Access can be a problem if confronted with a high step or more than one. The venue size can also be an issue, but not usually a big concern. Being in a multitude of people can sometimes feel ominous. To cope with managing this, I find a loud, polite voice helps – and if they don’t move, then a push rim down the side of an ankle isn’t my fault! I can easily apologise and quickly move on. Smiling and making eye contact, I find, helps as well.
Although the main issue I’m writing about here is access. If a venue, pub, courthouse, a friend’s home or similar has no access, for example, it’s an old building and suitable adjustment to allow for a ramp or platform lift cannot be installed or the layout of it just isn’t practical. I just accept it and make alternative arrangements.
A public building with no access
I got called for jury service once; I was familiar with the court building (not from previous visits, just from wheeling past). I called them up, asking about my access route as the front has several big old steps to the grand entrance; the court admin person (I’m sure they have a fancy job title, but I don’t know it!) said there was no wheelchair access. Although the court is a public building, it was too old to have any adaptations to allow people with mobility issues a way in. I got sent to a modern courthouse for the hearing. Still, I had to sit outside the jury box as it wasn’t accessible. I thought that was a bit off!
In London Town
Let me tell you about another incident. This time in London somewhere. I have been in many busy, congested situations. Jostled in the main crowd at Bon Jovi playing at Hyde Park. Compressed at Gate Crasher held at the Birmingham NEC, listening to Future Sound of London. Squeezed in the crush at a V Festival in Weston Park as the crowd surged forward when the headline act appeared on stage. Not forgetting the masses in my local town O’Neals or nightclub.
Referring back to the London incident. Trying to get access to a very crowded bar, I was with others, It was some years back, but I believe three or four wheelchair users were hanging on the night out together – yes, I have friends that use wheelchairs, who doesn’t? Anyway, the door person refused us entry. It was a busy, busy bar, and I can understand why. A lot of ankles knocked and toes squashed; it was sensible not to let us in. But some of my party wouldn’t accept that, an alcohol-fuelled debate started with the door person, and I think the word discrimination was spoken. By this point, the cold night air was biting my neck, and I was ready
to head somewhere else. Sometimes the word discrimination gets confused with the word sensible or practical. If there is no access, there is no access, whether due to a step, crowds or no facilities; for me, it’s easier just to accept that and take my business elsewhere. I have more important things to worry about.
Most modern public buildings cater for excellent, easy access. Old concert or theatre venues do their best to accommodate – in the last six months; I have visited the 5272-capacity Royal Albert Hall twice. Although built 152 years ago, wheelchair access is first class. On my last visit to Brixton Academy to see The Specials, the door person offered access by laying a portable ramp down, which was too steep for me to get up alone, and they were not too happy when I announced on leaving, I could descend on my own. This was by a fancy back wheel balance down the slope. They thought I would be going to crash at the bottom!
If I can’t get in somewhere, I go somewhere else. I can’t really be bothered to moan or complain; there are too many other things to spend my time on that will give me positive vibes and outcomes. If a building is too old to cater to my needs, I would prefer it shined with its ageing glory rather than be converted with modern architecture or metal ramps and contraptions.