Advocate Hopes Local Businesses Will See The Power In Accessibility For Those With Disabilities

Sep 9, 2016

Alisa Grishman spends her time blogging and doing other activities aimed at making Pittsburgh more accessible.
Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Alisa Grishman has dealt with the effects of Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, for 15 years. And though the Americans with Disabilities Act aims to make life easier for those with disabilities, she can find it frustrating.

“In my opinion, one of the failings of how the ADA was written is that it’s a complaint-driven law and you have to complain all the time,” said Grishman.

Grishman was diagnosed with MS she was 19. It's a disease that affects the nervous system, causing a wide rage of problems affecting a person's vision, brain and mobility. In the years since her diagnosis, Grishman has suffered different physical problems, from needing a cane to paralysis on one side of her body. She currently uses a walker and has some vision loss.

“Having had all of those experiences has really exposed me to how many issues there are for people with disabilities that one would never notice if one did not have issues with that thing,” Grishman said.

In recent years, Grishman has focused much of her energy on working to make changes in Pittsburgh that will make it easier for those with disabilities to navigate the city.

She hosts meet ups with other people who have disabilities, as well as people who she calls “currently abled,” she said because most people will at some time in their lives have to deal with a mobility issue, even if it’s just a sprained ankle.

She also writes a blog called The Wrath of Cane.

“I like to write about the experiences that I have as a person with a disability trying to not focus on the negative things that happen,” Grishman said. “I like to write about the intersection between disabled and currently abled and the attitudes that have led to this ‘us versus them’ and how we can change them.”

Grishman also runs the advocacy organization Access Mob Pittsburgh which reaches out into the community to facilitate change in several ways. She said she’s not a fan of protest mobs, instead her group work to show businesses the advantages of being more accessible.

The symptoms of MS could leave her activism days numbered, Grishman said, but added she’d love to continue spreading awareness as long as possible.

“If at some point I hit a place where I can’t do it any more I hope that this is going well enough that someone else can take over and do it because it’s such an important thing,” Grishman said.