Disabled people have long felt like they don’t matter.
As a parent of a disabled child I feel it every day. It hurts EVERY DAY.
Reading it online from the Equality and Human Rights Commision Chairman didn’t come as a shock. It just told me what I already knew, but it didn’t stop it hurting.
Seeing it reported on the BBC “Disabled people ‘treated like second-class citizens’-watchdog” did hit hard. Hearing those terms and knowing that my child is one of those being treated this way somehow made it all feel worse.
The focus in this clip might be transport but the difficulty and feeling is the same across all areas.
My most recent experience with a large business, Lands End, has left me with a mixture of positive hope from all the kindness shown by ordinary people and utter horror that such a large company would try to sweep disabled people away as though they don’t matter at all.
Using the toilet is surely the most basic of needs? Yet it is out of the reach of hundreds of thousands of disabled people every day, just because they also need a hoist and a bench. Unless they stay at home and accept that life is out of reach.
There are many other campaigners across the country working towards improving the accessibility of toilets and, like me, they have also met with some heartbreaking responses.
Basically, “it isn’t our problem”.
You know what, it is YOUR problem. Under the Equality Act you have a duty to ensure that people are not treated less favourably than others due to a disability. Take a look at this, page 6 might be of interest.
The duty is anticipatory. You are not supposed to wait till someone tells you that they can’t access your facilities. You should have already been looking to improve!
So when someone like me tells you that someone like this little boy could not stay at your attraction, or could not use your toilet facilities, you should be glad that I have told you.
I might just be saving you from legal action by another person. You see, I totally understand that you just might not have known what was needed. There is no shame in simply admitting that you didn’t know but there is shame in continuing to do nothing.
When you know better, you really must do better.
So, as of now, YOU know better.
I would like to offer thanks to Cornwall Services for their wonderful response once they knew better. In less than three months they had a toilet facility with a bench and ceiling hoist. I am quite certain that they will be very happy to show you what it is possible to achieve in a relatively small space.
Thanks also to Wild Futures for showing what great hearts they have. Finding out more, without being asked, really offered me hope that there is great kindness out there. When a small charity wants to change, there is no excuse for big businesses.
Camel Creek Adventure Park have also been in touch to ask for more information.
A couple of other places have replied to my e-mails saying that they did not know what was needed before but that they will look into it. Thanks to Flambards and Paradise Park for your positive responses.