Wednesday, April 03, 2013

On the ...

Sidelined (Verb) to remove from the center of activity or attention.

I came home from the movies and looked this word up.

We travel differently than we used to, we leave a day early, plan a day of rest before starting, We rush less, we plan for fun. It's nice this getting older thing. So today we had off and we decided to go to the movies at a theatre across from our hotel. It's a nice place and it's quite accessible. The best thing, though, is that they've got a lot of choice for accessible seating. It's one of the few theatres that I go to where they have spaces in the center of a row. I love looking at the screen head on. It's a rare experience for me and I love it.

I'm used to being on the end of rows, tacked on, and being required to watch the show from the edge of the theatre. This is true for movies and live performances. I didn't really think about it much, until today, I spent most of my time with that gratitude that I know I should have - simply grateful fore being able to get in and for having a space. I'd been warned about this by an elder in the disability community, he told me, one day in Scotland, to never be grateful for what should be expected. Good advice, but advice to follow. I do feel grateful and I'm kind of punished if I'm not.

But today, sitting in the center of the theater, looking dead on at the screen. I thought about the experience that we have, often, as disabled people of being sidelined. It's a verb, not a state of being. Its something done, it's an activity performed ... someone actively sidelines another someone. This was a thought that has been long in coming to me. I've thought about purposeful exclusion before ... I've written a blog or two about it. It's clear that some things are designed, purposefully to deny access. People will debate me about this, but I'm sorry, they debate from the point of view of 'I can get in and you are just angry that you can't.' Um, yeah.

A trip or two ago, Joe and I pulled of the road to go into a restaurant.. We got in and just inside the door, just on the other side of the 'please let us seat you' sign, was two steps down into the restaurant. They had disabled parking, an automatic door, and two steps into the restaurant. I complained about it. They said that 'that's just the way it was designed.' I got that. What they didn't get was that the person who designed it, the person who approved it, and the person who gave the restaurant their license active discriminated against people with disabilities. I asked why they didn't put a sign over their door saying, WE DON'T SERVE DISABLED PEOPLE. Or, they could make it even clearer, because after all they are only barring those who can't use the stairs, put a red slash through the wheelchair guy and put it outside their door. They said, outrageously, with a straight face. "We don't discriminate against any group."

I freaking give! Disabled people may experience the only form of active discrimination, from public places, from employment and from education - by accident not design. Sorry this school isn't accessible but that's the way it is.f

Sitting at the end of the row to watch The Wizard of Oz meant that I didn't get to see about an eighth of the stage.. But I sat there, not realizing I'd been sidelined, grateful that I could be there with the kids. I loved watching them watch the play.

Thing about getting something once, like a good view of the screen, it is difficult to enjoy seeing it any other way. I will go to movies, I will sit on the sidelines just as I have before. But now it will be different. I will recognize that I'm sitting on the margins of the theatre .. sidelined. 

Not now, but when it bugs me too much, I'm going to have a think about it ... maybe there's something to be done here.

First comes realization ...


Kristine said...

"I asked why they didn't put a sign over their door saying, WE DON'T SERVE DISABLED PEOPLE. Or, they could make it even clearer, because after all they are only barring those who can't use the stairs, put a red slash through the wheelchair guy and put it outside their door."

I love that idea. LOVE IT. In all seriousness, I think that should be a law! Every building (and I mean EVERY building) that doesn't allow me to enter needs to have a prominently placed sign owning up to their discrimination. Sure, they might be able to find loopholes to the current laws, so they aren't actually required to make their buildings accessible. Fine. But they should have to own it. And everybody else who enters the building should be made aware that they're entering a place where I'm not welcome. It's like when the fast food restaurants started telling you on their receipts/menus how many calories you were about to consume. We can all still make our choices, but not with blissful ignorance! :)

I really do have a thing about wanting people to own it. I don't mind people asking me about my chair or about my disability, but for some reason, it bugs me when they try to avoid using words to ask! "So, can I ask about...[meaningful nod, and wait for me to fill in the blanks]" Sure, you can ask whatever you want, and I may or may not choose to give an informative answer. But you have to actually do the work of asking! If you want to talk about my wheelchair, then say wheelchair!

It makes people really uncomfortable when they ask me if I'm attending some social event, and I respond with, "No, I'm not invited to that." The host always tries to say, "Of course you're invited! I just don't have a way to get your chair in my house." No. You planned an event that you know perfectly well I can't attend. And that's perfectly within your rights to do. But you're clearly not really inviting me to this event. If my attendance was wanted, then you'd plan differently. So own it. Admit that I'm not invited this time. I'm sure that in your mind it's nothing personal, but that doesn't change the fact that it's exclusion. I guess I'm just tired of having to "fix" these situations for people, and pretend that exclusion didn't happen just to make other people comfortable. Everybody else may never have to face the exclusion that I do, but I feel like they should be forced to acknowledge it a lot more than they do!

Andrea S. said...

As far as I am concerned, every TV program, movie, or other film/video content that fails to include captions (both to transcribe the spoken words and also to describe the non-verbal sounds) already has a big flashing neon sign hanging over it saying, "Deaf people may as well not bother, frick off and go away." I have felt this way for probably almost as long as closed captioning technology has existed (since 1980).

It also has always bewildered and greatly frustrated me for about that long that most hearing people for some reason can't see that a non-captioned video ALREADY SAYS "deaf people frick off and go away". I'm not adding anything when I point out what their lack of captions says. I'm only amplifying and perhaps translating the message that's already there for the hard-of-understanding.

Maybe we wouldn't have so much exclusion of people with disabilities if more people understood the message they are saying when they fail to plan for the inclusion of people with disabilities. If they really wanted us involved--if they really don't mean to exclude us--then they would have taken more responsibility to plan for the basic access we need.

Anonymous said...

And it should be so easy to TEST the accessibility!

Get yourself a variety of disabled people - let them try your accommodations!

I'd be more than happy to point out their successes - as far as my disability extends. And of course, any failures. I offered my services to the University - no response.

Anonymous said...

I agree accessibility features should ideally be tested by actual people with disabilities. I gather this can sometimes be as enlightening for the person with a disability as for the business owner: I have a friend who once was recruited by someone at her university to test campus accessibility for wheelchair riders. She did, of course, already know where a lot of the barriers were (had been on campus for years) and pointed them out. But when she was touring the campus with the university personnel, she found it very eye-opening to suddenly find herself conscious of all kinds of places and routes on campus that she simply avoided without even thinking about it--she was so used to certain things being inaccessible that they simply didn't register for her unless they interfered more directly with her efforts to complete her daily routine.

Utter Randomness said...

I agree with Kristine. A store that isn't ramped, or you know, just accessible in the first place, screams "You're not welcome here" to me, and to others with physical disabilities. A store that sprays perfume into the air screams "you're not welcome here" to people with chemical sensitivities. A store that blares music screams "you're not welcome here" to people with sensory processing disorders. But people without disabilities don't always notice or just plain aren't aware of the problems.

Businesses should either be accessible or own up to the fact that they aren't. Openly. Because an inaccessible business says "you're not welcome" "we don't want your money" "you don't exist". It's not just a social issue, it's bad business.

I had a relevant experience today when I visited a used video game retailer in downtown Ottawa. They don't have a ramp at the entrance and when I mentioned to a staff member that they should, the response was lacklustre. "A ramp? Like for wheelchair people? I can't change that. The manager? No, she can't change that either. The owner lives in Kingston. He doesn't do ramps." What the heck? What does that even mean? Doesn't do ramps...

Anonymous said...

I have a disability, have had for over ten years. Even so, I go back and forth as to what constitutes a "reasonable" accomodation. For example, I once worked for an organization that had 38 separate departments. One part-time employee for a two-person dept. had scent sensativities. She demanded not only a scent-free workplace, but that people use specific brands of scent-free products. She got her own office with a door on it when program supervisors had cubicles, and her own bathroom that nobody else could use, with her own brand of products in it. My department, which worked out in the field for all but a 3 hour weekly meeting, was always getting yelled at because we would come in with scents on us from the homes we visited. All of this for someone who worked twenty hours a week or less in. On the other hand, nobody wants to be responsible for someone else's asthma attack or migraine. Where is the line at "reasonable"? Does it mean that nobody gets to hear holiday music in a store in case someone has sensory integration disorders? I just don't know the answer. When does accomodation for my disablity impinge upon the comfort or rights of others?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I had to leave my job because too many people went out for a cigarette and came in with the smoke on their clothes. It reached the point where I couldn't use the lunch room, couldn't use the elevator. Couldn't use the poorly designed handicap ramp that went past the smoking area.

I got told that I had to take the day off, because someone who smelled of smoke sat down near the terminal set up for my bad eyes, and they refused to ask him to sit somewhere else.

On the other hand, when I was in the hospital, they had a fire alarm went off. They shut down the alarms in a few minutes, but the lights kept flashing for an hour, and there was NOWHERE in the building, not even the bathroom or a closet, where I could get away from the lights. And since the elevator was shut down, I couldn't leave.

It's great that they have an alarm for those who can't hear, but what does that mean for those like me that are made seriously ill by flashing lights?


Anonymous said...

Oh, and if it HAD been a real fire, the flashing lights would have made it impossible to exit without a LOT of help. I was throwing up, dizzy, and blind.

Sasha Smithy said...

This is something I've thought a lot on and it's something that always leaves me furious. If it was just me always having these problems, I would just leave it, but it's not, it's an entire group of the human race and it's disgusting that we're refused entry and then told right to our face that no one is doing anything wrong.

I live right next to a very "historical" town, which means 90% of the shops I can't get in to, about 70% of the sidewalks don't have curb cuts (leaving me to wheel down the middle of busy streets and hope I don't die).

And I've been thinking about doing a bit of activism with it. Basically plastering signs to all the inaccessible buildings that says disabled not allowed. I am worried that this would get me arrested for vandalism, but sometimes I think it might be worth it.