You know when you’re a little child and you think about what you want to do in your future? Some girls would’ve said they wanted to be famous models or singers or nurses or dancers, some boys said they wanted to be train drivers or astronauts or body builders or drive a tractor. Being famous and ‘in the papers’ isn’t something I’ve ever wanted, I quietly got on with things in school and am not a big fuss and bother person but a couple of weeks ago some ‘fuss and bother’ came my way.
I wrote a blog about a day (called ‘A Bad Day, access-wise…’) when I’d gone into the next town and noticed that one street apparently didn’t have very much in the way of wheelchair accessibility. Indeed the solicitors’ office I had to use was completely inaccessible and I had to sign my legal documents sat outside on the pavement, so I was understandably slightly peeved! The next day, I was contacted by a journalist and asked if he could publish some of my photos and ask me a few questions about my post. I talked to him and discussed the ongoing issue of poor accessibility in most South Wales Valley high streets, he took some of my details and that was that. We went away on holiday then and whether it was the sun, the sea or the sangria, something made me forget all about it.
A couple of days later, I had a text from my father, telling me that the article was a big spread on page 3, I was amazed. I’d never expected it to be so prominently displayed! I was pleased however, that the issue had been highlighted on a broader platform so read the article, relaxed on my beautifully adapted sun lounger and forgot all about it again.
When I returned home, I thought I’d look it up and see what it looked like. Now, I didn’t mean to belittle the town or try and damage its image but I think in hindsight, I maybe put my frustrations into writing without thinking about the consequences. I was still pleased that we had highlighted the issue but when I reached the bottom of the article, it was obvious that not everyone agreed with me. Actual comments follow…….
“Question. Did you actually try to gain access to these businesses or did you just notice they had no disabled access ? If you you didn’t try to enter the premises then why moan, if it was such a problem then the businesses would have sorted it out by now so stop moaning and just get on with it !!”
“Gregory obviously hasn’t anything better to do than moan, if she lives in Merthyr then stay stay the hell out of Aberdare instead of trying to give the place a bad name”
Whilst I wasn’t expecting to win a prize for journalism, I certainly wasn’t expecting to told to be told “ I had nothing better to do than moan” and “to stay the hell away” from my neighbouring town! It certainly got me thinking, why did that person/s feel the need and take the time to insult me simply for pointing out a fact and the fact is and still remains that the access ISN’T good enough and it’s pointless pretending it is! Why should anyone have to ask to enter a shop? Imagine a situation where shoppers could only enter a shop by asking if they could go in?
If you have a ramp, why isn’t this advertised so I know it’s there?
If you have an accessible entrance at the rear of your building, why don’t you put a sign up to say that?
If you have disabled toilets, why don’t you put a sign up to make me aware of this?
How do I know the accessibility is there if you don’t tell me…………..???
Did I take this personally? Of course I did! I did my usual; ranted at P, ranted some more then had a good blub. But once I’d calmed down, I thought that instead of letting it get me down, I needed to do something positive.
I had also been contacted by a local Disabilty advocacy group called Accessible Wales and they wanted to meet up with me and chat about what we could possibly do
after this to go forward in a positive way. I (I say ‘I’ but we all know that meant P drove and came with me!) met up with the founder Richard and had a very interesting meeting. It was great to discuss the issues raised by the two newspaper articles with someone else in the same boat and it was also great to see from the response from some of the shop owners – there had been a second article the next week with a response that some shops have already put good wheelchair access provision in place – so it was obvious to us that making this provision clearer to the disabled shopper so that we know it’s available is now the way to go.
So now I’m hoping that people like Richard and Accessibile Wales can work together with the shop owners to further improve the accessibility in their town and others. As a disabled person, I’m not trying to attack anyone or batter the image of a town or just moan for the sake of moaning, I only want to be able to do the same as everybody else, go shopping, with no fuss and bother.
I really, truly, honestly, don’t think it’s too much to ask……………………
@topladytalks #wheelchairlife #chronicpainsurvivor