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Common Sense and Respect for the Disabled Please

This is a rant, a rant about things disabled people hate, at least some disabled people. Not everything on the list will affect all disabled people and these are just what I have experienced and observed.

People who judge others for using disabled facilities such as toilets and parking spaces without knowing them. I used to have a disabled parking badge due to not being able to walk very far without getting tired or in pain, but I did not always use a walking aid. Sometimes people would stare at me as if to say, why have you got a badge when you can walk. I got the same look sometimes when I would come out of a disabled toilet. They did not know me or my situation and it was none of their business why I needed to use disabled facilities, but even a look can make you feel judged. I have heard stories of people getting notes left on their cars for parking in disabled spots being accused of using someone else’s badge when it was their own!

Bus drivers who refuse to let a disabled person on as it would mean them having to get up to get the ramp out or having to ask someone with a push chair to fold it and move seats. The space at the front of a bus is not for a pushchair, the signs clearly state it is a disabled space, yet some drivers do not seem to enforce this. Bus drivers who refuse a disabled person are discriminating against them. A recent court case that went all the way to the Supreme Court found in favor of the disabled claimant in that ‘the court said the company should consider further steps to persuade non-wheelchair users to move, without making it a legal duty to move them,’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38663322). So it is an ongoing battle with some drivers to get a space on a bus.

When a disabled toilet is used as a storage area or left out of order for a long time. Sometimes it feels like the disabled toilet is only there as a legal requirement and the company do not actually care if you can use it or not. For example a pub near me uses their disabled toilet to store things. You can still technically use the toilet, but the rails are blocked by things, and a lot of disabled people need the rails. My local supermarket has had an out of order disabled toilet for about a month now. Businesses are being short sighted when it comes to disabled toilets sometimes as it could lose them business. For example when I am on a night out with some of my friends, some of them are very disabled and we would choose to not go to a bar that we knew had bad disabled facilities. This would mean them losing out on not only the disabled persons custom but all their friends custom as well.

Shops that give little or no thought to disabled customers. Really heavy doors can be a  problem. When I was on crutches I used to use my body to push the door open, but with heavier doors this was tricky. For those with arthritic hands and wrists heavy doors can be impossible. Automatic doors are better for disabled customers, or at least a lighter door. Then once inside the shop the lack of space between rails or shelving can be an issue. Some clothing shops have over full rails that are too closely packed for a wheelchair user to get past. I used to knock things off sometimes in crutches if I was not careful. I have noticed that some shops have too much stock piled up on the floor between shelving units which can mean no space for a wheelchair or walking frame to turn around. Without the space to move disabled customers will shop elsewhere.

Poorly maintained pavements and walkways. Loose paving slabs and crumbling tarmac can be a trip hazard for anyone, but even more so for those with walking aids. I used to trip up on loose slabs when I was on crutches and this could hurt my hip quite a lot. People in wheelchairs can fall out of their chair if the wheels get caught up on loose slabs or in pot holes.

Dog waste and rubbish left on pavements and paths. It is unpleasant for anyone to have to smell and see, but for the disabled it can be very annoying. Dog waste can get on the wheels of someone’s chair and it can mean dragging it around. It is not always easy to see the ground right in front of your wheels to know to avoid it. Blind people also have obvious problems with dog waste since they cannot see it to walk around it. Rubbish can also be a problem since it can get caught up the wheels of a chair and then cause the chair to not move smoothly. I have noticed a significant increase in both dog waste and litter in the last few years and this shows a lack of respect for both other people and the environment.

People who park in front of drop down curbs on pavements or park on the pavement. A disabled person may not be able to cross the road without a drop down curb and may have to go an awful long way to find the next one, which could take them a long way out of where they want to be. There is a convince store in my town that people often park outside to pop in quickly, but they often park in front of the drop down curb. They often say they will not be very long, but what If the queue is long or they get distracted by something else? Parking on the pavement is just as bad as it means a disabled person may not be able to get passed. Often this means a disabled person will have to go back on themselves for ages and divert a long way round or simply not be able to get where they want to go. I have often had to walk into the road to get around a car and some disabled people simply cannot do that.

People who talk for you or to your companion about you when you are right next to them. This seems to happen especially to those in a wheelchair, it is as if because your legs do not work nor can your mind to talk properly. This is patronising and rude. When I was younger if this happened when I was with my parents I would just start talking anyway and join in showing them I was more than capable of talking for myself, in fact they might have more trouble getting me to be quite! Sure some people do have learning difficulties that come with a physical disability, but even then it still does not mean they cannot talk for themselves in most cases.

Poorly designed disabled toilets. Not all disabled people are in wheelchairs and want the sink low, in fact after my hip surgery I needed the sink not to be low as I could not bend far, but needed the rails and raised seat of a disabled toilet. Some disabled toilets are far too small for the needs of some disabled people who may need a carer to come in with them as well as space for a wheelchair or walker. A lot of disabled toilets also seem to lack a mirror which assumes disabled people do not care what they look like, which is wrong, disabled people are just as likely to want to check their make up or hair as everyone else.

People who say ‘you’re doing so well considering’ or call disabled people brave. They are very patronising things to say.  How do you know I am doing well? For all you know I am having a really bad day and on a good day you would not even notice I was disabled. How is it brave that I left the house and got on with my life? What am I supposed to do sit at home and rot? I cannot live my life not disabled so I just get on with it the best that I can.

Being accused of being a benefit scrounger. This is the big one that all disabled people hate. The media often make it seem like an awful lot more people are scamming the benefits system than actually are. The vast majority on benefits are on them legally with a good reason. Most people would not choose to be on benefits if they could help it. Having to prove yourself as ill and jump through the hoops they require to get them would put most cheats off. Being on benefits does not make me lazy or pathetic. You should never judge someone for being on benefits or any kind of welfare without knowing the full facts.

Disabled people are on the whole sensible and understand that sometimes some of these things cannot be helped under certain circumstances. What we ask for is to not let these things be issues when they do not have to be. A bit of common sense and respect is all disabled people want. Disabled people can be an active part of society, if society lets them.

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A little consideration for the disabled goes a long way

When you are disabled life already gives you a plenty of challenges and problems, the last thing disabled people need is others making life even more tricky.  These issues may seem trivial to some, but to the disabled they affect they are very important.

 

Misusing a disabled parking badge

A blue badge is issued to disabled people who can not walk far or find it painful.  However some people seem to think that it is issued to the vehicle not the person, so feel free to use it when the disabled person is not even with them, but this is actually illegal.  The idea is that the disabled person can take the badge with them in any vehicle they get a lift in, not that the entire family can use it.  The other excuse disabled people have pointed out in a Facebook group for disabled parking badge abuse is when a carer says they are shopping on behalf of the disabled person.  If the disabled person is not with them, they can not use the badge and it makes no difference why they are shopping.  Also the disabled person does not just have to be in the car, but getting out and going somewhere.  The badge is to help disabled people get out more, not to sit back and watch others have the life for them.

 

Using a disabled parking space without having a blue badge

Then there are those who use disabled spaces without even having a badge at all.  There are only a few disabled spaces in a car park and if they are all taken up it can prevent a disabled person from being able to park and they could miss out on doing what they wanted.  The excuse, ‘I am only going to be a minuet’ is not valid, what you are doing could end up taking longer than intended or just happen to be the  minuet a disabled person arrives.

 

Parking in front of a drop down curb or on the pavement

Drop down curbs on pavements are put in to help people cross the road.  Whilst most people could walk around a car parked in front of a drop down curb, a lot of disabled people can not.  The disabled person would have to go back to the last drop down curb, which could be a very long way back and in some cases there is only one drop down curb on and off the entire pavement.  On the road where I live there seems to be a lot of parking half on the pavement, with no room at all to get past the car unless you walk onto the road, which is not only unsafe, but impossible for some.  I do realise that sometimes there is not much parking space and it is the only option, but even so I often see cases when the car could have been parked with more space left on the pavement to get past.

 

Businesses using disabled toilets for storage or blocking access

If a disabled person can not use the toilet whilst they are in a restaurant, café or place of business they are highly unlikely to give the place repeat custom and may have to leave early and go elsewhere.  I have come across disabled toilets used to store cleaning equipment and empty bar kegs.  Whilst I could still get to the toilet, I doubt that some people with large wheelchairs or walking frames could have.  A person in a wheelchair may need turning space, which can be tricky if there is other stuff in the way.  Even worse is when you can not even get to the disabled toilet because access is blocked.  I was once seated in a pub restaurant at a table right in front of the disabled toilet.  For someone to use the toilet we would have had to shift the table to the side and stand up and wait.  They had crammed far too many tables into the place anyway and it just made for a loud, unpleasant atmosphere.

 

Poorly designed disabled toilets

A good disabled toilet design should take into account the fact that not all users will be wheelchair bound and that not all wheelchair users are in the same situation.  I used to use crutches and the disabled toilet was easier as it had more space for them and after my hip replacement I found rails helpful to sit down and get up again.  However the sink in a disabled toilet is often lower than normal with the thinking that wheelchair users are lower down, while this is often true, for those who use other walking aids this is actually not helpful as bending can be tricky.  The best solution I have seen to this is in some Costa Coffee branches that have both a sink at average height and another one at a slightly lower height.  Although in one branch the soap dispenser was only reachable for the higher sink user and for those who could not reach up they would have had to go without.  Another problem is when the toilet is too small for the user to turnaround in a wheelchair, forcing them to reverse out which can make opening the door tricky and has the risk of bumping into someone.  Plus some disabled people need to go with someone for help and this is tricky if the toilet is small.  Quite often the baby changing facilities are put in the disabled toilet, which I can understand as it has more room, but if the changing table does not fold against the wall it can just get in the way.

 

Shops that cram in too many rails or display units

As the expression goes ‘pile them high, sell them cheep’.  I do love those bargain discount stores, but they do like to pile things to the point there is not much floor space left.  If I have trouble walking through some of them without a walking aid; imagine trying to get through in a wheelchair.  Cheep clothing stores often cram in so many clothing rails there is not room to get a wheelchair through or the chair knocks half the clothing off the rails as it goes.  Knocking things off can be embarrassing and bending down to pick them up can be tricky for some.  If you do not make a shop floor plan with the disabled in mind not only could you lose customers, but you could damage or dirty stock as disabled people try to get through.

 

Shops with heavy or awkward doors

A lot of disabled people rely on automatic doors.  Whilst some can get through pushing the door open using their wheelchair, if the door opens towards them this is not possible and it is not possible in either direction with crutches.  It is understandable that some smaller independent shops do not have automatic doors as they cost a lot to install, but bigger stores should have them.  If it is not possible to have automatic doors, using doors that are not too heavy or stiff will at least help some.

 

Poor disabled entrances to buildings

When the disabled entrance to a building is around the back or side it can be annoying.  Once on a college trip to a museum with several disabled people on the course we had to enter through a side door.  The door took a while to find as it was rather hidden, then we had to ring a bell and wait for someone to come and let us in, which seemed to take several minuets.  We had to go through a fairly dark corridor somewhere in the museum that was clearly not generally public access and then we came out in the middle of the museum no where near the main entrance, which if you wanted to go to reception left you with something of a trek.  It felt somewhat like using the servants’ entrance to a grand house, rather embarrassing.  I understand that sometimes it can be very costly to change a building entrance and some listed buildings may not allow any change.  However when possible it is always best to make the main entrance assessable to all.  The best idea is to put a ramp to the side of the main steps.  I have also seen a small lift solution used when it is not possible to have a ramp.  If you can not make the main entrance wheelchair assessable at least add a rail so as many people as possible can use the steps.  Then have decent signage to the disabled entrance, or you could lose visitors or customers who give up on finding the way in.

 

Cafes with joined together tables and chairs

Mostly seen in the greasy spoon type cafés, these tables and chairs come as one joined together.  Climbing over the bar to sit down can be tricky for some, even if they can walk.  I used to find it hard myself due to a hip disability.  The seats cannot be moved for wheelchair users to pull up to the table, and although they can sit at a table end, two wheelchair users can not sit together at the same table if they wanted.

 

Benches left broken long term

Not all disabled people use wheelchairs; I used to use crutches or no walking aid at all before that.  However I could not walk very far before I got pain in my bad hip.  When having a day out I would need to sit down now and then to rest.  A lot of places have a good number of benches which really come in handy for this.  What annoys me though is when you see benches that are left broken for a long time.  I have been to places which have caution tape over a broken bench, then gone back weeks or even months later to find it still exactly the same.  If it is a busy place this can be annoying when all the other benches are taken up or the next bench is not that near by.  I have also seen when a bench is no longer able to be repaired, the remains taken away and the bench just not replaced at all.  I get annoyed when a bench has clearly been broken by vandals, they have no idea how much a simple bench can mean to some people, making the difference between a good or bad outing.

 

Most of these issues can be solved simply, often by just having some consideration for others.  For businesses thinking about disabled customers using your building could actually increase custom and make you more money.  A lot of these things also can affect people with pushchairs or the elderly, so just think how many people you would be helping if you made some simple changes to your life.