Ages and ages and ages ago someone got really annoyed with me because I reminded them that I have access needs. They knew it and more importantly the person doing the organising of that event knew it and as they put it I needed to trust they both because I knew both they and the other person wouldn’t forget. They even went so far as to suggest that my asking was insulting to the third party doing the organising.
Which frankly is bollocks but was just another example of this particular person thinking they understood disability and saying ridiculous stuff, much of which was well meaning but inappropriate.
The hilarious thing about that is that if the third party they were so insulted on behalf of had been part of the conversation with the reminder they wouldn’t have been insulted and would have got why I worry and always have to check. Because the third party has a disability that means they have had periods of needing a chair.
I was thinking of that long ago conversation recently when events dredged it up from where it was lost to the depths of my memory and the years past since then.
I was invited to an event. Asked the person inviting me does it have wheelchair access? They didn’t know. I located details of the venue and sent an email, started looking at train times and the like while I waited for a reply. There is access to all but the loos at the venue. If it were local ish to me I might have risked it but it would have meant a few hours on the train so I decided against.
A couple of weeks later I was invited to another event. Decided I definitely wanted to go to that and was very excited. I’ve been to places near there before and knew it should be straightforward. Had a quick look at train times because it was a CAB day – way after my CAB time but I wasn’t sure if I’d fit before in with travel time. Had a quick look at hotels because if I could find a cheap one it would be cheaper than travelling home late at night (would need a taxi from Reading probably). Then I looked at the venue website. It looked great. But I can never quite bring myself to trust on access – experience has taught me otherwise. So I looked for the contact details. I never made it that far. Right above the phone number “sorry we don’t have wheelchair access.,”
Excited to really upset in one quick movement.
And then yesterday I was booking to go to a meeting. I looked at dates for London and for Birmingham sussed out travel for both and decided which was best. Put my name down and got an email back quickly saying I had a place but they needed a phone number in case of last minute problems. So I winged one back with my mobile number and mentioned I use a chair. I didn’t expect it to be a problem because of the type of event and the venue website screamed “new building that’s going to be accessible.”
But the email I got back said they couldn’t guarantee there was wheelchair access. Ugh, stress. I suspected I wasn’t going to get there and I was thinking what a waste of time all the logistics I looked into were. They have since confirmed to me that there is, in fact, access. So all is good.
In all three cases it seems that the person doing the organising either didn’t look into access, possibly because they didn’t think to or assumed no one with access needs would want to, or were unaware of the accessibility (it turns out with the meeting that the organiser and the replying to emails admin person weren’t the same and one knew the other didn’t)
This is why I’m cynical about access. This is why I’m uncomfortable allowing anyone but me to be the one to make arrangements. This is why I always have to ask and I find it hard to trust. It’s not how I want to be but it’s how life and bitter experience have taught me I have to be.
As Blur sang “I’m a professional cynic but my heart’s not in it…”