I went into a store a couple years ago, had difficulty getting in because they'd moved the display and blocked the entrance, spoke to a manager and got a terrific response. I even wrote about it here on the blog. He took immediate action, the obstacle was removed before I left the store, he promised me that accessibility would always be considered when setting up displays. He was intensely caring about the issue, thanked me for bringing it to his attention. It was good.
And it stayed good for a long time.
A few days ago I went back into the store and they had a summer display that made the passageway into the store perilously narrow, I got through, miraculously, without knocking anything over. I knew I'd never be able to do that twice. I had wanted to buy a birthday card for a friend and no amount of zigging and zagging could get me through to the racks. I am a regular customer there, there are lots of us with mobility devises who use the store, we are their constituency. But it didn't feel that way.
I drove up to two staff and gave a speech which went something like this:
"I want to tell you that I find the store almost completely inaccessible. I've spent the last several minutes trying to buy a card, trying to spend money here and can't get through. Moreover, the entrance is now virtually inaccessible being made narrow by the display set up there. I dealt with this a couple years ago, I was promised that the store would always consider accessibility, well, I can see that's no longer the case. I am a regular customer here, I like this store, and now I feel devalued by the store and its employees. There is no way you couldn't know that the displays would block entry to those with disabilities. No. Way. That makes this purposeful exclusion. I am so angry and having access denied." I said more. I didn't let them talk. I didn't care what they had to say. I just wanted to register my protest and get out.
Later, having tea at a shop just outside the store, Joe went back into the store, at my behest, and got the business card for the manager.
I wrote the manager.
She wrote right back.
She admitted dropping the ball and recommitted herself and her store to thoughtful accessibility. She assured me that it would be taken care of right away. She was kind. She was apologetic. She acknowledged the problem. It was a good letter.
But, it doesn't matter does it.
Because I know that I'll probably have to write another, and another, and another. The endlessness of the protest. The constancy of making complaints. That's just part of what it is to be a member of a community whose voice is heard, then forgotten, over and over again.
Having to write a letter to a store for becoming inaccessible when accessibility is possible should be a thing of the past. I can't tell you how much effort it took to write the store and make complaint. Making a first complaint is fueled by a sense of injustice. Making a second one takes more energy, takes more will, because, instead having a sense of injustice one has a sense of futility.
But she listened.
She took action.
That's all good.
But it's just this time.
I'm guessing there will be a next and a next and a next.