Does accessibility really matter?

In fact, let me re-phrase that, does accessibility matter to you? If your differences aren’t as different as mine, then the answer is probably “No” for the most part. I know you’ll nod in agreement if you hear me complain about accessibility, but it’s really difficult to understand the impact these issues have unless you’ve experienced them.

I recently became aware of the Changing Places campaign. Changing Places are campaigning for a truly accessible toilets, which contain either a hoist or adjustable adult changing bench (click here for more details). Imagine, disabled toilets aren’t accessible? Sounds crazy, right! I’d never even thought about it. Until that point, I was the friend that didn’t really understand. I may not have experienced these issues first hand and sure I’ll never really understand the complexities of planning an artic like expedition, just to get into town, but at least now I’m aware.

It’s frustrating, as I read blog posts, and news articles I know people are facing discrimination based on their abilities. Although when questioned in national media  we always sympathetically state “It’s better then it was”. Well better just isn’t good enough! We have laws in place that are meant to see that this sort of stuff doesn’t happen, but it does! I remember looking at the some of legal framework which is meant to help protect us. It doesn’t! Acts are littered with caveats and interpretation that limit the potential for change.

The following extract is taken from the Governments Equalities Office Equality Act 2010, Duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for their staff (Link):

 

Making adjustments to the workplace and disability
Making adjustments to the workplace and disability – Governments Equalities Office Equality Act 2010, Duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for their staff

 

If an adjustment cannot be reasonably made, then you can lawfully decline the request, I mean really?! What’s reasonable to you, probably isn’t to me. We all have different needs, but when you use the term “reasonable” around the context of an accessible toilet it’s plain to see the law doesn’t work. I think we all agree that it’s reasonable to have access to a toilet, no matter your ability.

So why are we here? I hate to say it, but I really think its lack of caring, experience, exposure and also ourselves. As someone with CP (Cerebral Palsy) I hate to think that I am inconveniencing others and have in the past let things go, although I still remember these incidents along with feelings of utter embarrassment, nobody wants to be pointed out for their differences, especially in a public setting. Ultimately, this ends with me trying to avoid the potential situation, which in turn means the issue never gets dealt with. Catch 22.

During my thesis I gave a talk about disability to a group of sport science students. We were discussing accessibility issues, when one of them made a comment regarding issues they experienced when using public transport with a pram. The student started explaining what a struggle it was and that there wasn’t any lifts, then it struck me, the student was facing the same issue that I have, although her disabling factor was a pram. This was a situation which was more relatable, and something I’m sure many parents would have faced, the difference being this period of disadvantage or struggle is short lived, and when it’s no longer your reality you become dis / less interested, although you can still relate to the experience.

 

So what can we do? I’m not sure, but it’s something I’ve started to think about, maybe watch this space? But, just not too closely!

 

 

Are you missing out on the £249bn slice of pie?

I recently read this article “Shops are ‘dumb’ for ignoring disabled customers”

The article talked of how shops are sometimes inaccessible due to narrow aisles and obstructions. This got me thinking, “Why is it acceptable to discriminate against a person who needs an electric wheelchair or say somebody with a stick or crutches, where the use of a narrow aisle creates an inaccessible space? Firstly, it’s not okay, however I then thought how many times have I been shopping, seen an obstruction and not done anything about it? Whilst the Equalities Act 2010 should ensure accessibility for all what happens when this is not the case. So I made a decision. From now on whenever I see an obstruction / narrow aisle I will try my best to report it.

Now in my head I’m thinking what difference can I make, but we all have to start somewhere, right. I mean imagine if more people started to complain about how inaccessible “that” shop aisle is? Appearances are everything to a company and what company would want to be missing out on the £249bn slice of pie?

The legacy of the Paralympics

Do you remember the 2012 Olympics?

I remember the atmosphere in London being electric. I was so excited by these events that I took the journey into town on my own. No friends, just me, I wanted to see the torch with my own eyes (I actually went on to see it on three separate occasions, but that’s another story). Anyway, I’d always been quiet a sporty person despite my ‘disability’. I was in a meeting with my orthopaedic consultant when he suggested that maybe I take up sport as a way to keep mobile. I loved badminton, my PE teacher said I had a brilliant smash technique (shame my feet couldn’t keep up with my desires) so I thought I’d investigate. Now this is where it gets slightly hazy, but what I do remember is my utter shock at the lack of Paralympic legacy.

What legacy?

The Paralympic legacy programme has 3 main themes:

transforming the perception of disabled people in society
supporting opportunities to participate in sport and physical activities
promoting community engagement through the Games.

I remember trying to access a poorly laid out website and not really finding anything of use. I also remember trying to contact a badminton team that were ‘disability friendly’ or something to that effect. I sent an email and had no response. Maybe I was unlucky? Now I don’t blame my email recipient, although my encounter did put me off from investigating further, although now I’m wondering is it time to revisit the minefield of sport and disability?

I’m hoping that in starting this blog I can explore the idea of sport in order to improve my fitness and mobility post op (currently recovering from extensive foot surgery) to share my experiences and hopefully hear other peoples and above all to actually have fun!

Lost in the system

Some of the most prevalent memories of my childhood are made up of various hospital and physio appointments. Sitting in waiting rooms being prodded and poked, serial plaster casting and days off from school all became my norm. As I grew older I noticed that these appointments became less frequent, the physio stopped and my mobility deteriorated. Strangely at the age of 19 I was rediscovered. I was lucky, I had an uncle who took a keen interest in my mobility and wanted to see what could be done to improve my situation. Until this point I hadn’t undergone any surgery as mum thought it was best to steer clear of any long term intervention (something that I now know to be rear in cases of CP).

 

After a few redirected letters I was referred to a brilliant consultant (who I still see to this day). After a series of tests, discussions and visits, he decided that surgery would be necessary and scheduled me in for the summer just after my graduation. The operation was a success and I continued to progress with a regular physio, hydrotherapy until I reached a plateau. I was referred to my local gym and was then expected to continue alone. As time went by my gym sessions stopped and mobility generally became more difficult although I struggled on, until one day after experiencing several falls in quick succession. I’d cut my hands and knees and was helped in side by my cousin. I still remember this day so vividly people around me had noticed this decline, I think I did too, although I just put it to the back of my mind. I had to do something and decided to book an appointment with my doctor who later went on to refer me to a clinic for physio.

 

This got me thinking how did I get lost in the system? I went from regular meetings with specialists and physiotherapist to nothing. How did this happen? The consultant I now see for my CP runs an ‘adult clinic’ as there isn’t anyone that caters for this market. What do they think happens to all of the cripples, are we packaged with a use by date that fails to exceed our teenage years?

Introduction

I’m not a writer, I waffle, I go off point and after college my spelling became became atrocious. I’ve even been known to use “you’re” instead of “your”! Right then, that’s expectations set…

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for a few years now. It all started during my masters course where the suggestion of disability was brought up as a focus for my work. It’s funny, I look back and remember the awkwardness of this suggestion when made by my tutor. My disability had always been the hidden elephant in the room. It’s funny I’ve tried so hard to not let my disability get in the way that sometimes I actually forget I’m disabled (well at least until I’m confronted with some handle rail-less stairs).

Long story short I set out to look at disability and architecture in my thesis. My tutor asked that we started a blog as a way for him to see what we had been up to and to act of a record of our process. This planted the seed, I started to think about how disability was perceived. I mean look a the word “dis” as defined by Collins online dictionary! It takes the starting point that we are less then (something that I’m definitely not).

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-15-11-51

I went on to complete my studies, but every now and then my subconscious would niggle. I’ve always had so many thoughts about disability, but they’ve mostly been contained. I want to use this blog as an opportunity to explore disability, warts and all. I want to talk to my teenage self and tell her that she will still be able to walk aged 30, that she will make friends who won’t care about the way she walks. I want to create a space where I can share my thoughts on living with a disability and ultimately challenge misconceptions of others as well as my own.