We went shopping yesterday in a store that, only a short while ago, I would not shop in. It's kind of a high end store, the kind where we feel that our sole job is to bring down the tone of the place, where there was something quite specific that we wanted to pick up. I had planned on ordering it on-line from a different retailer, because the store in question was back door, garbage chute, accessible. I really, really, really, don't like going in where the garbage goes out, so, I don't.
I was reminded to order on-line when we were walking by the store. I noticed, and made a joke of, the fact that they had an accessible door opener, with the little wheelchair dude painted on it, set beside the front door. I knew, from past experience, that once you were in, you were greeted by several steps up and into the store. I said to Joe, "Look, accessible entrance to an inaccessible space." Joe, however, said, "Maybe they've become accessible, let's take a look."
He pushed the button, the door opened we went in and were greeted with a ramp. A lovely beautiful ramp. An elegant ramp, even. So up we went into the store, we found what we were looking for, we got in line, and made the purchase. When buying the item I spoke to the clerk and said that they were getting our business and our money because they had become fully accessible. She started to talk about the back entrance, in an attempt to say they were always accessible, and I said, before she finished, "So disabled people not being allowed through the front door and being required to go in the back door is acceptable?"
"Well, if you look at it that way," she said, a bit miffed.
"There isn't really another way to look at it," I said, because there isn't.
But I didn't want this to be a negative encounter. I put my smile back on and said, "I just wanted to make sure that you know and, if you wouldn't mind passing the message on to your supervisor, everyone knows that I appreciate the ramp and because of the ramp, I'll be shopping here more frequently. Accessibility, real accessibility makes a difference.
"You're right, back door isn't good enough."
"We had lots and lots of complaints. I didn't understand why until now."
"Thanks," I said, picking up my purchase.
Hooray! Slowly but steadily my area of town is becoming more accessible. Front door accessible. I made one of those complaints, but clearly others did too. Others who, like me, want equal access. Front door access. Sometimes I think that writing a letter, or making a complaint, will do nothing. And I'm probably right. However, when we all do, when we realize that our letter, our complaint, our voice will be added to others, our chances of being heard and making change increases.
We have a lovely ramp.
Thank you to the invisible but not silent minority of the disability community.