Perth Bipedal Writers Festival

There are things I hear a lot, when I’m trying to figure out whether I should bother trying to go to a place or an event. “Just ring and ask!” “Why don’t you just call?” “If there’s a problem when you get there, just complain.”

How many places do folks go to in an average day? You might drop into to a coffee shop on the way to work, jump on a bus, transfer to a train, go to work, go to a lunchbar for lunch and nip into the post office, go to an appointment at the way home from work (your accountant, your psych, whatever), then drop to the shops after work to run some errands. Now, in my experience, 20-50% of those places will not be fully accessible. Maybe more.

How many phone calls do you think you would need to make in a day to find out about whether the places you want to go to are accessible? How much time and how much money would those phone calls take? Multiply that by seven for a week (subtract the repeats), by fifty-two for a year, and so on until you die. My mind is reeling at the thought. It is a time-sucking, energy-sucking, angry-making mess. And yet our society still demands this of the people who are least likely to be able to afford it, in terms of finances and energy budgets.

But this is what disabled people are expected to do, routinely. And that’s if the person on the end of the phone has a clue.

So today.  The Perth Writers Festival. It looks like it’s going to have some good events.

It’s one month out now, the programmes are published on web and on paper, and there is no accessibility information at all in their “More venue information” clickthroughs. There is information on parking (but not accessible parking) and public transport. But nothing on accessibility. Not even on accessible parking, let alone venue accessibility. There are a couple or three events I’d like to go to. Getting out of the house in the hot months is no mean feat for me, so I’d like to know that I’m not going to encounter barriers at the other end.

So I decided to call.

When rung, their staff have no idea whether the venues are wheelchair accessible. Their initial answer was “Um, they should be I think, but just ask at front of house at the time if you have any problems”.

When pushed, the answer was “We don’t have any information yet, but call back at a later date and we’ll hopefully have some then”. “Which date?” “I don’t know.”

When pushed further, the response was “We’ll bring it up at the next meeting and hopefully put it up on the website after that.”

When pushed further, they took my number and email address and will contact me if they find anything out. Maybe. I’m not holding my breath.

I asked to be passed on to someone else. I was refused.

It’s 2016! Babies that were born as the Disability Discrimination Act was passed are graduating university now – from their postgraduate degrees. But if those graduates are disabled, still nobody knows what to do with them. All they can do shrug and bumble and wonder how on earth this person appeared from nowhere, apparently the first disabled person to ever roll this earth, and the afterthoughtiest afterthought there ever was.

Categories: arts & entertainment, disability, Miscellaneous

Tags: , , ,

4 replies

  1. I see a potential market for a website (or a series of them) – “Accessible [Cityname]” – which collates reports from people with all sorts of access difficulties (mobility, sight, hearing, noise sensitivity, physical size extremes, etc) and puts them all together in the one spot, building a cumulative picture of accessibility good stuff and bad stuff in the one place. So for things like this, you could look up a venue, and find out that (for example) it’s got the traditional “just one step” blocking the doorways, or that it’s the kind of place which has those “chairs with tables” combos which are designed for slender persons, or that it’s constantly crowded and extremely noisy, or that the designers put a lot of thought into figuring out how to make the space accessible, but the tenants have counteracted all of this by cramming it full of as much tat as it can hold. Or there’d be the mentions of the places which get it right (stairs accompanied by both mobility device lifts AND ramps – for those people who have problems with stairs, but aren’t in the position where they need a scooter or chair just yet; accessible shop layouts which remain accessible over the long-term, places which provide a “quiet room” where people who are feeling overloaded by noise can sit and get a bit of cope back, etc) and how they’ve done it.

    (My problems with access are largely related to noise and crowds, both of which I find major stressors. So I spent a lot of time at home.)

  2. Megpie: accesswa does have some information. However there’s not a lot they can do about single-event venues such as the tent and outdoor events the Writers Festival has set up.

    After me and other friends kicking up quite a fuss, the PIAF is now starting to put up a few bits of access information, though it’s rather byzantine and difficult to extract information from. I remain a little sceptical that their lawn event is “compressed” enough to be easily navigable by wheelchair without access matting, but I suppose I’ll find out if I decide to take my chances and turn up.

    • Ummm… yeah. Wheelchair or mobility scooter over grass? You’d need specially fitted wide tyres or wheels at the very least, I would suspect (about the only way I can think of to get grass compressed enough would involve enough foot traffic to wear the turf away, or the sort of specialised effort that goes into making cricket pitches. Is the event in question being held at the WACA?). Grass is spongy and springy – especially the sort of hard-wearing turf that’s designed for heavy usage areas. Here’s hoping they prove right about it being accessible.


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