I is for Impossible
As a disabled person and particularly as one who is both life long disabled and a woman there can be a lot of barriers in my way.
Actual physical access is the big one although awareness of that and facilities are improved a lot and the amount they’ve changed just within my lifetime is huge. That’s not to say there isn’t a long way to go because there is. I just read an interesting blog by Anika about that.
Attitudes and awareness are in many ways a much bigger barrier. If people refuse to understand why I can’t be carried down a flight of stairs or tell me to stop making a fuss then access can’t improve because they don’t understand. And understanding is huge. I recently tweeted a shop in a town I was going to visit and asked if they were accessible. They replied “the shop is wheelchair accessible, just a step to get in.” Which, if you know about wheelchair access you’ll know means it, in fact, isn’t accessible.
Today I’ve been trying to book a weekend away. I’m undecided about where I want to go and after poking round and places to go and things to do I took a look at hotels. The website of one of the chains didn’t have exact accessibility details online and their twitter person told me I had to phone the actual hotels I was interest in. The first had accessible rooms but not ones that I can access. So then I had to phone the other hotel. That does have rooms that meet my needs – in fact all of their accessible rooms meet my needs – but it’s a way away from the centre of town and all the places I thought I might visit. That town is doable in a day from here so I’ll maybe do that instead. And as for a weekend away I think my second choice of city to visit might be back in the running.
And sometimes my own attitude and experiences can be a barrier to doing things. After 30+ years as a wheelchair user it’s easy to be jaded and think “the last time I travelled to that train station things went wrong” and not go there again. Or “I heard that chain has a terrible rep for access, I’ll give it a miss”. I try not to but it’s easy to fall into the trap.
People will often tell me not to do stuff – that I won’t be able to. I have a bit of a habit of proving them wrong. I used to say people should never tell me I couldn’t do stuff because it would just make me determined to prove them wrong.
Now I am older and perhaps wiser I rarely say that.
I can and do point out to people that I can do things they think impossible for me.
“This isn’t recommended for people with mobility problems due to long distances involved” – not a problem I use a powerchair and it’s got good batteries.
“Sorry, there isn’t accessible tube on the route we’re taking, so hope you don’t mind not coming” – if I get the train to a different station I arrive in London at a place that does have accessible tube, I’ll meet you there.
“don’t go in there, there’s no room for you to turn round you’ll never get out.” – I can reverse my chair that distance and turn when I’m outside.
It can and often does take a lot of creativity, some courage and most of all bucketloads of determination but I find that despite what many people think there will always be barriers in may way there’s not much that’s truly impossible if I really, really want to do it.