genuinely appreciated the availability of public transportation—especially since I don’t have a car—I’ve also had to cope with the frustration of delays and less frequent buses or trains. Sometimes, I just wish the commuting process on public transit could be more expedient.
In the midst of these frankly minor inconveniences, however, I’ve had some humbling reminders that I have it pretty easy—as an able-bodied person, that is.
While Reuben, his nine-month-old son Corban, and I were taking the Brown Line to the Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR), we caught the elevator to get Corban’s stroller between the street and the platform. Reuben pointed out to me that while he was aware of the elevators before becoming a parent and knew which stations offered them, that experience is one of the best teachers. In my use of public transportation, not being able to use the stairs is not something that I have to be concerned about.
And what’s sad is that there are still dozens of ‘L’ stops that don’t have elevators. And many that do still don’t always clearly mark where elevators are or which one is going to take you to which part of the station, street, or platform. So, while it’s good that accessibility exists to the extent that it does, there are also definite improvements that need to be made.
And the issue of accessibility in the city goes far beyond public transportation. In fact, it was a major topic of our conversation with First Deputy Commissioner Kenneth Gunn of the CCHR. If you don’t know, the CCHR exists to protect the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance (CHRO) and the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance (CFHO). As such, the CCHR primarily handles issues related to discrimination, hate crimes, and community tensions.
In terms of accessibility, Mr. Gunn told me that disability-based discrimination is the most-reported issue when it comes to public accommodations. All over the city, there are problems with doors, entry ways, bathrooms, elevators, and the like (or the lack thereof). And yet so many of us don’t notice. At least I don’t always notice—becuase I don’t have to.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to discrimination faced in the city. People face discrimination every day based upon race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, source of income, color of skin, and so forth. CCHR protects fifteen different classes of discrimination in total.
Mr. Gunn also shared that there are about 70 hate crimes reported so far this year. That seems astoundingly low given the reality of tensions that run so deep in a city as diverse as Chicago.
The sad reality about the oddly small number of reported hate crimes in Chicago could very well be because people don’t necessarily realize they are victims of discrimination immediately. They don’t report because they aren’t aware of their rights. Or worse, they don’t bother because don’t think they’ll win their case. And many people don’t even realize the CCHR exists to ensure them due process.
If you live in Chicago, or work here, or visit, or if you know people who do, then please check out CCHR’s website and help spread the word. It’s a small step in the process of advocacy and equal accessibility to public services. We all bear God’s image, and we are all known and loved in full by God. And even small steps in advocating for our less-privileged neighbors can be filled with love.