I'm not sure if I'm imagining it but I think not. You know when you go to visit a family with a young child after a few weeks absence you really notice the growth in the child, the extent of their vocabulary, the new skills learned. When you mention it to the parents they smile at the compliment but they admit that they simply don't see the changes as dramatically as you do. They are there every day. They see the changes so gradually as to not to notice. Well, I think it's that kind of experience for me.
I see the UK only as a traveller. I do not live here so I see only a small part of life here. I see hotels and conferences centers, shopping centers and tourist areas, grocery stores and gift shops. But, even so, I think it fair to comment on what I see and experience. This trip has been a bit remarkable. It seems that accessibility is becoming a bit more standard. I've have fewer difficulties than typical and meet with less resistance than I have in the past. Now when we've called for an accessible room, people on the other end of the phone know what that means.
It was only a couple of years ago a hotel in Hull told us that the room was accessible and we drove up to a hotel with six steps up to the lobby and the room up two flights of stairs. We complained only to be told, haughtily, that the room was accessible - people rent it all the time. I kid you not. That simply doesn't happen any more. So, we've begun to relax into the trip. This may be a mistake, may lead to a fall, but it's nice to be travelling without fear at the pit of my stomach.
When I compare this trip not to the last trip but the one five years ago, when I was first in a chair, there is simply no comparison. Slowly, but surely, I find I can go more places, get in more buildings. I have not once, not once, on this trip had to go in a 'special entrance' ... which typically meant the back door way, by where they take out the garbage ... into any building I've gone into.
I know that I am going to places where tourist and convention dollars are attached to these changes. But, even so, it's nice to see that accessibility is becoming more likely to be offered and less likely to be misunderstood.
Does this mean we are making headway ... I'm not sure, but I think so.
Don't want to make you nervous all over again! But just on Tuesday I went to my local pub (in London) newly refurbished. I'm able-bodied but my foster son is a wheelchair user so I tend to notice accessibility. I went to the loo, as you do. Noticed it was very well done indeed in terms of accessibility - then noticed it was up a flight of 5 steps. Couldn't see a ramp. Asked at the bar, they said there wasn't one (I then emailed the pub and got an immediate apology and was told the barman was misinformed). But if the barman didn't know there was a ramp I couldn't find one when I looked, that's really really not good enough. I'm glad to say that the other local pub, also recently refurbished, has not only put an external access ramp, but also a lift beside it, 'because the turns on the ramp are too tight for a larger power chair'. Good for them!
I am glad to know that accessibility is slowly becoming a concrete reality in the UK.
I wonder if you have noticed any changes in people's attitudes toward people with disabilities? When I read things written by disabled people in the UK, I seem to hear a lot of despair over drastic benefits cuts (or threats of same) that threaten their livelihoods, and I also hear from those who see an increase in harassment and abuse from members of the general public who seem to increasingly view disabled people as "benefits scroungers" who are simply frauding the system rather than legitimately in need of support. Some attribute this increase in hate crime to increasingly negative press coverage. As a foreign visitor, have you observed any of this for yourself, or heard of stories similar to these?
As examples, I am thinking of the kind of things written at wheresthebenefit.blogspot.com and also diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.com, but I've seen similar frustration expressed in other places as well, including the BBC Ouch disability chat board before they shut that down.
Dave, I think it is getting better. I have to believe that otherwise I would give in to depair. Sometimes, the wheels grind so slowly, they don't seem to be moving at all. It's only when you can look back, then you see that there has been movement.
Andrea I to will be interested to hear Dave's opinion as there is something of a dichotomy going on with improved awareness of accessibility but there is also an increasing media/government negativity about people with disabilities in my opinion.
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