It’s really hard turning down party invitations for Quinns even although it’s for a good reason. I can’t and I won’t accept them when they take place in a public building or business which has stairs and no suitable alternative access for Quinns. Him and the Bug weigh the equivalent of a ten year old child. Even although it may be possible and convenient at this point in time it is neither safe nor dignified to carry him up a flight of stairs.
If you’ve read The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright and Jim Field you’ll know the risk that the mouse has to take in order to make things better for himself. Of course, I‘m not risking being a lion’s dinner but by being ‘that mum’, the one who doesn’t accept invitations and makes things that bit harder I am risking exclusion for Quinns when the thing I strive for most is inclusion.
Unfortunately we live in a society where accessibility isn’t given the attention it deserves. Blame is passed upwards. It’s not our fault it’s the landlord. It’s the builder. It’s the building regulations.
So often I hear that the minimum requirement has been met. There’s a requirement for a disabled toilet but even although that doesn’t actually meet the needs of the majority of disabled people it’s still fine because that’s all that was needed according to the building regulations (it’s been a lengthy campaign to get Changing Place toilets added to the building regulations for certain circumstances).
I also hear that age and listed building status takes precedence over accessibility.
‘Unfortunately we do not have alternative access to the building. As the building is so old it has proven difficult to be granted planning permission to make any large changes to the outside. Apologies for any inconveniences this may cause.’
In other words sorry there was nothing we could do but the aesthetic of the building takes precedence over allowing people access. Really? I’m sorry too that you won’t be receiving any of my future business.
It is of course amazing what a mother will do for her child but I am also safe in the knowledge that it’s not just Quinns that this affects. He’s not the only person in a wheelchair right now and any one of us; your parent, your child, could end up needing a wheelchair for any reason at any time.
When that happens you will discover just how exclusive and inaccessible our society is. When you find yourself unable to go to your local shop, favourite restaurant or kids party because it’s not accessible, then it’s too late. Depending on your circumstances at that time you won’t necessarily have the time or energy to fight and that’s why we all need to work together to change the view of accessibility now.
In a time when Quinns is able to use his eyes to operate a computer to communicate surely we can work out solutions to steps and stairs to make everywhere accessible that is also aesthetically pleasing. Surely we should all be thinking in terms of how can we make this as accessible as possible not how can we meet the minimum requirement.
‘there can never be an excess of access’ quote from the manifesto of Alec Finlay’s Day of Access.