During Steven Hawking's visit to Israel, several months ago, he found time, among other occupations, to participate in a short film that deals with issues of accessibility.
In the beginning of the clip, the camera focuses on his handicapped body that sits in a wheelchair. Then he starts speaking. Since he cannot produce speech, he speaks with the help of a special computer program that translates the movements of his pupils into speech.
He says: "In twenty years, men may be able to live on the Moon. In forty years we may get to Mars. In the next 200 years we may leave the solar system and head for the stars. But meanwhile, we would like to get to the supermarket, the cinema, restaurants."
This impressive film adequately expresses one of the central problems that people with disabilities are facing today, the problem of accessibility. The problem has political, moral and philosophical aspects.
Part of those problems was solved satisfactorily in the US, Canada and some of the countries of Western Europe.
It seems that solutions to this problem vary according to the extent of progress in society: from one that belongs to the circle of developed countries, to others. For the sake of discussion, I will remind us that in ancient Sparta handicapped people were left on a top of a mountain... a somewhat cruel solution, but, nevertheless, effective.
Indeed, why should we supply resources for accessibility of the disabled? Most citizens do not have problems of this sort…
Why is this question being a litmus test that defines different sorts of societies?
As I said, the problem has many aspects. It seems, that the main question here is: Is the society, any society for that matter, defined the society of all its citizens, and is interested that any of them will enjoy easy access to the those places Hawking mentioned?
The film presents this issue well: one of the most brilliant minds that is alive today on our planet is packed in a crippled body. Without help of modern technology, i.e., a wheelchair, a program that translates the movements of his pupils into English, etc., he would be, undoubtedly, sentenced to a miserable existence and we would be deprived of his brilliant theories.
The film puts well the price that his existence cost society: making the surrounding accessible.
Are we willing to meet this challenge?