Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Choices That Aren't Choices

On our way to our hotel this weekend we received an email from our hotel telling us that the room we booked wasn't available but that they had another accessible room, a smaller one, that we would be able to use. The email gave a phone number we could call, so, I did.

I was annoyed. I'm careful with booking rooms, we'd booked a one bedroom and were going to be given a studio. We need the space we booked, which is, of course, the reason we booked it. I get up earlier than Joe to do work and to do my work out. The new room would allow us the different rhythms of our mornings.

In speaking to the woman from the hotel she assured us we could move to the room style we wanted the next day so we just to 'decide' what to do for that one night. Her choice was that we could stay in the accessible studio or we could stay in a one bedroom that wasn't accessible. She waited for me to make my decision.

I was silent, not because I was deciding but because I was struggling to remain calm. Finally I told her, "This is not a choice. I told you I was a wheelchair user. You are offering me, as a choice, a one bedroom inaccessible room. You do realize that if I could stay in one of those rooms, I would have booked one of those rooms. I'm guessing you went to a training somewhere where you learned to give options and choices and you don't want to acknowledge that because I have a disability I actually have no choice. I've got to take the room you are offering, the one I didn't book, because it's the only one I can stay in."

She started to speak, but I wasn't done ...

"I want you to know that offering me a choice that I can't take is insulting and maybe even a little bit cruel. You know that I am a wheelchair user, it's on my profile with the hotel, I've already told you that and you are saying that if I want the room style that I ordered, then get out of your chair and walk. It's like a kind of taunt. I'm upset that I'm not getting what I booked, but I'm even more upset that you would give me a choice that isn't a choice and a choice that I obviously can't take because I'm in a wheelchair. What kind of person does that?"

She started to speak, but I wasn't done ...

"I'm going to take the room I didn't book for tonight and then move to the room I did book tomorrow. But it's a lot of work to do that. It's a lot of packing and unpacking and effort that I'd rather not expend. But I'm going to take it, you know that I'm going to take it, but let's be clear it's because it's my only option not the result of a choice that I was never able to make."

She than said she was sorry.

We chatted for a moment, and I rang off.

She offered me an inaccessible room as a choice! It makes me wonder how non-disabled people understand disability, or if they do at all.

10 comments:

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Reminds me of the time I called a theater to ask about sign language interpretation for a musical I wanted to go to (yes, some deaf people like musicals, yes, some deaf people can hear enough to enjoy music without hearing enough to actually understand the words). They told me that the only seats from which the interpreter would be visible were the most expensive seats in the house. They argued that it was okay to essentially force me into paying for the most expensive seats in the house because it was my "choice" whether to buy a seat where the interpreter was visible (my only option for actually following along with the words) or to buy a cheaper seat where the interpreters wouldn't be visible. Excuse me? It is my "choice" whether to choose the option that will give me the nearest possible equivalent to the experience of all the other patrons versus the option that will turn me into a second class citizen receiving less service than everyone else?

I don't understand why so many non-disabled people have so much difficulty grasping the concept that accessibility is not an "optional extra", it is the bare minimum of what we NEED (not simply want).

Ranvaig said...

Wouldn't it be nice if ALL hotel rooms were accessable. For that matter why can't they make all public restrooms accessible? The one accessible stall always see!s to be the one someone decides to use as a phone booth. And while we are dreaming, say that all new residential construction should be assessable.

h smith said...

I get offered non choices all the time. Its cruel. The very cruelest is when I'm told my suffering is my 'choice' because I could 'choose' to end my life instead. At every level the ableist see us as inconvenient burdens who are just 'choosing' to make life difficult for them.

For info its against the law (in countries with disability discrimination) to charge a disabled person extra for accommodations. So if a show has interpreters who can only be seen clearly from the expensive seats then disabled people needing to sit there *have* to be charged a standard ticket price not the higher one.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Couldn't you just CHOOSE not to be disabled for ONE night, you know, for the hotel's convenience? It isn't really that much to ask, is it? /sarcasm font

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Thank you H Smith -- yes, I'm aware now that, at least in the US (where I live) it is illegal to force disabled people extra for accommodations. At the time this happened I wasn't 100 percent sure this was the case so I tried to argue on general principle, but the person I spoke to kept insisting that it was still somehow my "choice" to request the seats from where the interpreter could be seen. He also said that there had been a limited number of discount tickets for disabled patrons, but those had either sold out or expired (I don't remember now which). But when I had tried calling the theater many weeks earlier, I had been told that they had not yet even scheduled performances with interpreters! And there was no clear information on their website saying otherwise! So there was no way for me to have arranged tickets earlier without information about which performances would have interpreters! (Later on I realized/discovered that the information had been available earlier, but the front line staff had not been adequately trained about it). It also further transpired that the discounts had been arranged, not by the theater itself, but by the people responsible for putting together the play. Apparently the theater felt it was entirely at the option of the people putting together the play to set the prices, including pricing or discounts for disabled patrons. So that was one more layer of complexity--I think in that kind of situation, it would technically be the legal responsibility of BOTH parties to ensure disability access including fairness in pricing. But unfortunately, in real life practice, when there are two or more parties sharing legal responsibility, both parties end up saying, "No, it's absolutely not our responsibility at all, it is THEIR responsibility" which means the disabled consumer ends up with no accommodation unless they choose to go to the trouble of filing a Department of Justice complaint or something, which could take a long time to resolve.

So even if I had understood the law better at that time, I'm still not sure how I could have gotten the mess resolved in time to get the tickets. All this being a good part of the reason why so many places can get away with these ADA violations (and violations of equivalent laws elsewhere) -- the long delays involved with legal avenues can be a big disincentive for disabled people from even trying to pursue effective justice.

Being told that you are "choosing" to suffer rather than dying is indeed the cruelest kind of non "choice" I can think of. I have an online friend (not a close friend, but someone I've known for years) who was told a few years ago that basically her two health options were,
1. Get a permanent food tube put in for the rest of her life, or,
2. Die
So of course she said, "Do the surgery, give me a food tube." But the doctors and nurses all kept asking her over and over if she was really absolutely utterly certain that she wanted a food tube because they were apparently convinced that having a food tube was this hugely tragic, miserable experience that would drastically reduce quality of life for her. They kept refusing to schedule the surgery, until finally she had to turn to her many supporters on the Internet and ask us to flood the hospital with phone calls, email messages, Facebook messages, and Twitter messages all demanding that they give her the food tube. All of a sudden, after a few (dozen? hundreds?) of people contacted them, they decided to schedule the food tube surgery. But even then they were still repeatedly asking her until the last moment if she was "really sure" that she was making the right choice. WTF?
This was years ago, and she is still absolutely delighted with the choice she made and loves her food tube -- because it saved, and is continuing to save, her life every day. But. ARGH.

Sherry-Lynn K said...

It is not merely ignorant but, as you said, cruel for anyone to pretend that you are being offered a choice when you really have no choice due to your needs. Good for you for speaking up.

Unknown said...

I'm glad you were able to present your case in a way that she seemed to understand....that even tho she was trained to give people 'choices', her offer to you was a non choice......and the idea that this was cruel probably never had occurred to her...of course, that is a whole other issue...
i don't think that folks in a WC are 'faking' it so it wasn't til I began reading your blog that I realized that attitude is so pervasive.
People are weird, aren't we. Clairesmum

Cari Watrous said...

Thank you for speaking up and congratulations on being able to do it without yelling which I never can and often insures I'm not heard.

Unknown said...

I'm glad you were able to present your case in a way that she seemed to understand....that even tho she was trained to give people 'choices', her offer to you was a non choice......and the idea that this was cruel probably never had occurred to her...of course, that is a whole other issue...
i don't think that folks in a WC are 'faking' it so it wasn't til I began reading your blog that I realized that attitude is so pervasive.
People are weird, aren't we. Clairesmum

Michelle Tilley said...

Ignorance is everywhere in our world. It's every where. Able people don't understand what it's like to have a disability, sane people don't understand what it's like to have a mental illness, Christian people don't understand what it's like to believe in multiple gods, I could go on forever, but you get the point. We live in a world that claims to be understanding and compassionate, or better yet empathetic, but only select few in this world are able to live up to their claims. It's sad, but it's true. I am currently taking a college course in which we have to simulate a disability (some find this offensive), and although it's not quite like walking in another persons shoes, it has opened up some doors of perception that I didn't even know existed. I personally believe all a person can do in this world is stand up for what they believe in, and when enough of us do, well, what a paradigm shift will take place! Look at how far we've come from the beginning.....it's been happening since the very start of history.....let's keep it going! Someday, hopefully, we'll get there, or at least finally admit to being eternal hypocrite!