We had a day off in Glasgow yesterday and I bumped down into reality. From the moment we arrived we were following an intinerary that was crafted specifically for us by our travel guru John. Every hotel we've been in has been wonderfully accessible, every venue where I've lectured has had all the amenities a mouth on wheels could want. It's been smoooooooth as buttah.
So on a day off we planned for ourself a round of activities, including going to see the new Bond film. Suddenly we found ourselves facing the world that hadn't be preprocessed with accessibility guarenteed. Getting to the theatre was an act of sheer bravery. The curb cuts were there but the drop between road and concrete ramp was dangerous. We ended up with Joe running behind me as we travelled the bike lane down the road to the theatre. Afterwards we went shopping in a mall where maybe one out of three stores had aisles that I could easily travel down.
"Back to the real world," Joe said.
And it was. For a few days we got to pretend that everywhere was accessible and all places welcomed both walkers and rollers. It was nice having a fantasy of complete welcome.
What's disturbing, though, is really the relatively minor changes that it takes to make room for all. What's encouraging though, has been the reaction of those around me. There was a store in one place where I could just get my wheelchair in the front to look around. There was no space for the chair. We could have simply moved a few things here, and replaced a few things there, but that seemed wrong. I told Joe to stroll around and I'd simply wait and watch.
Several people coming into the store saw the problem and most of them spoke to the manager, "This isn't right, not in this day and age" ... "The economy's gone crap and you can afford to keep customers out?" ... "Well, if he can't shop here, I won't shop here."
Who were these people?
It would seem that the disability movement may have more friends than we imagine. Particularly in Glasgow.