Found myself both empathising and laughing with Mik Scarlet in The Huff Post this week: My Own Paralympic Legacy or How Poor Access Can Kill. I quote:
When any of us complained we were told “this is the opportunity of a life time” as if that was an excuse for expecting so many disabled people to battle to get around. Trust me the irony that we were rehearsing to celebrate the opening of the biggest celebration of what disabled people could do the world had ever seen, and yet we couldn’t safely get to the toilet was noted!
However I am not writing this to highlight how poor the access was at one event nearly two years ago … [although] if it hadn’t been for the cobbles of the Paralympic Games I would have avoided this prolonged period of ill health. What is even more troubling is that if I do not monitor my injury there is a distinct possibility that it might worsen to a point where it could become life threatening. Yes, poor access can kill!
Of course in those “good old days” disabled people were not really a visible part of society. I do hope that the people who spend their time fighting to retain these kinds of historic features are not in favour of disabled people disappearing from our streets, all in the name of heritage?
I once spent a day wheeling around a local market that is cobbled throughout with a mate who uses a power wheelchair. After a few minutes he had nearly fallen out of his chair, thanks to the repeated jostling of being bounced around as he wheeled over the cobbles. To save him from being thrown from his chair he had to be bungee corded into his chair, and we eventually gave up and left. For me as a manual chair user, I can only describe wheeling over cobbles as like being gently but firmly kicked in my testicles repeatedly for the entire journey. Trust me there is nothing like the relief of leaving an area of cobblestones. I wonder would any non-disabled male put up with that in the name of heritage?
Better access for disabled people benefits everyone. I wonder how many of you have tripped while walking over cobbles or uneven Yorkstones? Now imagine what it would feel like if that injury might threaten your life… all in the name of liking old things! There is a middle ground, so let’s all agree to work together to make a more accessible environment that maintains our wonderful heritage. In the end we all want to be able to live our lives safely and comfortably. Now that would be a real Paralympic Legacy!
Do click across and read the entire article – it’s funny and makes a lot of sense in terms of improving access without destroying heritage.
As you might guess, my views are broadly similar. I don’t want to see all our history ripped out to allow access but at the point you’ve costed in a gift shop, public toilets and a restaurant or cafe, I’m not really seeing why physical access for everyone, including us wheelchair users, is thought to be a cost to break the budget.
And, please, talk to Mik Scarlet or someone, anyone, who is actually mobility impaired, and has been for some time, before settling on an access solution. It doesn’t have to be ridiculously expensive, just give it some experienced thought.
Mik Scarlet in The Huff Post this week: My Own Paralympic Legacy or How Poor Access Can Kill