Sometimes bad experiences happen.
We can let them affect us, or we can take action.
I want my son to know that he does not have to accept every inequality that he faces. I want him to know that he can bring change. And I want him to know that he can help make sure that others don’t continue to have the same bad experience.
Adam’s first visit to the brand new Entertainer toy shop in Truro was not a success. Why on earth would they take two three storey shops and knock them into one without installing a customer lift? The “big boy” toys were upstairs, and he was stuck downstairs.
Adam was devastated beyond his own ability for words. He was crushed and he was emotional. We had some very difficult times emotionally as he struggled to process what had happened to him.
Watching him was hard. Helping him was even harder. There was no explanation beyond “They did the wrong thing”. Sometimes adults make mistakes and we give them the opportunity to learn and to change. Adam expected them to want to do the right thing.
Sadly, sometimes you need the support of a solicitor to make that happen.
When the story first hit the media there were some very hurtful comments directed at my son and at me. But they didn’t get to me, and, thankfully, my son doesn’t read the news online. He is a bit busy with Minecraft, zip-lining and toasting marshmallows over an open fire!
Comments included “he has to toughen up“, and “it is just the mother being awkward“. And things like “you can’t expect every shop to be accessible” or “I’m a wheelchair user and I just accept that I can’t go everywhere“.
Firstly, my boy is the toughest person I know. He has been through multiple surgeries, overcome having his wheelchair wrecked on our way to a dream holiday in Orlando, battled to use his hands and find his voice. He is already a strong character, but being strong does not mean having to settle for less.
In answer to the second one, nobody has to like me, but businesses and organisations do have to follow the law. It isn’t “being awkward” to challenge the legality of something. And it takes a degree of toughness – that thing from point one which apparently we need!
I will answer the third one with a question of my own. “Do you expect to be able to go into shops?” After all, isn’t the point of a shop to entice people in to spend money?
The last of my example comments is probably the worst though.
Imagine a life where you have become conditioned to accept less. That is sad. And I do not want my son to ever think it is okay for a large retailer or organisation to treat him as a lesser person. We all accept that some things in life are less than we would ideally like, but a new toy shop in a building where a lot of work occurred to knock two shops into one, is not a place to accept lesser treatment.
Without strong people challenging inequalities, they will continue.
The Entertainer told us that it was just not possible to install a lift. They told us the council had refused planning permission, due to it being a listed building. They also said the building structure made it impossible and that the reduced ceiling height upstairs made it impossible to install one.
We discovered that they had never applied for planning permission.
So we instructed a solicitor, because that is not okay!
Being a listed building does not mean that you can’t change it.
The Equality Act means that they had a legal duty to ensure that disabled people could access the entire building. It isn’t “being awkward” to expect access. And it isn’t “picking on a business” when you enforce it.
It is the law. And it is quite clear.
I would like to thank Chris Fry and the whole team at Fry Law, for helping me through the process and for ensuring that a lift was installed. Adam was so delighted to visit The Entertainer and wanted to go in as soon as he knew the lift was ready.
Disabled people like to shop too.
And my son certainly likes to shop in The Entertainer!
I would also like to add a few words of thanks to all of Adam’s friends who have refused to shop at The Entertainer, despite really desperately wanting to go to the toy shop. I am sure that it has not been easy for them, but they were very aware of just how hard it was for Adam.
These children give me hope for the future, because equality is simple to them – if Adam can’t go, neither do they! I hope that they all enjoy their future shopping trips as much as Adam did today.