Choosing your battles – Blogging Against Disablism Day 2011

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Today I have read a few posts from others as part of Blogging Against Disablism Day. It has made me reflect about some of the challenges to do with access,  I have faced in our small village. I do not have a disability but since getting married to a wheelchair user and having a child with Dravet Syndrome I have seen some shocking things!

When my wife became pregnant we moved to Quorn in the East Midlands. I was very happy to move and generally it was a much safer and more pleasant place to live than my home town of Gt. Yarmouth.

Village of Quorn, East Midlands

Village of Quorn, East Midlands

One thing that did surprise me was the inaccessibility of the local shops. My wife, Clare, is a wheelchair user because of a spinal injury. Most of the shops had heavy doors and steps, so she could not get into them on her own.

I was a frequent letter writer in those days! I dashed off a letter to the local Chemist, quoting the Disability Discrimination Act and complaining that due to the steps, my wife was is a wheelchair user, anyone with mobility problems or parents with pushchairs really struggled to get in. The absurdity was, that they were the people who had to use the chemist shop the most!

My letter coincided with plans for a refit and they had a ramp and an automatic door fitted. I was pleased about this and confident that the others would now follow. I started to ask at the Post Office and the local Deli when they would get their ramp. However other circumstances in my life, became much more urgent.

My newly born son developed Dravet Syndrome and I had much bigger worries. My son’s epilepsy and and the ketogenic diet became my full time occupation. I still wrote a few letters to the local hospital over carparking charges, lack of disabled spaces, and access to new drugs, and complaints over my son’s treatment in hospital. Access to the local shops became much further down our list of worries.

Seven years on since my letter to the Chemist, the Post Office and Deli next door still do not have access. I frequently ask them when they are getting a ramp. I get excuses, they go quiet and often blame the parish council! Maybe if I had written to them at the same time something would have been done.

We have also experienced discrimination at a local Chinese Restaurant. It was early on a Tuesday night. We were shown to a table away from the other guests. My wife found she could not get her legs under the table to get near enough to eat comfortably. The table was too low. As wheelchair users will know this is a very common problem! We asked to move to a taller table further inside the restaurant. They flatly refused saying that all the other tables were booked, they also refused to swap any around. We got the message! They didn’t want our custom and have lost eight years of regular trade because of it. Of course this was before Clare had created the Trabasack.

I find that I am the one who gets angry over these things, my wife sees the injustice but would rather save her strength for getting on with daily life. The point I am trying to make is that people with disabilities face so many instances of discrimination that they get tired of fighting and have to choose their battles carefully. My wife would rather forget that she is disabled and get on with life rather than let it consume her time. I wish that people had more awareness and consideration so that she didn’t have to make that choice. For every one person that does there are many that cannot.  To those who do have the strength to shout out about discrimination I applaud and will support you all I can.

Duncan

I am MD of Trabasack, an award winning company I co-founded 3 years ago. Trabasack is a lap tray and bag that is useful for everyone providing a level work and play surface wherever you need one.

Trabasack also promotes social inclusion for people with disabilities and because of its 'Design for All' accessibility, I won a Level 2 Award from UnLtd the charity for social entrepreneurs.

I am a dad of two and carer for my son with Dravet Syndrome. Interests include disability advocacy, accessible gaming, social media for business, cider making and neglecting an allotment.
Connect with me on Google+

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28 Responses

  1. Great post Duncan! You can read a similar post of mine for BADD2011 here if you like: http://www.workingatperfect.com/2011/05/blogging-against-disablism-day-steps.html

  2. Stephen says:

    Very nicely written post. The warmth of your family really shines through. My best wishes to you all and good luck in all future battles.

  3. Ruth says:

    What a great post. You really describe so well how living with a disability and with loved ones with a disability is and I can relate to what you say.

  4. Selene says:

    I’m writing about this issue this year, too! Stop by if you can…and I’d love a link 😀 Accessibility is such a basic issue, it’s criminal that we haven’t come further as a society.

  5. Ruth Madison says:

    It’s sad to me that it is entirely up to the person who has a disability or her loved ones to tirelessly advocate for basic access.

    It’s an issue for all of us. Everyone should be working together to make sure that no one is kept out.

    Why is it that people like to look at it as “someone else’s problem”?

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your comment. We will get there in the end, just have to keep on pushing people to do something.

  6. Dominic Bogg says:

    I have recently found myself using a wheelchair, even though just on a tempory basis, and have discovered so many problems accessing shops and even general pathways and peoples ignorance. I am trying to raise the awareness with local council but its like knocking on wood sometimes…all power to you

    • admin says:

      Thanks for commenting.

      There is a legal requirement now, it would be good if a few more ‘test’ cases made it to court. Maybe we can get some of those lawyers on twitter to do it ‘pro bono’ for a high profile one.

      Keep at it, mate!

  7. Ira Socol says:

    Choosing battles is vital. I have watched “constant battler” friends turn into continuously angry, and completely unhappy persons because they could not go anywhere or do anything without engaging in the war for access. We have to be protective of our selves and our energies, and take on what we can, when we can, without surrendering our human status to a full-time fight.

  8. Becca Boot says:

    Hi, I’m not able to take part in BADD by writing a blog this year but I’m planning on posting a list of the blogs on my tumblr and I was wondering if I could include yours.
    Please let me know if this is okay.
    Becca

  9. Indeed. Indeed. We become skilled at choosing our battles, but it doesn’t mean that the ones we don’t choose to address aren’t important. I don’t know how change works, but I do know that feeling of burnout.

    WCD

  10. How frustrating! Loved your post!

  11. Sally says:

    Fortunately, like the waves, new feisty people come rolling up to take on the job of acting on disablism issues, and accessibility is so widespread, common, accepted practice despite the law, that fortunately you are not alone, worldwide, in actively complaining, although you may feel you are in your own community.

    Try and find out from your local county council, what support organisations there are in your area, then request support from them in your fight against disablism – preferably using their letterhead, to make the complaints to service providers on their in-accessible provision of services.

    Burnt-out is common in feisty campaigners against disablism – so spread the load.

    Best wishes to you and yours.

  12. Sally says:

    complying with request to confirm its me !

  13. Awesome post. Thanks for sharing. If you ever need some wheelchair ramps you can check our website for some samples. It really is helpful for our fellows.

  14. Insuring some ramps for your home renovation might be a big help especially if you have relatives with handicap.

  15. Another thing you should consider if you have people in the house with disability is accessible routes. You should consider ramps of some sort.

  16. As far as I can see, there are a lot of things that could be simply done with the help of this action. Thanks a lot for the information!

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