Thursday, January 16, 2014

Shhh, Quiet Please

"Hey World, I Have Arrived!!!!"

I have written often, to the point of tiresomeness I suppose, about the keen desire I have for anonymity when out doing regular ordinary things. Sure I like attention just as much as the next person, but only when it fits with the situation, only when something actually merits attention. Other than that I live for moments of the sense of comfortable invisibility that non-disabled people live with, and, might I say, luxuriate in. I'm not talking, of course, and to be clear, about forced invisibility when someone refuses to see me when I need to be seen - that's not what I mean at all.

Being in a wheelchair, being different in any way really, increases the 'stick outedness' of the experience of being atypical. That's enough in and of itself but man, does it ever seem to be that people was to megaphone difference so that everyone in the area is the aware - DISABLED PERSON HAS ENTERED THE ROOM. Let me give you a couple of examples from this week.

Situation One

We were heading to buy a toilet plunger at a large box store. When you enter the store they have turnstiles for those who travel on two feet and then they had a locked entrance, by way of a gate, with the blue wheelchair symbol on it. To get into the store, you first have to get the attention of a clerk, who in this case was studiously ignoring my requests to enter. When the loudness of my request crossed the threshold of her animosity, she pushed a button that opened the gate. When the button was pushed a huge gawd-awful buzzing sound was let off. Everyone in the vicinity, naturally, turned to see the source of the sound and voila! it was me coming through the disabled entry. Nice, clean entrance there.

Situation Two

A formerly accessible store has installed these supposedly accessible guardians of the gate at their entry point. These are two bars which swing easily as you pass by them, the only swing one way thus not allowing exit through that area of the store. It's a theft prevention thing. Well, this supposedly accessible thing is accessible to scooters but not to right handed power wheelchair users. To pass though for me, being tall, means that it hits my control at it's weakest point, I wouldn't chance it. To others, with lower chairs, it pinches the hand using the control in trying to swing the bar open. I made a complaint and a happy and chipper staff came and told me, 'no problem, just wave to us and we'll come and hold it open for you.' Yeah, 'no problem' ... sitting there waving and calling out to staff who are busy at the cash - not a problem at all. I love having a row of people staring at me waving and then seething as they wait for the cashier leave her work to come and assist me in. Yeah, nice. No notice there.

Situation Everywhere

Let's not even get into those places where you have to go and get a key to use the disabled loo, or those who have elevators but they are locked and you need to go into the building to get assistance. One near me has an elevator into the store, locked, and the staff you need to get assistance from, as instructed on the sign on the elevator are in the store you can't get into without assistance. I went in, once, but had to ask someone going in and up the stairs to get a staff for me, the staff came with such annoyance that I rode up the elevator, rolled off into the store and then turned and said, "Now take me back down, you can shove your attitude and this stupid elevator up any ass you choose."

Sometimes I just want to be out without buzzers, without bells, without waving and yelling, just out. Just quietly out.

People say that sometimes minorities should just shut up ... and you know where that would leave us ... in the freaking cold.


Jayne wales said...

Why does it have to be o complicated? Access is something we will all need at some point in our lives. Why can't we make it the norm in an easy, no problems way? Why do we have to make a great scene?
One of my brothers used to joke about his in laws who wanted to help disabled people so much they virtually provided a chain of people to help someone to the toilet! How awful and why should they have to? Just make it so its easy to go about life in all our own sweet or not so sweet ways.

Colleen said...

We know how to do this. Universal design has been around for a long time now. I don't get why we aren't just doing it!

Jo Kelly said...

Hey Dave

Just another example of how the ableist world doesn't "get it". I am so annoyed when I run into situations like you describe that I generally won't go into that store. I once went into a Canadian Tire and there was a full 7' tall 5' wide shelf in front of the accessible entrance! And the manager didn't seem to understand my annoyance. Geesh! Isn't this type of thing covered under the new Ontarions with Disabilities Act? Seems to me that accessibility MUST be something you can achieve without assistance, otherwise how is that considered accessible?

Anonymous said...

I remember the story I read about an American town that didn't want to have an Army base near it.

The paymaster paid all the Army personnel one Friday with $2 bills (which are rare).

After the merchants checked their cash registers the following Monday, there was never again a peep about the base.

Merchants need to be made aware, somehow, that if disabled people can't get to their stores, the disabled people won't spend money there.

Ditto for theaters, movie houses, and other forms of entertainment that make it difficult to impossible for people to get in.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: disabled people aren't worth the effort because they don't spend.

No wonder Amazon gets my dollars - to them I am not disabled - just another person with a keyboard and a credit card.

But giving up means giving up getting out of the house, and for most disabled people, that's not a good solution. (Disclosure: I have CFS and such low energy that I rarely leave the house. Both because of barriers and by choice - not worth the expenditure.)


Unknown said...

You might just as well have said "don't make me beg to enter."

I've thought about your post "what do disabled people want" and have my answer on my blog. I wonder if it is in line with your thoughts, Dave.

B. said...

It's nice to know I'm not the only one out here in these situations (this is where I say 'thanks Dave') but it's also sad to know these situations just keep happening.

Anonymous said...

Your comments are timely. Just when I thought there had been a few steps towards inclusion - I've just come across some situations similar to yours. A store that use to be accessible via a swinging "gate" verses the turnstile now requires attention from a clerk to open. What is with that??? What has possibly happened that means those with mobility issues, or perhaps those with strollers - are no longer allowed equal access. I couldn't believe it! Made me madder than a hatter. So much for the small steps forward - giant strides backwards!!!