I wasn’t going to blog about this but one of the others on my journalism course suggested I should.
Earlier this week a bunch of us from CAB went to a pub in a nearby town to eat. It was our post Christmas, Christmas social (we always have it in January). It’s not a town or pub I know. But based on what I’d heard of the access I didn’t have alarm bells ringing
Then we got to the pub and as my colleague drove past the main entrance and into the car park I could see it had a step. I didn’t know about that step.
Across the dark car park we go. I’m hoping I’m not about to wheel into a pothole I can’t see and tip myself out – the downside of the manual is it tips so much easier than the powerchair. And we try to go along to the back entrance. But the path in the beergarden is narrower than my chair and so my wheels are sinking in the mud where it’s been so wet. I can’t wheel myself through it and nor can anyone else.
Round to the front to look at that door. It’s not happening. Two inch step and a then a tight right angle turn to go through another, narrower door that no one thinks my chair will fit through even if we could get me up the step.
I’m beginning to think I’ll be ringing my Dad to come get me. I don’t know that I’m going to get into this pub. But then a staff member appears and she suggests getting me in through the kitchen. It wasn’t level and I needed help to bump up and over the lip and negotiate the tight turns in this old, listed building.
At last, surprisingly, I am in the pub. I greet my colleagues and get a drink.
Then I go to wash my hands because they’re muddy from the attempts at crossing the garden. I come back out of the disabled toilet with clean hands but the knowledge that I won’t be buying the “next round” I’d said I would. Because for some reason there’s only one grab rail in there. By the sink. So I’m making my drink last and putting up with my thirst and hoping I don’t need a wee.
I did enjoy the food and it was really nice to see everyone and have a proper chance to chat. I saw several people I’d not seen for ages (possibly not since the last social in the summer in one case) and met someone new who volunteers on different days to me. It was good.
Then it came time to leave. As they were getting me out, a different staff member was helping. He made some comments, I forget what, and I said “I was told you were more accessible than this.” And he told me the problem was that I was using the wrong door. Wheelchairs always use the front door. “But that’s got a two inch step.” says I. He didn’t reply to that but as he moved out of my way and I wheeled towards the car I heard him tell one of the others that they might look into getting a ramp.
The person who organised our meal emailed me a couple of days later to say she’d sent the pub a message to thank them for our lovely evening. She copied part of the managers reply (who might have been the person who helped my out, I’m not sure) and he apologised for the difficulty in getting “the wheelchair” in and said they are going to look into what they can do to make the front door better accessible within the limits of how old the building is and it’s listed status.
That’s brilliant. I’m pleased that they saw my difficulties and say they are going to try to resolve them. I’m even more pleased that it didn’t take me writing a letter or making a complaint afterwards to do that. I won’t go back but it’s nice to think that maybe, just maybe, another wheelchair user who comes after me won’t have so much faff and struggle.
But I really would love for someone to explain to me just how people forget to mention (or don’t even notice) the bloody great step to go in. Because sadly places do that all the time. And I just don’t get it.