Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Why is the Window not Open?

 This story is about a hospital. Let me say this again, it's about a hospital. When you come in there are usually wheelchairs everywhere. So they are familiar with the rolling classes. We arrived early enough for me to have a fight if I wanted one.  I was going for a test that I knew would be uncomfortable so my nerves were already frayed. But when I rolled in and was directed to the desk where I would be screen. There were two windows open. Both of them were set for people who were walking, I could only crane my neck up. As a result, they spoke to Joe who was accompanying me.

Joe knows that I don't like this happening but he was responding to the structure of the place. I couldn't hear their questions and they couldn't hear my answers. The frustrating thing is that right there beside them was a window set at an accessible-height clearly marked with a Blue Disability Sign. When done, I rolled back and told them that I had been to the hospital for tests several times in the last few months and I'd never seen it open. That made no impact so then I asked bluntly. Why is that window not open?

You know the answer they gave me?

I shit you not.

"It's not open because no one is sitting there."

If they thought that an answer or explanation, they were going to be incapable of understanding. If they have it but don't use it, they don't have it. They get to be happy and get to point out on tours by any of their funders that they are accessible. But they don't get the idea of accessibility, the will to be accessible, the desire to serve everyone equally. 

Wouldn't you think that a hospital would always have that one open? It's accessible to everyone. But we aren't a part of 'everyone' we are a part of those barely worth notice. As a disabled person, entering a healthcare facility, nervous and maybe a slight bit afraid seeing this kind of structural barrier, right beside something that would be workable but isn't used because the staff prefers not to use it. One wonders if that kind of bigotry will carry through to the doctors and nurses that will serve you.

The great thing is that the doctors and nurses at this hospital are amazing people. Not only are they really smart, not only are they way more than competent, but they are also kind and welcoming, and treat each person as a person.

So once past the barrier of indifference and subtle hostility, it was a fine visit. My test was done and I was told my results ... I'm fine.


Myrthe said...

I'm glad your test had a good result.
You've written before on how you struggle with speaking up on another's behalf vs letting them remain in control of the situation, and I wonder, did Joe handle the situation in the way you would have liked him to handle it?
I hope he did. Judging by how you speak of him and your relationship, I think he did.

My local pharmacy has a central waiting area and a few windows, one of which is accessible - you pull a number, and when your number is called and the tech sees you're in a wheelchair of scooter, the tech will move to the accessible window. Very handy.

I've been in a lot of hospitals, very few of which have waiting rooms that are wheelchair-accessible; usually you're stuck blocking chairs or waiting in the hallway. Now with covid, there are usually markings on the floor to indicate where chairs should stay put in order to ensure social distancing.. but rarely is there an empty marked space where a wheelchair user can sit.

It's weird. As you say, you would think they are used to the rolling classes!

But my biggest pet peeve with hospitals in my country is their wheelchairs: all hospitals I've been to, their provided wheelchairs are literal pushchairs. The chair is braked automatically unless someone is holding the push handle - and there are no big wheels to self-propel.
I don't know whoever came up with that. I hate using those chairs. I don't like to be locked in place wherever someone leaves me. Even a push-only chair without automatic brakes would be a big improvement: that way when someone puts you at a table, most people can at least leverage the table to get you a little closer or farther away from the table, or adjust your angle so that you're looking straight at the doctor instead of needing to turn your head. That small inch of chair movement goes a long distance in the way of agency.

Messy Mason said...

99% of the time this happens to me as well. I've asked, point blank, "Do you think that you could staff that window first?" and they just ignore me.

Here in the U.S., as well as this normate bigotry, there's the additional stink of our doctoring serving to line someone else's pockets.