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.