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Going Out: major wheelchair access fails

Stiletto Wheels No Access

Grr, I’ve had a number of access fails recently and it’s a right pain, regardless of whether it’s my or the venue’s fault.

The first was going to The Tricycle when we pulled out of our drive only to discover we had a flat.  Yes, sure, it could happen to anyone but for a wheelchair user with a time deadline, it really is double trouble because you simply cannot hop out and get on public transport or hail a cab to make your event in time.

Obviously, it’s not a big deal to change a tyre normally but … for the first time in this car?  It took EaZyD 25 mins and we missed the play which was a 90 minute, no interval performance.  We felt really bad because The Tricycle take seats out to get the wheelchairs in.  We tried to ring so they would be able to resell the tickets but no one answered the phone for the entire hour pre the performance start time so, empty spaces, I guess.  And it was the last night so I couldn’t rebook.

The following day, we were out again – concert at The Wigmore Hall – but, as we were about to leave, D came in and said the battery was flat.  This is the battery that is just 2.5 years old in a car that’s done about 12,000 miles.  Another no-show.  Brilliant.

Worse, the repair man said it must be a drain on the battery so we have to explore that rather than just re-charge (it was the third time in a few weeks).  The following week was a helter-skelter of events and D was only able to get the tyre repaired the following weekend, plus the guys didn’t get back on the battery drainage issue so we bought a new battery too.

Confidently, with another play to go to, we pulled out of the drive.  The repaired tyre had gone flat again!  We were now on our third no-show and me wondering why I bother to even try and get out of the house at all.

The week before last, we went to King’s Place for a poetry reading.  Hadn’t been before but we were assured it was fabulously accessible so I went in my Balder.

All I can say is that King’s Place may be accessible inside but out …?  It’s not exactly unloading-a-wheelchair-via-a-car-ramp friendly, is it? At least not for those of us with a nervous disposition.  Busy.  Broken pavements.  On a hill … fine, not a hill but it’s damned slope-y out there.  Parking notable by its’ absence.  Honestly, does no one thinking about access even notice these things?  No wonder there are so few of us in powerchairs out and about.  We are literally taking our lives in our – somewhat shaky – hands on every trip.

Sadly, we missed the poetry evening too – I mean, it was only an hour long!

We stopped off at Waitrose on the – very quiet – way home where my wheelchair ran out of juice.  Luckily, Waitrose customer service are too fabulous, no?  Barely blinked as I asked – with my embarrassed red face on – if I might use their electricity to power up. (Luckily D had brought the charger).

Finally, we attempted last week to go see the Mapplethorpe exhibition, currently on down Berners Street.  Okay, they had a ramp but it was too narrow for my wheelchair base.  Yes, we had gone in the manual chair which does have a wide back wheel base though no more so that a lot of self-propeling chairs but, aaagh!  Yet another thing I could not do/see.

Was talking to my Chiropodist about it all and she said – like so many others – ‘you can’t let it stop you though, can you?’  But it does.

I know it isn’t personal but it feels like it is.  Every time I try and fail, it feels like a personal rejection: no, we don’t want you here.  And, no, I don’t want to get angry about it.  I just go out wanting to have a good time.

The more it happens, the less I feel like trying anything new and I know D feels the same.  And that’s just not me.  I’ve always loved going to, seeing, doing the new.  Yet, we make so much effort to do the things we’ve always enjoyed, focussing on the ‘can-do’ places and events and still, we fail so often.

It is exhausting and dispiriting.  We do keep going but it gets harder, not easier, to do so.

2 Responses to “Going Out: major wheelchair access fails”

  1. Emily Ladau

    I can absolutely relate to all of this! I especially can relate to frustration about lack of accessible public transportation and places that aren’t wheelchair friendly. I wrote a post about accessible transportation fails that I figured I can share with you so you know you’re totally not alone! http://wp.me/p3ODOi-w

    • Elle, StilettoWheels & PlusBlack

      Thanks for that, Emily, and, you know, the US is way ahead of most on being accessible. Amazing when it is still so difficult just to do normal things!

      You story reminded me of one of our more eventful stop offs in Atlanta – extract from http://www.stilettowheels.co.uk/travel/swtraveljul05.html:

      We had finally found a wheelchair cab company in Atlanta on our last trip so, naturally, we booked it again.

      We arrived at the airport – no cab! It was a Sunday evening. No response to our calls. What to do? After an hour, we finally got through to … someone? Would they help? No, call back tomorrow.

      We looked at one another, helplessly – worst nightmare. We hailed a regular cab but I could not transfer into it – even with our well-honed lifting routine, we just couldn’t do it. Now what?
      EaZyD chatted to some of the airport ground staff and, bless the Olympics, we were able to hop on a tube. One of the staff offered to accompany us as we clearly couldn’t manage wheelchair, bags, walking and public transport. What a star he was! He and EaZyD exchanged musical notes on the journey and, in yet another unconventional arrival, the Four Seasons staff welcomed us, arriving by over-ground tube with an air-playing-saxaphone helper pushing our luggage!

      Goodness knows what we would have done without the help. This kind of problem is so frequent that it really does inhibit me&D from going away. Just too stressful. And you can’t help but think it shouldn’t be given the lip service we all pay to equal access for those with mobility problems.

      Will it ever change? 😀


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