Pre-disability I knew that most places were accessible because the law said they had to be, and one sees 'accessible entrance' signs, and 'accessible parking' signs all over the place.
Now I have years of experience of 'accessibility' that isn't accessible - from "it's only 1 step" to "our disabled customers don't usually go to the bathroom on their own, so not being able to open the door from the inside when using a wheelchair isn't usually a problem." (see 'Toilet Traps')
Add in heat intolerance, limited arm strength, etc, and the only way to be sure I can achieve what I set out to do, is through a whole lot of research - which takes time, and a lot of energy. Frustrating when I don't have much energy to spare.
Today I needed to drop something at a local small business. They said they were accessible. I didn't want to investigate. A little personal rebellion against the huge effort this process usually takes.
So I didn't investigate. I just went. No further checks. Flying by the seat of my pants and hoping for the best.
...actually, I had a back up plan of "If it's not accessible I'll stay in the car and call them, and they can collect it from me." - to risk an adventure without a back up plan is a step too far for me.
You see, the problem with rebelling against the need to personally investigate accessibility for every venue I go to (often several phone-calls, emails, plus googling), is that if it goes pear shaped, the only person who it's really going to affect is me. So if I'm going to risk it, I have to know that the cost won't be too high.
I arrived to find 1 disabled bay. Occupied.....oh hang on, there's a second one the other end of the row, and really near the ramp! Good.
I got out of the car and into my wheels.....Oh. The ramp might be close, but the dropped curb to reach the ramp is 10m's away - but on the plus side, it exists.
So I wheel away from the office, up the dropped curb, back to nearly where I started from, up the ramp and to the doors.
Very heavy doors that open outwards. I always find it harder to pull a door open than push it.
I managed - tricky but doable.
I'd made it into the lobby. Oh blast. More heavy doors. And no doorbell or anything to call someone. Doors behind and in front - well, I've made it this far, so let's go for it.
Done it. Through the door and at reception.
Items dropped off. Success.
I would like to say I was sensible and got someone else to open it.....but...when I'm low on energy, thinking up sensible solutions and explaining them to someone else is actually really difficult - even for simple solutions like asking someone to open a door for me.
What actually happened is that I opened the 2 heavy doors again without help. After which point I realised that I'm going to have to be a bit careful with my elbows for a while - I don't think they appreciated it.
And now I'm home. Mission accomplished, and I didn't do any planning.
Part of me is relieved and pleased. I did it. I went somewhere new without any advance research beyond 'is it wheelchair accessible'. For a small business it was delightfully accessible in comparison to many experiences I've had.
But part of me (including my elbows) is disappointed and frustrated. It was so nearly fine. But I'm kicking myself because if I'd done my research I would have known about the heavy doors, and arranged for staff to open them for me. And if I'd done that, I wouldn't be paying the price now.
It's a very strange feeling - these opposites mixed up inside. But perhaps the main things I have carried away from this are:
- Sometimes I can get away with not planning, but there is likely to be consequences.
- The level of planning I do normally isn't excessive or paranoid, it's just sensible.