Throughout the month of December of on Twitter (you can find me @AspectsOfAmber_) I have been taking part in #AccessibleAdvent. This was a hashtag created by @GinnyAndT as a way to get disabled people talking about ways in which the world could be made more accessible. For each of the 24 days lots of disabled people from a multitude of different backgrounds have tweeted 1 thing that would make life more accessible for them. A brief perusal of the hashtag gives a really insightful look into some of the barriers that are most prevalent for disabled people in society.
I thought I would collate all 24 of my tweets into a blogpost and expand upon some of them a little bit to explain why I deem them important issues to raise.
Day 1- I’d love to see less accessible toilets being used as staff toilets, cleaning cupboards or storage rooms.
This one may seem bizarre if you’ve never ventured into a disabled loo. But finding a mop bucket and cleaning supplies when you open the door isn’t a rare experience.
Day 2- More benches so on days when I don’t need my wheelchair I don’t have to sit on the floor to rest.
Day 3- I’d love to be able to use my limited energy however I want to without having to justify how I’ve used it to other people.
Some days I choose to use all my energy to bake as it’s something I enjoy, it will wipe me out for days. But I shouldn’t have to justify my actions when I’m flaring after- I am well aware of the payback.
Day 4- Lifts with buttons in a horizontal row rather than a vertical column so I can use them independently from my chair without having to stretch as high as I physically can.
Day 5- Wider doorways as standard! Since being an ambulatory wheelchair user, I’ve found most doorways aren’t wide enough. Even if I can squeeze through it’s difficult & I often crash into the frame it also takes up more cognitive energy navigating tight spaces.
Day 6- Accessibility information being made easy to find either on the website or by phone! This goes for shops, events, restaurants etc. I’ve lost count of how many hours I’ve spent searching for the most basic information.
Imagine having to call every single place you want to visit before you go- it soon gets annoying, there is no room for spontaneity.
Day 7- Having 2 steps to get into a building is not step free access… even if you have the world’s strongest staff who are more than willing to lift me and my wheelchair in.
Yes, you read that right. I’ve had offers to be lifted in my chair up the stairs- that is not accessibility!
Day 8- Smaller portions of the entire menu in restaurants being available as standard! Gastro issues mean I can’t eat a large meal but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to eat from the kids menu all the time!
Day 9- Normalise rest in public places. The provision of a quiet place to sit or lie would be incredible in helping me manage my energy levels when out and about. Allowing me an opportunity to mitigate collapses or minimize crashes slightly.
Day 10- Don’t ever touch mobility aids without permission. My chair is an extension of me, you wouldn’t pick an able bodied person up and move them out your way so why do people deem moving a wheelchair user out the way acceptable.
Day 11- Card readers that can move being offered in all shops/businesses as standard! I’d love to be able to type my own PIN wherever I go for both security and the ability to make purchases independently from my chair.
Day 12- Your event should be accessible whether you know a disabled person is coming or not, it’s not particularly pleasant to disclose medical information to strangers daily.
Day 13- If you want to ask me a question, ask me. Don’t ask whoever I’m with and talk about me like I can’t hear you just because I use a wheelchair. It’s my legs that don’t work, not my ears…
I don’t need someone to speak for me, I am my own person with my own opinions. When you talk over my head it makes me feel invisible and infantilised.
Day 14- Schools to be more accessible. So many schools are completely wheelchair inaccessible. Furthermore schools are absolute sensory hell for those with sensory processing disorders. There are so many ways things could be easily adapted.
If I could have used my wheelchair at school I might have actually been able to attend more often.
Day 15- More wheelchair spaces on public transport. The fact most trains or buses only have 1 wheelchair space (often full of luggage/pushchairs) means if a pair of friends who both use wheelchairs want to go out together it is near impossible to get around.
It may come as a surprise but yes, disabled people do have friends, both disabled and able bodied and they do like to go out together independently.
Day 16- Please stop asking disabled people “what happened to them?” In the street not only is it none of your business, it may be deeply traumatic for the individual to have to retell the same thing multiple times.
Imagine retelling the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to you everyday to strangers. For some disabled people that is essentially the what the question “what happened to you?” means. For others there is no ‘story’ to tell they were simply born.
Day 17- I really wish that schools would get rid of the 100% attendance awards. They are incredibly ableist as well as incredibly demoralizing when as a disabled student you are fighting an incredibly unpredictable body to even make it into the classroom.
I vividly remember having attendance prizes for the tutor group & feeling so guilty when I was the reason that we didn’t get the reward but I physically couldn’t help it! I needed to attend part time and my hospital appointments had to happen, yet I was still made to feel guilty.
Day 18- Mobility aid adverts involving a variety of ages. Walking sticks and wheelchairs aren’t just for the elderly!
Day 19- Parents/Educators this one’s for you! If a child notices someone who is visibly disabled & makes a remark, don’t hush them- let them ask questions, most will be happy to answer, don’t make disability taboo, children are innately curious, nurture that.
Day 20- When designing products for parenting please don’t forget that disabled people are parents too! The lack of accessibility in this sector fills me with anxiety about being a disabled mum in the future.
Day 21- Not only do we make the world more accessible through our language choices, we make society more accessible through architecture and planning! Consult disabled people when designing things!
Day 22- I would love to see a day where I could go out with my friends and not worry about a stranger asking me if I’m out with my carer then telling me I’m “lucky” to have such kind friends when I correct them.
Day 23- I would love to see that the live streaming of lessons continues post pandemic for chronically ill students too ill to make it into the classroom! It would have made such a difference for me.
I was always told this wasn’t feasible, the pandemic has proved otherwise.
Day 24- A reminder that there is no one size fits all” when it comes to accessibility. If you don’t know what you can do to be more accessible then please consult disabled people! They will be more than happy to help!
That brings me to the end of my #AccessibleAdvent summary. I hope this post has given a little insight into some of the inaccessibility within society!