For most people out there, there’s nothing too interesting or noteworthy about the common elevator (or lift in Australian/British English). We use them to help us get where we need to go, whether that’s work, school, or meeting up with a friend. They can feel claustrophobic, and it’s usually a pain to be in one with so many other people squashed together like sardines. And then, of course, there’s the threat of them breaking down when you least expect or want them to. Yes, to many, lifts are just another curse of everyday life.

However, for most people with autism, the opposite could not be more apparent. Many of these negatives pale in comparison to an autistic, as a lot of us out there are drawn to lifts like moths to a flame. We have an extreme fascination akin to that of certain comics, video games or big-name movie franchises like Star Wars. (OK, maybe some more than others, but you get my point.) It’s near impossible for us to just walk by a lift; if we don’t go in it right there and then it can feel like the universe will explode. Otherwise we can’t stop thinking about it until we get to ride it (it’s kind of like an annoying earworm you can’t get out of your head until you hear it). At least, that’s my experience. All I can say is, it’s not as intense as it used to be when I was younger and less accustomed to how we’re supposed to act around others.

I’ve always had a love of lifts, ever since I can remember. The first main memories I can recall are of when I was having cancer treatment at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, back when the old one was still around in the 2000s. There were so many different and unique lifts to explore and ride, a visit just didn’t feel complete without riding at least 2 or 3 sets. Well, it only got stronger from there, and before I knew it I couldn’t go anywhere without riding practically every lift I saw. If it weren’t for my parents, I would’ve just spent my time riding lifts all day, every day.

After I lost my vision, things changed dramatically, including how I experienced riding lifts. I could still hear all the sounds they made, but now I couldn’t enjoy the visual elements of each lift, and I relied more heavily on my other senses such as sound and touch when using them. I’m just grateful I learned how to read both print and Braille writing, as without that I wouldn’t have a clue how to use lifts to get to different floors of a building or other space. It’s great how so many lifts have either indented/embossed print and/or Braille to indicate which buttons serve which floors among other things, as well as more modern installations having increasingly-evolving voice-over features. Without these things, I’d be at a total loss. However, with the recent introduction of both destination dispatch and touchscreen lifts in more modern or upgraded buildings, this is providing a more challenging experience for me. But I hope to learn how to navigate these lifts, and advocate for better accessibility where I can, mainly from a blind person’s perspective.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve only become more fascinated with lifts, and have subsequently learned more about them and their different features. About 6 or 7 years ago, in a free period at high school, I typed “elevator” into YouTube. After watching several videos, I realised that this was more than just some kooky obsession of a blind kid in Australia. I discovered there are people all around the world who devote their time and passion to these seemingly ordinary modes of transportation, with many YouTube channels and social media accounts dedicated solely to uploading content about or featuring them. From there, it was like a whole new world had opened up to me. I learned about the different parts of a lift, the types of lifts and which buildings usually utilise them, and the different companies who manufacture them. From Otis to Schindler, ThyssenKrupp to Kone, and every one between, if it’s a lift company, I’ve probably heard of it and can tell which one’s lifts are in any given building just by riding them.

The fact that lifts are enjoyed by autistics has not escaped some people. In fact, many lift photographers/videographers who upload content onto YouTube and other sites either have or advocate for people with autism. In particular, arguably the biggest name in the lift community, Andrew Reams (known by his YouTube channel name DieselDucy), is a strong and passionate advocate and supporter of the autism community, with many of his content made with those people in mind. He has also met with several autistic children and done special trips with them to support their passion. He also owns and operates a private museum, the elevaTOURS International Elevator Museum in Roanoke, Virginia, USA, with many different parts from lifts he’s either visited or received from lift companies or businesses where they previously operated.

So the next time you think that lifts are a daily curse we could sometimes do without, think about how different our world would be without them; not just in terms of a technological perspective, but also regarding people with autism and things they enjoy doing. It’s one of the things autistics can really come together to enjoy. And if that doesn’t “lift” your spirits (yes, pun intended), I don’t know what will.

– Sam

A List Ambassador

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