Inadequate access. Good access. Crazy access. Access. It’s basically why I blog, why I started writing and ranting to you almost four years ago.
I wanted to raise awareness of what access is, how it can improve and the places that get it spot on. Because it’s a part of my life.
Access isn’t just a day, it’s my everyday. It’s great we have these international days and so on, get everybody talking. But then sometimes it just stops.
There shouldn’t even be a need for Disabled Access Day to be a thing. Is Doorway Day a thing? Or Day of the Walking? How about National Get To The Toilet Day?
Well, some of those probably are. But that’s not my point.
Access should be the norm, for everyone. It’s often not that hard.
What does access mean to me?
Accessible doesn’t just mean getting through the door.
It allows the possibility of being spontaneous.
Oh what it would be to get up one day, (the sun shining obviously, because we are in dream territory now), head to the train station and catch a ride anywhere. No planning, no booking a ramp and assistance. Let’s go to London for example, (maybe once Coronavirus has dulled down), jump on the tube without checking that the station has level access or a lift in working order. Catch a bus without the worry that the one space you can sit isn’t taken, and driver isn’t sighing as he gets out to let down the ramp. Catch a last minute show at the theatre because you can sit anywhere, in any priced seat, even with your friends. Head to a restaurant without bypassing the many that have a step at the entrance, a narrow doorway, a few clustered tables on ground level, but the rest upstairs. Without a lift obviously, because it’s an old city and places are small and what does it matter anyway as we will still get customers.
There are millions of people in the world, why make a special effort for the few.
Well it’s not a special effort, it’s law. And we aren’t so few.
The law is to offer access though, and not access in the way I see it.
The Equality Act 2010 talks about reasonable adjustments. But what’s reasonable for you might not be for me, and what’s reasonable for a multimillion pound business might not be to my local independent café down the road.
Reasonable adjustments are something. But they’re vague.
Equal access. Equal treatment. No back door, no goods lift, no being directed through a kitchen. That’s what equates to good access to me.
Going somewhere without feeling disabled.
I long to be inconspicuous.
I got in a lift one day. Tried to I should say. It was in a shoe shop, Clarks, I don’t mind shaming. I didn’t fit, however hard I tried. I don’t have an overly large wheelchair, and I’m quite a good driver. Even if I do say so myself. I later discovered even parents with pushchairs struggle in the lift. The lift that takes you to the kids shoe department. Because that’s how life goes.
Who decided that lift was adequate?
Who decides what adequate is?
There’s good access too. When people have thought outside the box. Making access attractive. Because I think that’s probably one of the problems. Venues and businesses don’t want big bulky ramps and unsightly adaptions.
The lift in question was like a transformer staircase. You should take a look. Unfortunately the next time I visited it was broken, and they didn’t have a portable ramp. I suggested to them that a backup plan is always a plan when technology is involved.
Then there are other access requirements that have nothing to do with wheels at all. Like menus in Braille or large print, hearing loops, dimmer lighting, and fantastic audio description.
We can all do things to improve access
Get a ramp – there are many portable options available that can be stored away and flipped open when required. These are great to use on only a couple of steps. I have one myself for when I visit family and friends. Many shops could provide access this way if they purchased them. Some even do but don’t advertise it, so ask.
Don’t clutter the bathrooms – you wouldn’t have to move an ironing board, high chair, vacuum cleaner, mop and ‘wet floor’ signs from a regular loo in a restaurant before using it. So why should I?! (This has actually happened more than once, and the floor is not wet in case you wondered)
Spacious pathways – pavements are intended for pedestrians, please keep it this way. Parked cars, shops signs, tables and chairs, and shop goods are all a hazard when you have wheels, mobility difficulties or a visual impairment.
Options for communication – lower cashpoints and customer service areas, hearing loops and Braille all enable inclusive communication.
As much as possible within reach – lower desks and service stations, lift buttons and doorbells, store products and viewing areas, all allow more independence for wheelchair users.
Clear travel announcements on public transport – travelling backwards on a bus can be extremely disorientating (wheelchair users have to sit in reverse staring at everyone else), meaning it’s hard to know when to get off. Having regular updates of where you are would make travelling less stressful for wheelchair users and those with visual impairments. It may also wake those nappers up.
Bus and train stop alerts – when you are visually impaired it is difficult to know which bus or train is pulling up. Alerts at stops and stations would make using public transport much less daunting.
Stop gravelling the world – yes it’s an easy and affordable surfacing material, but wheels don’t like it.
Let wheelchair users board planes in their chair – is a whole other rant.
If you find inadequate access or adjustments that are not good enough, ask for better.