Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dave's Head

"Dave, does your brain know what your head is saying?"

Ruby's question, coming out of the blue, started the day. We howled with laughter, Ruby, not understanding really why we were laughing so hard, was delighted to have said something with such huge impact. We were on our way to Santa's Village for a day of fun, frolic and endless Christmas songs. This place is a perfect place for adults to take children. They get a lot of rides and activities. We get a wonderful stroll through a forestland park. Everyone wins.

I wanted to tell you of an interchange that happened, though.

A little after one in the afternoon, we arrived at the main place to have lunch. There was a long line up to order food, the picnic tables, off to the side and under shelter, were packed with people. Joe and I had arrived first as it turns out a fat man in a wheelchair along with his near 60 'companion' are faster than a near 2 year old and a near 5 year old - who are constantly being distracted by every little thing.  I waited, parked comfortably, for a table to come free.

Something seems to happen to people who have tables when others are waiting for them. It's like now that the tables have 'value' to someone else, people are hesitant to give them up. They steadfastly don't look in your direction, except for discreet glances to ensure themselves that you still want what they have. Us humans only seem to value what we have when someone else wants it. That aside, I waited.

Eventually the whole crew arrived. Mike spotted a young couple sitting with their very small child at a table. The father was sitting, the mother was buzzing about making sure that food got into her toddler. Mike ambled over and simply sat down on one corner. Sadie, seeing this, ran over and without even the slightest realization that she was acting as our 'point person' began to play peek a boo with her fellow toddler. In seconds they were both laughing hard. I said to the Dad, who caught my eye, 'You spent all that money on admission for the rides and activities and this ...' indicating the two kids playing the worlds oldest toddler game, 'is his favourite part!' Dad agreed. Seconds later they passed the table over to us.

As I was rolling over to the table I said to Marissa, 'In this day and age, you'd think they'd have at least one table that was accessible.' A women, who I had noticed sitting guarding a table with a ferocity that was almost frightening, overhearing me said, 'I can move our table forward if you like.' I looked at her questioningly. Her table was a row over from our table and I couldn't think for a moment how that would help at all. She saw the confusion on my face and then explained, 'Well, I think the place actually is accessible, it's just that people move the tables around so there isn't as much room.'

I admit that I was tired.

I admit that I am also tired of having non-disabled people explain away my disabled experience. I admit that, sometimes I don't want to be explaining myself and the concept of accessibility to a total stranger. I admit that, sometimes, I wish that people simply 'got' accessibility and 'got' my right to mention it's lack, in my conversation with others. I said, 'I meant that the table itself isn't accessible.'

She said, 'I know, but that's only because people move them and block the room around them.' She had a nearly school marm voice, but she was smiling and trying hard to be nice.

I said, with frustration, 'No, you are not understanding what I'm saying. Even with all the room in the world, the table still isn't accessible. You non-disabled people get to sit at the table. I have to sit off to the side. An accessible table would have a cut out so that the wheelchair user could pull up to the table and sit with everyone else.'

She looked startled for a second and said, 'Oh, I see what you mean. You're right.'

And that was that.

Or so I thought.

Her startled looked began to bother me. I sat there immediately wanting to apologize for my tone and my frustration. But, I couldn't. Her family had joined her. If I apologized, they'd all have to get in on what happened and it would become bigger than I wanted it to. I let it go.

But it bothered me.

After lunch, Joe and I made our escape. As we were pulling out of Santa's Village, on our way to the car, the woman appeared. She was carrying the remnants of lunch back to her vehicle. She was alone. As she passed us I called out, 'Excuse me ... EXCUSE ME ...' She heard me and turned to me, recognizing me instantly. I said, 'I want to apologize to you, I think I spoke rudely to you. I was distracted by the kids and I was tired, I should never have spoken to you in that tone of voice.' She smiled again, it really did change her face, and said, 'You weren't rude at all. I didn't understand what you meant at first. You were just explaining it to me. And really, you shouldn't have had to ...'

'Well,' I said, 'I want to be a good role model for the kids and I don't like it when I behave that way in front of them, so, anyways, I'm sorry.'

It was all said. I felt better. She went her way, and we, I thought were going to go our way. Joe, though, stopped pushing me, came round in front of me. With an exasperated look on his face said, 'What was that about?' I said, I'd explain in the car. He muttered, 'I just go off to get a pizza and you have another damn blog experience.'

In the car I explained the situation to him.

He drove a second and said, 'Ruby's right you know?'

I was lost, 'Sometimes,' he said, 'I don't think that your brain knows what your head is saying.'


Tamara said...

"I just go off to get a pizza and you have another damn blog experience." I'm going to laugh about that one all day. Thanks, Joe!

I will honestly admit I never thought about accessible picnic tables. But I google'd it and found some pretty simple solutions.

How difficult would it be to have some accessible tables?

Tamara said...

You know I want to correct my last statement. Looking at some options available for accessible picnic tables, it seems that a simple solution is to just move the legs of the table more towards center - or extend the end - and maybe make them a little higher?

It seems to me that that type of table would work for anyone. And, if you made the side benches separate from the table, then they could be moved out of the way if there were several people using wheelchairs who wanted to sit together at a table.

Why is this so difficult?

Anonymous said...

I know it isn't really comparable but we got a shock today when we went as a family to a Japanese restaurant. Normally our toddler sits on a highchair beside the table but this company had given a little thought to this and the highchair could be slotted over the stationary bench making him part of our table - didn't improve his behaviour much but it made us a table of 4, he wasn't blocking the aisle or in anyones way just because the owner of the shop had given some thought to the sort of highchairs to get.

My point is that changes like that only need a little bit of creativity, do picnic tables need to be square shaped?

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Let's hear it for universal design - accessible to everyone. It's not that hard if we had the will to do it.

Love Ruby's question - not so sure my brain always knows what my head is saying!