Our in house blogger Jess discusses the accessibility and inclusion. How accessible is every day life in reality for a wheelchair user? She contemplates what issues and frustrations are faced when in town centers, shops and even modern cinemas….
Although, I have been using a wheelchair for 25 years now, it seems I have only recently come to grips with the concept of access.As I see it (and you may well disagree) this world/society was not designed with wheelchairs in mind. I think it would be fair to say that nearly every building or property has been designed for the single, able-bodied, male.
Gender issues aside, it seems obvious to me that the disabled population, up until fairly recently, was just not visible in daily life. This is gradually changing. I am delighted to see more and more people with a disability in our town centers, shops and cinemas. As the market for disability related goods increases we see the rise of such brilliant, specialist companies as Branch Properties. The need for expert advice on matters relating to accessible properties is a crucial yet fairly new idea.
We, as a disabled community, have come a long way. Who’d have thought 80 years ago that we would be looking for total independence? We also have a hell of a long journey ahead. Finding the way to include disabled people in every part of society that is public transport, employment and health, education, the media, politics and public life. These are not goals we will reach overnight.
There was an event that dismayed me recently access and inclusion wise.
Last week was half term in Bedford. Me and my carer and her four-year-old daughter decided to go to the cinema. We decided to book online as it was half term and could be crowded. We arrived early and parked in the multi-storey car-park opposite. On entering the cinema we were struck immediately by how busy it was. Unfortunately, there appeared to be only two people trying to serve the masses. As the queues were huge my carer decides to try to collect our tickets at the machine. We then approached one of the six screens, hand over the tickets and were directed towards screen 4.
We are somewhat taken aback when we notice that there are many steps into the auditorium. We turned back and asked the girl who has shown us through. She appears to have no clue so I asked for the manager. She then explains that you should never book online or collect your ticket at the machine as this will not indicate that you need a wheelchair bay.
Although this cinema was built last year it has six screens which no full-time wheelchair user can access. If you use a wheelchair you are taken up in the lift to one of four wheelchair bays. One of these has two seats the others have one for your carer and you must stay in your wheelchair. Admittedly all of these have access to an accessible toilet. But, you can never sit in a group or with your family, indeed they cannot take group bookings for wheelchairs.
This sort of thing can just about be stomached if the building is many years old. But for a new build? It makes me very angry.
Unfortunately, I seem to keep coming across buildings that have absolutely no facilities for people with disabilities. Surely this needs to change? Who designs these buildings?
On a positive note, the film that we did eventually see “How to train your dragon “was beautiful. The main character has a prosthetic limb that he takes off and throws for his Dragon to catch! At the end (*spoiler alert) he saves himself by taking off his leg! I think this is such a positive view of someone with their prosthesis. Children are the answer!
Please let me know your thoughts, frustrations and what you would like me to include/discuss next time on: firstname.lastname@example.org