Self advocacy, accessibility, and a trip to the dentist.

Following a dentist appointment, I've been thinking about how much energy has to go into advocating for ourselves in order to gain access to stuff - and how rare it is that an organisation steps up to ensure that access happens without being asked.

The usual is: 

I say I'm a wheelchair user, and list any other access needs I think are relevant. They promise it is accessible. I turn up and it's not. And the attitude is 'but this is how things are'. So it's up to me to resolve it. I must: 
1. Persuade them that the default position isn't accessible for me (whether or not it's accessible to other people). 
2. Come up with multiple options for ways that it could be made accessible.
3. Discuss the options with the organisation to find the most feasible solution. 
4. Resolve any issues with the most feasible option, and persuade them to actually DO that option (This may include things like offering to complete a risk assessment for the alternative I have suggested - as a retired Environmental Health Practitioner, I'm trained to enforce health and safety, which comes very in handy!).

And repeat. So. Many. Times.

(Aactually I have learned a 'cheat' argument that often speeds up the process. I offer to crawl to the lecturn/hotel room/office/up the front steps to the lawyers office. It is AMAZING how quickly they start engaging in solution-finding when they realise that the alternative is the publicity nightmare of 'Disabled woman made to crawl due to inaccessible venue.' This has been much more effective than 'otherwise I can't access it'. Which makes me sad, but still, it works so I use it wherever it's relevant.)

Perfection is where I turn up and all relevant staff know exactly what I need and ensure it happens.

What happened at the dentist was close to perfection - the key thing was that people within the organisation advocated for me. When the one member of staff was out of her depth, others instantly stepped in to resolve it.

I turned up to my dentist appointment (I'm a regular, and had also reminded them of my wheelchair use as it was an emergency appt). The surgery has treatment rooms both upstairs and downstairs (no lifts). I turned up, checked in, and was told "If you'd just take a seat up....stairs" - I could see the panic in the her eyes. The 'I don't know what to do or say, but I know I've said something silly, and I don't know the solution!'

As it happens I was seriously brain fogged. I literally had no capacity self advocacy at this unexpected thing (expected conversations were ok, unexpected: not happening). I managed a slightly quizzical ''

And this is where it all went right. Her colleague overheard, and immediately stepped in. "It's ok, there's a note in the system, your dentist knows, and she'll be moving downstairs for your appointment, so just stay in this area 'til you are called."

The organisation recognised the issue in a flash, took responsibility, ensured my access happened. I didn't have to fight the system, fight the 'computer says no' approach. Instead, I was given the access I needed. It was heaven.