|Phot description: Part of a sign with only the word 'accessible' showing.|
We've been really lucky on this trip because everything has been perfect so far. Everything has been perfectly accessible. It's weird to use the word 'lucky' when meticulous planning, and phone calling, preceded the trip - but we've learned that these don't guarantee a problem free trip. Luck does. One day I hope luck has no place in the vocabulary of a disabled traveler!
I wanted to mention a stop that we made on our trip. We've stopped there before, to shop and to eat, and we know it to be physically accessible but have often found the customers to be less than welcoming. We go there anyways because it's the perfect location for a pit stop on many of our trips and, though the customers aren't particularly welcoming, the staff are great.
We noticed it right off, on entering, a change. People were just being nicer. If I was behind two people chatting, they moved without a fuss and even spoke to me, jokingly about their carts. I thought that maybe some new people had moved into the neighbourhood of the store. But that couldn't be it because throughout my shopping I experienced a kind of informal welcome that hadn't been there before.
Then I noticed a fellow, nice looking older dude, working in the store. He was helping out a shopper who was looking for something. This guy had the gift of the gab, chatting away, laughing with the customer, they were clearly enjoying their hunt for a particular product. Later I saw his picture on the wall as being the store manager 'on duty'. That he was in a wheelchair couldn't be seen in the picture, but there, in real time, in real life, he was on the job.
He, later, helped us find the applesauce packets that the kids love, I had to work hard to keep up with him as he flew down the aisles, never coming close to crashing into anyone or anything. My power chair was panting when we arrived where we were going. He joked that he was giving me a good run. Charming guy.
He went into that store and made it fully accessible - fully. It was physically accessible, but it wasn't fully accessible. Attitudes had changed. People reacted very differently to one disabled person because of the work of another.
I think that's such a big part of creating inclusive spaces.
Best intentions can't do it.
Education can't do it.
Only people with disabilities can do it - by being there, by facing attitudes down, by normalizing the experience of having a disabled person in the same space.
The world has been made more accessible and, as a result, more welcoming in the way it's done. One space at a time.