Pesach so far

This year. This year. I have lots of spare annual leave since I haven't been allowed to do anything except work so far this year. So I took a couple of days off before the festival, and I'm thinking of making that a habit because leisurely spring cleaning over two full days is much more pleasant than trying to do things in a rush in the evenings after work. And [personal profile] jack was incredibly helpful and we did a little bit of sorting and tidying as well as cleaning and it was really satisfying.

I did the actual Seder prep on Shabbat, which I know I shouldn't but I also had little hope of preparing the whole meal a day in advance. My OSOs were able to help with the cooking since we are bubbled now. So [personal profile] cjwatson came over in the morning and made his signature pavlova, which needs to be left in the oven for a chunk of time. And then [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait joined us in the afternoon with the younger three kids. The middles, 9 and 12, were incredibly helpful, they're both really confident cooks, and littlest aged 9 months was extremely extra cute. With such a great team I had everything comfortably ready in time.

Then my parents and my aunt and her recently widowed friend and my siblings and their partners joined us in their separate Zoom squares. I was drifting towards despair at a second online Pesach, but the thing is, we've all got good at Zoom by now. [personal profile] cjwatson helped me to acquire a decent conference mic, and rigged up a webcam separately from the laptop so that all seven of us at the big table were visible and audible in the video call. And we did a pretty good job of making sure everyone got a chance to speak even with the constraints of interruptions not going well with the technology. There were lots of excellent questions, especially from the kids, but also we kept the timing relatively brisk.

We mostly muted for the meal and chatted to the people in the same household. Tiniest guest applauded my soup <3 And I had been unsure whether we'd manage the after-meal service at all but in the event most of us did manage to reconvene. Judith found the afikoman and we had a somewhat chaotic exchange of presents. The children gave me a copy of the Switch game Super Smash Bros, since they would like me to practise it until I'm less terrible at it. [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait gave us bunny-themed board games in honour of the hare acronym for Saturday night seder. Hilariously [personal profile] cjwatson and I managed to exchange identical copies of A desolation called peace. And we managed some silly songs, including my actually musical partners leading Who knows one in Hebrew.

I did basically nothing on Sunday, which was blissful. I didn't get up in time for shul. I bimbled over to OSOs' in the afternoon and played video games and shared my sister's cakes which we had been too full for after the seder meal. I didn't go to the community Seder either. But yesterday I did attend the Seder hosted by my old community in Stoke. They had no input from me at all apart from reminding them to count the Omer. And again, they've got very competent at Zoom, and a lot of the leading was shared by my bar mitzvah student.

I've decided to have a try at #ColorTheOmer this year. I'm not usually a fan of this kind of spiritual practice but spending a little time each evening colouring and reflecting seems to be good for me so far.

Anyway, I'm feeling loved and relaxed and generally good about the festival, in spite of everything.

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Is car culture good for disabled people?

Out of frustration with pandemic restriction arguments on Twitter, I made a comment saying, why don't we just ban cars instead of all these daft rules? And immediately got several replies of, but that's ableist! Obviously banning cars completely from one day to the next is not in any serious sense feasible. Fine. But it's exactly the same knee-jerk response you see, sincerely, anytime anyone makes a suggestion for any planning policy which makes things even the tiniest bit worse for drivers: what about disabled people?!

I just don't believe it, basically. And maybe this is my ableist prejudices but I really think this 'what about disabled people?' shows a similar bias to the way that any move at all to encourage driving alternatives is immediately 'too expensive', but the ongoing cost of cars and the damage they cause is just normal and therefore invisible. I don't think a culture where the only reasonable way to get anywhere is to drive is good for disabled people any more than it's good for any other humans.

I acknowledge that there are some people who really can't travel anywhere except by car. And they do need to be accommodated. But surely there must be at least as many people whose disabilities mean that they can't drive, and who are screwed over by the total inaccessibility of the world to non-drivers? Why is it ableist to exclude people who are 100% car dependent, but not ableist to exclude people who can't use cars? Epilepsy, some cognitive issues, visual impairments, in addition to a range of physical disabilities and body differences which mean that only highly customized vehicles would be usable and those aren't available except to ultra-rich disabled people.

I would guess that most disabled people are somewhere in between these two extremes of must always drive and can't ever drive. If driving is cheaper and more convenient and less tiring than other forms of transport, then the gap is going to be wider for many disabled people than for abled people who can choose to do the less convenient thing in order to promote social good. But it's not a law of nature that driving is easier, it's because driving is heavily subsidized and towns are built to make driving as convenient as possible, and if this were changed then a higher proportion of disabled people would be able use other forms of transport.

On a very simple level, if all public transport had level access, and enough space for several wheelchairs, and seats comfortable for a wide range of bodies, disabled people wouldn't "have to" drive instead of taking trains and buses. If accessible public transport were also affordable, and served most places frequently, then disabled passengers wouldn't be unfairly restricted by needing to rely on public transport. Also if we didn't fill up the roads with one car per adult, public transport would be able to move much faster so disabled people, who might be more time-pressured than some abled people, wouldn't need to worry about a half-hour journey taking two hours by public transport.

Equally, if towns were designed for, rather than against, active transport, then many disabled people would also be more able to get around without needing a car. Wide, unobstructed pavements are good for wheelchair users as well as foot-passengers. More disabled people would be able to ride bikes if there were safe, segregated cycle infrastructure and you didn't have to be able to cycle and react fast to dodge cars. And some disabled people who can't ride a standard bike can ride a trike as long as there's enough space for a wider pedal vehicle as well as a narrow one. If pedestrians and cyclists weren't squeezed into sharing the same inadequate spaces then wheelchair and scooter users would be able to mix with either (depending on speed) without everybody obstructing or colliding with everybody else.

If there were fewer cars there would be less air pollution and people whose disabilities include respiratory problems would have fewer symptoms. There would also be fewer disabling injuries caused by road accidents, if it's acceptable to mention prevention of acquiring disability as a benefit. All the bad effects of climate change, which over-use of cars hugely accelerates, are likely to be at least as bad for disabled people as for abled people, so I would argue that disabled people benefit from more environmentally sustainable transport in the long term even if it is more disabling than cars in the short term. But mostly I don't think it should be; underfunded, bad public transport which competes at a huge and contrived disadvantage with cars disables people, but good public transport, which is what I am arguing for, would not.

I think when people say that we can't have pedestrianized city centres, or reduce the amount of space dedicated to parking, or restrict or financially penalize the most polluting cars, or create Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (currently a huge controversy around here), because 'what about disabled people?' they are possibly thinking of disabled people who are do not have the capacity to travel independently from their home to a station where they could pick up public transport. At the moment, because public transport is extremely inadequate, this could be a very long distance, but some disabled people aren't able to travel even short distances, even with the best available mobility aids. Honestly, if we had human-friendly towns and cities and prioritized infrastructure for public and active transport over infrastructure for cars, we could make accommodations for the small numbers of people who still couldn't travel.

IOW, I'm ok with cars as mobility aids for people who really need them. Those disabled drivers (or perhaps passengers of publicly subsidized taxis?) would have a much better time than currently because the roads wouldn't be overcrowded, and there would be parking near all facilities because there wouldn't be any competition with all the abled drivers for the prime spots.

So what am I missing here? Is it really ableist to ever even consider supporting transport solutions other than each individual driving a single private car? Do we have to put up with all the fatalities caused directly by too many cars and indirectly by climate disaster forever because doing anything about it at all is ableist? My feeling is that what's ableist is making isolated changes without thinking through the consequences in an integrated way, but refusing to even imagine a better approach doesn't seem like the right answer.

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