It’s been bugging me for a while and, today, it happened again so, I’ve just got to say that if:
a. me and my wheelchair have to be carried into a venue, or,
b. I am looking at a couple of planks and risking my life to get in, or,
c. the toilets are up a flight of stairs …
This is not a good wheelchair accessible venue.
It does not deserve 3 stars, 5 stars or any of the twiddly little blue badge icons that reviewers of wheelchair accessibility care to give out. Please do not encourage this lack of access by praising venues for it.
Oh, by the by, neither does an expressed intention to provide access on opening/at a future date/soon constitute actual good access nor is it okay to give your top awards, if you haven’t tested it because ‘they say access is good so we’ll give them 5 stars’! Are you reviewing access or not?
Great access, for me and my wheels, is when I am able to enter and exit a venue, and its’ toilets, on the same terms as my friends. No special attention.
Good access is where lifts and safe ramps are in place to assist me, preferably with staff who know where they are and how to use them.
Poor access is where the lifts, ramps and unaware staff fail in assisting me in and must resort to manhandling me and my wheelchair to do so.
No access is when I cannot get in or out using my wheelchair. This includes being carried up or down stairs.
By all means, state the obstacles, your solutions, their intentions, say how helpful the staff are, how accommodating they might be in carrying and lifting you, that toilets are/are not accessible because then I am able to assess it for my own needs.
Please though, do not confuse any of the niceness, intent, helpfulness and goodwill of people as being an okay replacement for genuine physical wheelchair access. It isn’t.
This is access only to the degree that you can be physically manhandled by others whilst in your wheelchair and you accept that risk, and possible liability, should you, your wheelchair or others, be damaged in the process. It is, in fact pretty dangerous and useless to the many of us who are too fragile, heavy, awkward to be carried and lifted safely.
Do not misunderstand me, if you want to do it, no problem. I’ve done it, on occasion, and, generally, hate it for being undignified, painful and dangerous to me and my carriers.
As a reviewer, despite your own success in being lifted and carried into a venue, unless your site is your personal blog rather than, purportedly, a reviewer of access for all, please do not suggest that this is acceptable, easy or good general access. It does not deserve commendation or lots of shiny stars from a site that, objectively, is in the business of assessing access.
No five stars. No blue badge icons. No stars at all however nice they might be about their actual access FAIL.