1968, it is every child's dream to get an apple from their parents in Taiwan. A bowl of noodle soup costs less than 25 cents but an apple costs almost $3 at the time. A hospital stay might get a child the apple that he or she always dreams about.
My mother bought 2 apples for my brothers. I asked for mine, but was told that when I had my field trip, she would buy me one.
I could never go on a field trip due to my disability. I could only look outside the window and dream about biting a crunchy juicy apple and waited for my brothers to come home and tell me about their trips.
In 2001, I went to the L.A. Arboretum and encountered a child who used a wheelchair and who could not get on the inaccessible tram with his classmates. The teacher's aid stayed with him inside the information center and waited for his classmates to come back.
In that boy's eyes I felt myself as a little girl dreaming about the apple that I could not get. I later found out that the Arboretum is a place that the surrounding schools use to teach about California history.
The image of many children being left behind inside the information center prompted me to write my first ever complaint letter to the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation.
Later on, the economy was getting worse, however, county supervisors recognized the importance of making the Arboretum accessible to those in wheelchairs immediately. A total of just over 1 million dollars was budgeted for making the Arboretum compliant with ADA. This included the front entry automatic door, visitor wheelchair information counter, bathrooms, walkways, drinking fountains, signage for assistance, ADA signage, Queen Anne cottage lift ramps, directional signals, accessible tram for wheelchairs, etc..
I spent the next several years joining in meetings with several county park staff and supervisors for the Arboretum's accessible projects. However, the person who was assigned by the county to oversee the completion of accessible projects in the Arboretum passed away before the Arboretum completed its accessibility projects. Now, when I go to the Arboretum, I no longer see any children left behind. All I see is all the children getting on the tram and all the wheelchair users that enjoy the Arboretum freely.
Now, I spend some parts of my visits sitting on my wheelchair next to the bench where Juan Benitez (The person from County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation who was assigned to oversee the completion of the Arboretum accessible project) sat when we had discussions about our survey regarding the obstacles to wheelchair users inside the Arboretum. I thank him for his hard work and let him know that no children are left behind and wheelchair users can see the inside of the Queen Anne Cottage and tour the Arboretum much more freely.
In our life, we will encounter difficulties, but let us find solutions and make it a better world for you and me.