Virginia Pickel is a US activist living in San Marcos, Texas. She started Virginia’s List in July 2012 to provide a central space on the internet for information about local business’ accessibility for handicapped patrons. While she is based in the US, the list is international in scope and she accepts submissions from around the world.
1. What led you to start Virginia’s List? What is its purpose?
I was officially diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in late 2010/early 2011. As my illness progressed, I had more difficulty doing simple things, such as attending class or going to a doctor’s appointment. In the Spring of 2012, I began using a cane. It was then that I noticed that, although many businesses (and universities) adhere to the letter of the law in regards to disability access, many places were not accessible in practice.
The purpose of Virginia’s List is to provide accessibility ratings on local businesses (or places). People can submit ratings directly, for which I provide a few suggested guidelines to get as much info as possible, but I often reblog or repost ratings or critiques that were not directly submitted to me (with the poster’s permission). Virginia’s List is not strictly for negative reviews either. If there is a business that excels in accessibility, we want to let as many people know about it as possible!
(In the absence of reviews, I also post disability news and other disability-related items.)
2. What has been your most effective tool for connecting to the people and communities you are looking to help? What has been the most effective tool for connecting to other activists doing similar work?
In my relatively new experience, online activism is an absolute must – particularly in the disabled community where the ability to meet in person might be limited by physical or psychological conditions. Tumblr is where I “know” the most people in the disabled community, but Twitter has also been effective in communicating disability issues especially with those outside the community.
3. What are the one or two pressing issues around disability awareness and justice in Texas that you wish people were paying more attention to?
There are SO many issues that need attention. General education (particularly about the Americans With Disabilities Act [ADA]) is something that is still sorely needed. I have heard several anecdotes of disabled people being refused service at or asked to leave a business establishment due to their disability – whether it’s a wheelchair, service animal, what-have-you. This is simply unacceptable; business owners need to be aware of the regulations and train their employees accordingly.
On a slightly more personal note, I’d like to see an increase in Invisible Illness Awareness. If I didn’t use my cane, I probably wouldn’t “look” disabled – but I am. Again, I have heard several anecdotes of (invisibly) disabled people being berated BY COMPLETE STRANGERS for using an accessible parking spot or asking for a seat on a bus that they needed because they didn’t “look” disabled or disabled “enough.”
4. Why do you love San Marcos and/or Texas?
I was born and raised in Texas and actually have never lived in any other state. I have lived in several different areas of Texas (east, south, central, the Panhandle), and each has its own unique characteristics and qualities. That’s one of the things I really love about Texas – there is so much diversity under the umbrella “Texan” label.
I love Central Texas in particular because of the general atmosphere of non-judgment. Feminist? Ok. GLBTQIA? Ok. Religious? Ok. Not religious? That’s ok too. It sounds cliche, but for me, it really is as simple as that.
5. Favorite under-the-radar writer and/or blog
- My favorite disability Tumblr is probably Wheelie Wife, run by Stacy: http://wheeliewifee.tumblr.com
- My favorite personal blog (that also talks about feminist and disability issues on occasion) is Housewife in Flip-Flops, run by Stacey: http://housewifeinflipflops.blogspot.com
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