Thursday, April 09, 2015

Second Time Around

A couple of years ago I made a complaint regarding accessibility with a theatre and, surprisingly, got immediate action. They called me, asked me to make a visit. When I was there they took down notes on a clip board. They asked me intelligent questions about disability and accessibility and how they could create a culture of 'welcome.' I was impressed.


Nothing happened.

My last contact with them was a phone call explaining why they couldn't do what they'd said was possible. The reason for not doing it was complicated and though I listened hard I couldn't understand what they were saying. I asked for a letter outlining the reasons for inaction, I never got one.

Then a few days ago, I got a call from a new person, from the same company, who had just started in her job, which is to ensure customer satisfaction, and she wanted to talk to me more about the complaint I had made earlier. She'd read my letter, informed herself of the request and had had a few changes made. Would I come to take a look. I was sceptical, because of the last visit but agreed to go. We set a date.

On Tuesday, Joe and I went to meet her and the fellow who had acted upon the suggestions I had made. We were warmly greeted. I saw, from the outset, that changes had been made. The accessible door, which is not visible at the entry way, now had clearly visible signage indicating where the door was. That was one of two major suggestions I had made. OK, one for one.

We went to the area where my main concern was and there, right there, the big change was made. The change made all the difference in the world. There was accessible seating where there hadn't been any before. Or, more precisely, there was seating for those of us in power chairs. I backed into space and had to hide the tears in my eyes. In my mind came this whisper: they listened. The reason that I tear up when I hear that whisper is that it's followed swiftly by a clarifier: The listened - they care.

I know that often we disabled people, and our parents and allies, complain about inspiration porn, but I have to admit that I get really inspired by those without disabilities who do things that demonstrate that they can hear, actually hear, our voices, as if we are important and equal citizens. As I then listened to the two people as they spoke about their commitment to ensure that, in essence, all means all.

I left thinking.

It's all about 'getting it.' It's all about ensuring that those who have decision making power, making decisions based on the idea that a complaint or concern raised by someone with a disability is equal in importance and holds equal value as those concerns raised by other patrons. It's about understanding that adaptions and adaptations that make a space accessible aren't gifts given to whiners but, instead, are actions towards inclusivity and therefore are the soul of welcome.

I am thankful.


liebjabberings said...

What the world doesn't seem to get is that the list of accommodations required is FINITE.

We aren't going to keep coming up with horrible new ways to inconvenience the world if they give in to our demands now.

If a blind person, a person in a power wheelchair, a person who can't hear, and a large person can each use the facilities, that is pretty much it.

I am so glad they listened to you, but it should be automatic, not a gift from heaven.

The culture we face now makes those of us who have trouble getting around, etc., NOT EVEN TRY half the time.

As you said, we are not welcomed. Our money isn't wanted. The stores and other public places don't want us cluttering up the landscape, reminding other people we are there.

So when a place welcomes us, it feels special.

Well, it shouldn't. It should feel normal.


PS They are lucky someone as caring and intelligent as you wrote that letter.

clairesmum said...

Glad this theater finally became welcoming. I bet you'll be going there often now.

Anonymous said...

Thats amazing!!! Gives hope for other things too!


Jenni said...

Hi Dave.

I wanted to draw your attention to the wording in your blog, which echos how I often think.

You said: "...that they can hear, actually hear, our voices, as if we are important and equal citizens"

See, you said 'as if we are', not 'because we are'. I think that reflects one of the things I struggle with. I know I've internalised the view that disabled people are 'less' than others, and that we're only treated as equal when non-disabled people allow it. And I have to fight this attitude in myself, because otherwise I end up feeling grateful for stuff that able-bodied Jenni just expected as a matter of right. Y'know, like being able to go to the toilet when I'm out sightseeing, or having a desk I can use at work or whatever.

I expect this wording in your blog was just a 'slip of the tongue'. And its really hard to get this stuff right every single time, even when you're a disability champion, like you are (I think). But I thought it was interesting to see a problem I have, reflected in your blog.


B. said...

That is good. Someone there did hear you. Nice that they got it right as well. It's so difficult to try to appear gracious for a poor effort. Perhaps they were also smart enough to know accessibility makes everyone's life better. Thanks, Dave.

Anonymous said...

liebjabberings says:

'the list of accommodations required is FINITE....If a blind person, a person in a power wheelchair, a person who can't hear, and a large person can each use the facilities, that is pretty much it.'

I don't get this. I don't think the list of accommodations is FINITE. My guess is that bcos people are infinitely diverse, the accommodations required, if EVERYONE was to use a facility, and infinite.

Looking at liebjabberings list, what about people who require a height adjustable table and a hoist and space for the wheelchair and assistants in toilet facilities? The Changing Places campaign in the UK is working for this provision

'a large person' is mentioned, but what about people of small stature who might require different seating or different placement of intercom equipment?

The 'can't wait' card scheme asks buildings with public access to offer toilets facilities to people who are not customers/patrons but require use of a toilet urgently, which can be vital for people with for example Chrohn's, and can make the difference between a high street being accessible or unusable.

Someone with sensory processing issues might ask a venue or restaurant to do something about a flickering strip light or noisy malfunctioning air conditioning to make a facility usable for them.

And people with, for example, learning disabilities or head injury or stroke may not require physical adaptations but rather staff who respectfully allow time, don't rush, explain things concisely and clearly, use more visual communication.

Maybe I am missing Alicia's point but I am surprised to see this assertion here!!!

theknapper said...