Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Protests at the John Snow

This has been so much in the media lately. How shocking that people were turned away because of how they were! National news coverage and national outrage.

I have nothing against this protest, but it makes me feel sad. Invisible. Left out in the cold.


As my friend, @oneoffdave asked on twitter: "No disrespect to the people protesting at the John Snow tomorrow, but where are you all when a disabled person is refused entry to a pub?"

One couple asked to leave one pub makes headline news.

When a friend was refused drinks and asked to leave a club because he had Cerebral Palsy, why was there no national outburst?

The other week when 4 taxi drivers in a row in the taxi rank refused to pick me up because I was in a wheelchair (that fits easily in standard cars, so it was perfectly possible for them to take me) where was the aghast reaction? True, the man behind me looked horrified. But no-one else was interested. A whole queue of commuters behind me - and of course the 3 people who went in front of me without a second thought (1 of them caught the next taxi because I was talking to the driver of the front taxi - and quite understandably assumed that I was therefore about to board it. Their action was fine.)

I can never go somewhere assuming I will be allowed or able to go in. Every time I go to a new venue I scan their website for accessibility information, I call to ask about access, but I still sometimes turn up to find that I have to go elsewhere. True, it may not be feasible to adapt some buildings but there are so very very many places where attitudes not practicalities are the barrier. Sometimes the attitude prevents the removal of the barriers. Sometimes, like in the case of the Taxis it is purely attitude.

So in all the outrage at the 'John Snow' incident, remember the thousand in the UK who face refusal daily and many in society simply turn their faces away.

I do not expect the world to campaign on my behalf-as another tweeter said "You can't fight everyone's campaign". The same tweeter hadn't realised that disabled people get refused access due to attitude - not only practical issues. Perhaps he hasn't spent much time around people with visible disability, or perhaps he has just been very lucky. He was shocked when I outlined just one standard experience. How I wish I was so naive.

So when you are out and about, please notice.

Notice when people ignore me in the queue, pushing in-front of me like I am not there. And never do it yourself - however busy or preoccupied you are.

Notice when the Taxi driver says he will take the next person in the queue and not me. And if you are that next person - would you refuse and tell them I was first? or would you jump in without thought and hurry on your way, and leave me to try my luck indefinitely?

Perhaps part of it is fear. Fear of offending the disabled person. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear of difference. But if you treat me like a person you will find that that is all I am. A human being, going about my daily business.

So society, by all means fight for your own causes. I have no problem with you not fighting mine, but please don't just look the other way when see a disabled person left out in the cold. We are people too.

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