Disability, My Life

Disability Education – Access in Public Places

Being a wheelchair user faces me with me many challenges including access in public places. Though the Equality Law 2010 clearly states that shops and public spaces has to make the necessary changes to make sure that those with disabilities particularly those in wheelchairs have the same experiences as everyone else. I know that these adaptions aren’t going to happen over night and admittedly there has been some adaptions such as fitting coloured tape or something of that nature to indicate where the lower part of the step to help those who are visually impaired to gain access easier to shops or restaurants. There are doorbells put on the outside of shops and restaurants for customers to press for assistance. Aimed for those people who are visually or hearing impaired it would also benefit those who are unsteady on their feet or have a degree of mental disability.

Though these are steps in the right direction, people need to look at the bigger picture and there is still a lot of ignorance on the subject of disability. For those in wheelchairs, we often experience steps when entering a shop or restaurant and as my wheelchair struggles to climb steps I have to rely on the use of ramps that shops and restaurants may have. If there isn’t a ramp, my chair has to try climb the step or if its too high I unfortunately have to wait outside while the person who I am with goes into the shop and get whatever I need, decreasing my independence. This is totally about common sense and lack of awareness. There is nothing preventing a place of business (whether that be a shop or restaurant), to have a fixed ramp leading up to the entrance of the establishment, allowing those in wheelchairs or those with pushchairs to gain access. It doesn’t take any more room, blocking up any pathways and shows them complying with the Equality Law 2010. If a shop or restaurant can’t or won’t fit a ramp to the entrance then it really doesn’t take much to get hands on a portable ramp which they can keep at the back of the shop or restaurant and bring out when needed. In my opinion shops and restaurants should cater for any disability whatever their circumstance.

On the theme of ignorance and common sense, I find it quite infuriating that when I finally gain access to the public place, I find it exceptionally difficult to navigate myself around it. The spaces within shops and restaurants are often so tight due to the size of the shop but also because of the amount of displays in aisles there are within the shop. I personally do not see the need, but shop owners fill their shop with items, stacking aisles so they are fit to burst. I also find the aisles very thin and shop owners feel the urge to fill any intervening spaces within their shop with stands holding more items to sell or stands which promote upcoming releases. For those in wheelchairs or who are unsteady on their feet, it makes it very hard to be able to move and look around and shop at our leisure. It’s frustrating and challenging for us there is no regard to those who struggle to get around are how we will manage the limited space, those with any disability should be able to get around with ease and independently without much difficulty. 

The same theory applies to the interior of restaurants, the space in restaurants is very limited due to the layout of the restaurant. Due to the amount of tables and chairs navigation has proved to be difficult, moving between tables, chairs and the costumers that are enjoying meals and drinks, there is often a great number of customers at one given time and this makes it more challenging. I struggle to move between the amount of tables, and when I finally get to a table and sit down to eat and drink, I get knocked by staff and fellow costumers and it may be my imagination but I can’t get rid of the nagging suspicion that my chair is in the way. I find space within restaurants very cramped due to the amount of tables, chairs and costumer. Nobody ever should feel in the way for any reason and the restricted space needs to be carefully considered and restaurants should make sure they make all the necessary changes to cater for all costumers and staff member, those in wheelchairs and are unsteady on their feet. 

I appriciate putting the necessary changes and adaptions needed to cater for those who have disabilities aren’t going to happen instantly, however what would be appreciated is an aknowlegment towards restricted and tight space within shops and resturants and public places and then to see changes are being made to enable those who may struggle to get around and shop and eat independently.

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