With being a below knee amputee and in a wheelchair with many other health issues, the first thing I do before going anywhere new is check the website for help, carers discounts, disabled facilities and access points.
Because unlike before where me and my husband or family could just go out somewhere if we wanted too, these days it’s like planning a military operation. I need to be prepared and find out what to expect when I get there. Is it accessible to wheelchairs? If its not then that pretty much rules it out for us, does it have disabled toilets? Is there a lift? Is everything easy to get too from a wheelchair? Will my wheelchair fit through the doors? If going on my own are the doors automatic or will I struggle to manage them? These are things that before I never had to worry about or even give a second thought to.
The other thing I look for is discount or free carers tickets. Now I know that a lot of people have took advantage of these schemes. And still do! which makes it really difficult for those like myself who need this help to be believed without jumping through hoops and I know a few people who think it’s unfair that just because am disabled I get “ preferential treatment”.
So why do I look for carers tickets or disabled discount?
Simple. If am going somewhere that the fee or ticket is for a seat reservation or the ticket price includes this then it is useless to me – I bring my own with me. If I can’t access half the event or venue or business because you have not catered for wheelchairs or people with mobility problems or half the shop/ event is on an upper level and the organisers have booked a venue that can’t or doesn’t have a lift, then why should I pay the same as people who can access that? Or what if your services or some of your services are not accessible by myself? Is it fair I pay full price and not receive the same as everyone else? Is any of that fair?
The other reason is sometimes, just sometimes I do like to go out without my husband (who is my full time carer) and go out with friends (yes, I do have a few who still bother with me and want to socialise and be seen with someone in a wheelchair and don’t mind checking places out before booking or going out.) It’s amazing how many friends and family drop you because you become disabled and an inconvenience…but that’s a blog for another day…Any way back to this blog. So what if I want to go out with a friend or own my own but need someone to go with me to help and they don’t want/like/or into what I am? Is it fair that they have to pay full price to accompany me because I need the help? Or worse again what if am paying for a carer or helper to accompany me should I have to pay twice as much as everyone their as am not only paying for my carer to accompany me but then having to pay for them into the event etc.
This is just one of the reasons why carer’s discounts and tickets are important. The other reason is if you have a family member who is your carer and they can’t work the money they get for working over a 40 hour week most of the time is less than the living wage. Is that fair?
To be honest and fair most places these days either have free or discounted tickets and /or are accessible. Examples are wheelchair spaces on trains ( as you don’t use seat), carers tickets for showmasters for entrance but still paying full price for autographs and photo shoots, cinema card where your carer gets a free ticket. However there are still places that don’t see the need to make either the accommodations/access or the discount available. Conventions where they will not give out a carer’s ticket and if you register as a carer you cannot have photo shoots or autographs or the only other choice is to fork out over £1000 for a PA for the weekend on top of my ticket!
So let’s say you have checked the website, there is nothing saying it is accessible or (this ones my fav) they say it is disabled friendly and you arrive to find that either half of it is not accessible/ the disabled toilets are upstairs and there Is no lift/ the whole building is accessible as long as you can get up the front steps or you either can’t see a damn thing i.e. concert or the upstairs part of the venue is only accessible by a stair lift and once up there is no room for your wheelchair. Not to mention how do you get your wheelchair up there any way if you are on your own or even better, if you can’t stand up, have no legs but can’t transfer on and off the stair lift!!
So you see, in my opinion and am sure am not the only one, companies need to start really looking at how they operate and improving a few things and why:
1. Free or discounted tickets, we shouldn’t be charged twice to get half the show or event or get the same benefits that others get.
2. If you are saying you are disabled friendly then check that you actually are, think about how it would affect you if you were in a wheelchair and what would help
3. For events and shows make sure as much as you can that it is accessible to everyone that includes people in wheelchairs, with other disabilities and people with prams. I get that it is not always possible or that the venue or building is listed or there is another good reason why they can’t be disabled access or lifts, but try to limit the effect it will have on the person’s enjoyment. Have a special viewing area, have staff available to help etc.
4. Put information up on your website. I am pretty sure I can’t be the only one who has to pre plan everywhere I go.
5. Get an expert in to do a full review of the business, event or venue. It’s one thing to say you understand how certain things will effect someone, but unless you have actually experienced it you don’t.
Finally never underestimate how it can make someone who is disabled or who is in a wheelchair feel when they can’t access something and they have to ask for assistance because it is not available and they are looked down on with pity and told “am sorry, we can’t accommodate wheelchairs “or you try to compromise and it becomes a farce and the disabled persons dignity has been shot to ribbons or they are made to feel that they are an inconvenience or their business is not wanted.
My favourite pastime is going in shops and trying to get through the displays, or look at clothes or even navigate to the till to end up knocking things on the floor or looking like a rolling clothes rack! Even better is when the staff ignore you because they haven’t been trained how to handle these things, stare at you and not offer help, walk away or tut. Great way to make sure I won’t shop there again.
So business owners and event organisers we need the help and discounts because you may not be aware but you are losing a lot of potential customers and revenue. To the moaners and the “it’s not fair” people would you put up with this kind of treatment? Would you pay more for less and be happy about it? I think not.