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.
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.