Can I have a seat? Blogging Against Disablism Day, 2009

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2009

Blogging Against Disablism Day 2009

Strategically placed seating costs next to nothing for a business to implement. It requires no building modification. And it can make a huge difference to accessibility for some people with disabilities.

Bouquets and Brickbats

A small accessibility bouquet goes to The Good Guys electrical store in Joondalup. I didn’t do a comprehensive accessibility assessment, so it may well have other problems. From my point of view, the biggest pluses were that the accessible parking was very close to the door, and they had seating available both at the relevant service desk and near the checkout. The physical environment, even in the entertainment section, wasn’t full of noise and sensory overload. It was moderately peaceful and spacious. Most importantly, the sales person served me seated without acting weird about it, and without ignoring me and concentrating on my partner who was standing. I just sat down and got on with business. No having to ask, no tensing up in preparation for The Conversation, no being treated like I was different or strange or out of the ordinary or an unwelcome annoyance in a busy day.

We visited two other electrical stores that day who did not provide seating. One was a particularly awful experience (JB HiFi in Joondalup), being loud, obnoxious, and cluttered as well as seating-free. And the sales person there was awful.

A brickbat goes out to Target Whitfords City. This is from a trip a while ago. They have no seating at all near the women’s clothing section, that I could see. The fitting rooms were a long way from the clothing; I didn’t have the energy to trek back and forth, so I tried on clothes over what I was wearing. (Thankfully, I’d thought of this in advance, and wore a smallish singlet so I could try on shirts.) A bouquet, however, goes to my fellow shopper who courteously asked if I needed help when I sat on the floor for a while to rest, and chatted with me for a minute.

I’ve bouqueted my local public library before, but here it is again: they have a chair at the service desk queue, and you can check your books out or converse with the librarian at a seated counter. It’s very, very rare to see seating placed close enough to a queue to be useful for people who need to sit while queueing. Last time I was there, the librarian even recognised me and immediately waved me over to the seated service area. On a minor note, they could do with one or two more adult chairs in the children’s library. That’s not a dealbreaker for me, as the child chairs are solid and I can sit on them. Others may find them very difficult, however, and the one adult chair they do have is not suitable for people who have trouble rising from a low soft chair.

Barriers to action and the overstretched energy budget

Here’s the thing: because this library has put in a couple of obvious bits of effort, I feel like they are more likely to be receptive to other suggestions. Places that make no effort I just can’t deal with sometimes – once I’ve managed the effort of somehow negotiating the obstacles, I have nothing left for standing around having a conversation with strangers, especially strangers who may be clueless and obstructive.

This is the huge barrier to the “Why don’t you just ask them?” approach to disability accessibility. I’ve tried bringing this up in the course of a transaction before, and been variously ignored, insulted, belittled, lectured, stared at blankly, and offered unsuitable solutions.

Leaving accessibility enforcement to individual people with disabilities means that a whole lot of time, it just isn’t going to get done. Because we’re already running on empty from dealing with life. Sometimes, another five or ten minute conversation that could be thorny and confronting just isn’t at the top of the priority list. Sometimes we just run out of tolerance for being insulted or deliberately ignored one.more.time. And sometimes we’re just too bloody tired. When we need to sit down RIGHT NOW, standing around chatting about it doesn’t help. When we’re bled nearly dry, we have to avoid even papercuts.

Sometimes, I really just want other people to educate their own ignorant selves. For it to no longer be my job.

Questions for you

Is seating in commercial premises something you notice?

If not, are you willing to have a look for it next time you go shopping? I’d like to hear reports about what’s going on in your town.

Have you ever tried saying something to businesses that don’t provide it? I’m interested to hear from both PWD and able-bodied people here. If you’re a TAB, when was the last time you spoke with a company or service provider about their accessibility issues?

If you’re involved with a business, does your business provide seating instead of making people stand?

Are you willing to put yourself out there and start noticing and agitating?

[Commenters: Read this first. New readers: My personal story is here.]

The BADD posts will be collected here at Diary of a Goldfish’s BADD page. This is also where you leave a comment to notify DoaG of the URL of your BADD post. It’s not too late to join in!

Categories: Miscellaneous

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

27 replies

  1. As a woman with ADD, I am less likely to notice seating, but I do definitely notice when a space is too loud, cluttered or visually busy. I avoid certain restaurants because they are too distracting and I can’t focus on conversations, for example. I hate most mall stores, especially the “cool” chain shops because they tend towards loud, pumping music and too many visual stimuli. I know such spaces can also be unfriendly for people on the autism spectrum–both my brothers are Aspies and find that sort of environment very uncomfortable.
    When people plan accessible space, they often only think about physical access (doors, parking, and so on) and forget what accessibility means for people with other sorts of disabilities. For example, low floor public transit buses aren’t much use to a blind person who needs a driver who will announce the stops or another way to know where she is. But people will often point to wheelchair accessible spaces when they talk about PWD and not even think of all the other ways in which a space might be profoundly unfriendly.

  2. I’ve been adding a physical accessibility rating to cafes that I visit when I review them. Our own criteria as a family usually have to consider the noise/light space issues that Bird mentioned above but we have also found that technology has been a wonderful enabler of family outings – a laptop and a good pair of over-ear headphones seem to provide sufficient visual and audible blockout for our son. Doesn’t do much for conversation, but neither do screaming meltdowns so I’ll take the trimmed down conversation anyday.

  3. I’m having some trouble posting my comment on that site. Seems the comment moderation has been turned on.

  4. First: ‘Leaving accessibility enforcement to individual people with disabilities means that a whole lot of time, it just isn’t going to get done. Because we’re already running on empty from dealing with life. ‘ Yes yes yes.
    Seating in commerical premises is something I notice. My need for it is variable, but I like to look out for my fellow PWD, too. I’m starting to make a noise about it.
    Chally’s last blog post..Talking about it.

  5. Since getting back in touch with you I’ve been keeping an eye out for accommodations at local businesses. The places I frequent all pretty well fail, with the possible exception of the feed store. There is no seating, but you can park right on top of the door if you need to, and the employees will go get your purchase for you and then take it out and load it into your car, so if you’ve got someone at home to help you never have to touch the 30lbs of dog food or whatever.

  6. Yes yes yes, what is so difficult about providing a seat in a public place? I really don’t understand. There are so many reasons why a seat is handy for everyone and as someone with ME/CFS and POTS who cannot stand for long at all it really affects my experience of a place and the liklihood of me returning there in future! My particular issue of the moment is why the benches in my village dissapear and are not replaced, i can no longer walk to the corner shop safe in the knowledge that i can have a rest outside before walking home. Is it to stop youths gathering? It is very frustrating when such simple things can make such a big difference.

  7. If I need a chair and there isn’t one I sit pointedly on the floor. Other than that I must admit I don’t think I’ve ever complained about access to a storeowner etc. I’m still getting my head around how many other people have similar needs to me.

  8. Thanks for posting this. Accessibility issues are always a problem. My family went to a shopping mall recently, which boasted of being disability friendly. It was, if you were physically disabled, but not friendly to the visually impaired. My father in his wheelchair had no real issues, but as I strolled around, I had problems finding the toilets. The word “toilets” was in five foot high letters, hard to miss if you had no eye problems, but I missed it as it had cream coloured letters on a white background.

  9. Sophie – I’ve sat on the floor, too – but getting up can sometimes be a problem, as can filth.

  10. This is such a huge issue: No benches where you might wait. No seating in shops. Even airports have vast areas without a place to stop. Of course we combine that with directional signage rough for those with “low vision” and “reading disabilities” and we end up walking back and forth, with no place to sit.

  11. Sometimes, I really just want other people to educate their own ignorant selves. For it to no longer be my job.
    Hear hear! Excellent post.

  12. Hi, first-time commenter.
    One thing I’ve noticed about the London transportation system is that the people running it seem to have an aversion to providing seating. There are a few–always inadequate–seats provided at most Tube stations, but some of the more modern ones (on the Jubilee line) have nothing more than bars you lean against, like monks used to use to prop themselves up during fatiguing singing sessions. At bus shelters, they’ll often have these slanted red bars which you can sort of sit on, but still putting stress on your feet and back.
    It’s irritating enough for me, as a TAB, and would be much worse for someone who needed to sit. Not only that–most Tube stations are not wheelchair-accessible.

  13. I’m definitely with you on the ‘sometimes i just don’t have the energy to be educating/advocating for myself’ and ‘wouldn’t it be nice if it just WAS accessible and I didn’t have to think about it today’ attitude. This is not to say that I don’t do what I can/when I can… it’s just that sometimes it’d be nice if the impetus was on them rather than on me.

  14. Thank you for writing this! Hear, hear to “Leaving accessibility enforcement to individual people with disabilities means that a whole lot of time, it just isn’t going to get done. Because we’re already running on empty from dealing with life.” This is SO TRUE.
    Seating is also an issue for me, as I have intractable epilepsy. If I feel a seizure coming on, I need to sit or I will fall down. The local shopping mall actually gets kudos on this front. Their handicapped parking isn’t great, but there are benches at regular intervals. My favorite clothing store, J. Jill, gets smaller kudos (a kudo?) for putting a chair near the dressing rooms in their store. A comfortable yet firm armchair that is very hard for me to fall out of. It would be nice if there were more than one, but I recognize that they are dealing with limited square footage and high space rent. The employees there know me by now, and they take it in stride if I have to go sit down and let Mom finish the transaction for me.
    On the flip side, the local community college sucks as far as disability access goes. Lots of hills, lots of second-story classrooms with ancient and slow elevators, only a few handicapped parking lots, long and winding wheelchair ramps. I find it particularly sad that the parking lot labeled for the disability office is a steep flight of concrete stairs down from the office in question. That’s right, you have to walk up stairs to get to the freakin’ disability office. There is a small handicapped parking lot right in front of it that allows one to bypass the stairs, but if you don’t already know where it is, it’s really hard to find. Signage FAIL.
    And don’t even ask me about trying to pass a chemistry lab class with uncontrollable epilepsy. Caustic chemicals, fragile glassware, and open flames are all things I try my hardest to stay away from, thank you very much… the prospect of taking a nosedive into a beaker of hydrochloric acid really doesn’t appeal to me.

  15. I do notice the lack of seating in commercial areas. When I first injured my back I had to constantly sit and rest. I sat on the floor a lot in department stores.
    I’m in the U.S. and I’m having trouble thinking of anywhere that has adequate seating. I go to Target a lot and if they have lawn chairs out I’ll take a rest there, otherwise I use a bottom shelf. Ikea is terrible once you get to the main floor, and that is when I truly need the seat the most. The fabric store has no seating at all either. I’ve used the wheelchair they have available there before just because I knew I would not make it around the store and their shelves are too full to sit on.
    At a restaraunt called Red Robin, I had to sit on a chair that was barstool high, in a place with blaring music and cooks shouting. I wanted to run out of there screaming.
    The only government building I can remember is the courthouse where I paid for a ticket. There was no seating and you had to go up to a fairly high counter to pay. It was also upstairs and had very poor signage directing people to the proper areas.
    Ah-ha, I’ve thought of one place. The shoes stores have lots of seating, perhaps that is why I enjoy them so much.

  16. Can I give kudos to the ANZ? While I can’t speak for every ANZ branch around Perth, I know the Cockburn Central, Rockingham City and the Central Park/ Hay St branches not only don’t do standing up in a line waiting (instead you take a number), but have a decent amount of seating for waiting customers. Double kudos to CC and RC for having realistic opening hours too.

  17. I have a funny take on this, I guess. I notice my need to sit, or need to sit immediately (if I don’t sit for 1, I will hurt; if I don’t sit for 2, I will fall over), and most places I don’t think about whether they have seating or not, I try to plot the nearest known coffeshop/bookshop/bench/subway station. However, I go into spoon-debt way too often with this approach.
    Most of the time I don’t ask businesses about accessibility issues. If it’s really bad, I don’t go back unless I have to. I do tend to sit on floors or sidewalks.
    I’m willing to start noticing and agitating.
    On the bus or subway, I have been known to ask people if they are able-bodied and if so could they please give me their seat when I’ve been trying to get home on 1, and I have asked people if they were able to stand could they please do so when someone standing next to me is in obvious difficulty.

  18. Lauredhel : Oh yes, didn’t mean to imply that sitting on the floor is in any way equivalent to having a chair. And I’m lucky in that getting up from a sitting position doesn’t take *too* many spoons for me, so assuming the floor isn’t too manky it’s a viable alternative if I’m going to be waiting very long.

  19. OH man, thanks for writing this! I know how you feel, I’m feeling you here. I want to kiss the people that have designed the new shopping centre in Claremont. They have puffy couches! In the mall! I mean, there are lots of old people in Claremont, and it’s a rather spacey mall, and it’s hoity-toity up to our armpits but still – I enjoy the puffy chairs! And they have those flat escalator track things. I was like, “YES! FUCKIN’ YES!” And Coles is nice and cheap. And they have JB Hifi, EB Games, Dick Smith and some hobby shops there. It’s like, heaven for me. And it’s close so my Dad won’t bitch when he drives me there instead of Harbour Town (which I’ll still need to visit for my cheap hippy clothes).
    I notice chairs. I notice when there’s seating. There needs to be more. I’m often so wistful when I see older people in little motorised carts. I know if I had something like that, people would look at me like I’m nuts. Plus, it’s probably better for me to keep walking around, even if I feel like seven shades of shit after.

  20. i always drag a chair over at banks when there is a line. i was treated VERY rudely by a cashier until she realised i was there to withdraw seven thousand dollars, when she promptly became friendly. fuck them, if i need to sit i’m not even going to explain it or feel embarassed anymore. and fuck people who think i’m rude for ‘pushing in’ the bus que by sitting on the seats and then walking to the head of the line when the bus comes. I NEED A SEAT. just because i am young and LOOK fine, people treat me like shit. hurrumph.
    also, the good guys were nasty to me and wouldn’t let me return a dodgy tv set, physically intimidated me and made me frightened/cry. this was in adelaide, pooraka.

  21. Apart from here, is there a website for spreading the word about PWD-friendly/ not friendly places?

  22. I used to notice some things when I thought I was a TAB. Now I’m a PWD and I notice a lot more. (In the case of ADHD-related things, the disability I’ve always had and just didn’t know it, I’m just now consciously aware of why things that always bothered me do so.)
    Woodvale Library were pretty good too last time I was there, by the way, though I’m not sure about their children’s area.
    I think the reason disabilities are so little-regarded is because we’re the minority group that’s likely to have the most trouble advocating – because navigating life is so exhausting on its own.
    When I can find the strength and energy, I want to set up a disability advocacy group at my university (UWA). Alone, no-one can handle this stuff. Mutual work/support is clearly needed.

  23. I know EXACTLY what you mean about sometimes not having enough spoons to deal with “just asking” (hah!) for disability access.
    I don’t have a chronic, pain/fatigue related condition. So on most days I probably have more spoons than you do. When sometimes just BRACING myself for the prospect of having to have a five-minute conversation with someone to advocate for my accessibility rights as a deaf person can consume a spoon or three all by itself. Especially if I *know* that this five-minute conversation will probably end with my banging my head against a brick wall. Then if that conversation does go as predicted, of course that consumes several more spoons–if not in physical energy (since I have more to spare) then in sheer psychological/emotional energy for dealing with it.
    I have had multiple experiences throughout life when I have had the legal right to file either a Department of Justice complaint regarding violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act or even, possibly, sue people. And not done anything about them because if I pursued every single violation of my rights that aggressively I’d never get anything ELSE done in my life. Sometimes people try to tell people with disabilities that, “Hey, you have rights, you should fight for them more.” And maybe I should a bit more. There is still one case where I WAS actually going to file a DOJ complaint and didn’t because I let time slide away from me. And I still have regrets about that. There are several other situations where I WAS going to write long angry letters about how I was treated as a deaf person and didn’t. And still have regrets. But at the same time, I think that many of the people who urge people with disabilities to “fight back” each and every single time we are discriminated against just don’t grasp how much our lives are just utterly PERMEATED by discrimination.
    I could walk into a dvd store right now (okay, not right now at 9:30 pm, but), pick up 10 dvds in 5 minutes, and probably most or all of those dvds would have a captioned movie on it (as long as I’m looking in the section for larger, better-known movies, not smaller, independent productions), but most or all of the special features will not have captions. I *could* spend 10 minutes copying down the title of each dvd, the address of each production company etc., then come home and spend another 30 minutes looking for more complete contact information for all those companies that didn’t have full contact information on the box, then another 30 minutes drafting a form letter, then another 30 minutes slightly individualizing each one (to reference the relevant dvd title, and maybe a line on why I want to access the special features for THIS dvd), then maybe another 30 minutes fussing with envelopes and printing out because I’ve decided each letter will have more impact if it’s snail mailed instead of emailed. But if I did all that, then I’d have no time to watch the one movie I *did* end up buying/renting. And all this self-advocacy work is resulting from FIVE MINUTES OF DISCRIMINATION. What if I were to stay in the store another five minutes and look at 10 more dvds that are ALSO discriminating against me? What about when I take five minutes to check the movie theater listings and see 20 different theaters that have no captioned movies AT ALL. Do I write to all of them? What about the 30 movies playing in the theater that aren’t offered with captions. Do I write to all the movie production companies for those? And for the next 10 movies that are coming out next month and the next? Again, this is all from just five minutes of discrimination! If I do all this AND also complain every single time I should be provided with a sign language interpreter (but am not) and lose out on vitally needed medical services and other things because of it, or complain every time a hotel SHOULD provide me with adequate ADA-related equipment for my room (such as a light flashing door knocker, vibrating alarm clock etc.) but instead nothing works properly or is hooked up properly, and so on and ad nauseum (or ad infuration) … if I do ALL of it, then when do I get to simply LIVE MY LIFE? Sometimes certain things just have to give.
    I do notice the presence/absence of seating. Don’t usually need it as much as you do, but on occasion when my foot is doing especially poorly I do. I don’t normally complain much about the absence of seating. Though I probably should, at least sometimes. I’ll try to mentally raise this in my list of priorities hence forth, thanks.

  24. Lauredhel, I would like to ask your advice with respect to a friend with CFS. If that is ok, could you email me? I don’t know if I should be able to work out how to email you or not, but I can’t. 🙂

  25. Thankyou for all your comments! I haven’t answered them all, but I am reading.
    Sami: yes, Woodvale is quite good, I think. Parking right at the door, spacious aisles, and a comfy sofa in the children’s library. The only thing I used to dislike about it was how hot it was in summer, but they installed decent air conditioning not long ago.

  26. I’d never thought about seating in shops before, but I will look out for it from now on. Thank you for posting this.

  27. I was writing something on Asking For Help and your piece was a very useful reminder on why people might not be able to do it for themselves.
    Thank you.

%d bloggers like this: