Since I got older and somewhat wiser to the society I live in and how it affects disabled people, particularly those in wheelchairs, I wanted to do something and make people more aware and considerate to us. As I have said before, our lives are difficult enough without society creating obstacles for us as well. I wanted to make a change and focus my feelings towards such situations and obstacles into something productive. While considering a career in journalism, I had the idea that writing about a problem that us in wheelchairs face would be a great place to start. I have always found that I can vent my feelings and thoughts most effectively in my writing and if I can write a good piece, then hopefully I can get it published and reach some people. I want to make a difference so I focused my attention on something close to home, I decided to write about the lack of access and awareness in my local high street, targeting those nearby and speaking up and hopefully making some changes. Journeying through the high street, I looked from sight where there were limited access and awkward entrances. Once I had got the idea I wanted to take it more seriously and started to research further.
Creating notes, I went along the high street and made a note of those places. As I made these notes, I became aware that quite a few of the shops and restaurants that had steps were quite popular and in fact, the places were ones that people would be going into on regular basis, which made me call into question the value of our ‘independence’. Everyone likes a bit of freedom and time on their own if it is possible I go out and try to help mom with jobs and I definitely love going shopping. However, being independent is made challenging if there is a step or lack of a ramp. There are times where I am with someone who can help me or a kind stranger who will assist me into the shop, but the fact remains, this subject needs addressing.
While I was looking at the shops from the outside it occurred to me that it would be worth looking on the inside to see how the access was moving the shop. It’s all well and good for the shop to have flat access or have a ramp to get in, but it can still be very difficult for those in wheelchairs or those who are unsteady on their feet to move around if the shop. Especially if the shop is too crowded with stands and promotions inside. The tight space is frustrating and those in wheelchairs struggle to get around and it restricts our independence. It makes me extra cautious and worried when I’m inside a shop, just in case I knock anything over by accident. I definitely think that the space within shops and restaurants need to be addressed and reconsidered.
I compiled my research notes in the following shops and restaurants; Café Rouge, Sainsbury’s, Costa, Max Spielman: The Photoshop, WH Smiths and The Works. I examined the access to the entrance and into the building, space inside it, counter height and the helpfulness of the staff. Then lastly, I gave them all a mark out of 10. As I developed my research and started to write my article I found that Harbourne High Street has a lot of good points but also there were definite signs of improvement. For example, all of the shops that have steps going into them needs to fit a ramp or purchase a portable ramp that can be brought out when a customer in a wheelchair approaches. Another example of this is that even those shops and restaurants have flat access into the entrances, the space within the inside needs addressing and the shops need to have less clutter around and it needs to be more organised for those in wheelchairs, in particular, to get around.
In writing this article, I took various photographs to accompany what I was saying in my article. Along with the content of the piece and the photographs to accompany the piece, I also drew upon the skills I’ve learnt during my practical journalism controlled assessment and gave it a strong title and tagline. On finishing the piece, I used my networking skills and my connections at the Birmingham Post and Mail and sent it on to them to have a look through. I am still waiting for a response from them regarding this article but I am hoping for positive results. I hope by getting word of this article out there then I can make some form of change, which can then contribute to a bigger change in the future.