Two new shops have opened or will open shortly near my home. Shops that I think look interesting. As they communicate regularly on Facebook, I decided to stick my neck — or rather my wheels — out and put in my disability tuppence-worth.
«I’m happy to see this type of shop here, I can’t wait to come and look around; I hope it’s accessible to wheelchair users and people with prams (as well as others)!»
The first one did not answer.
For the second one, I was a bit sneaky because I clearly saw the step at the entrance, very small but still visible, in the promo photo. The shop manager didn’t answer – what a surprise! But another person kindly shared her experience with me.
« Don’t worry, I think I remember a bell at the entrance specially for that purpose. ».
Great. Actually, not great. We don’t want our hands held to go somewhere, what we want is autonomy. Of course, it’s always better than nothing, but it’s not enough for me, selfish as I am!
« You have to understand, a ramp is impossible because of the pavement, the town hall, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… »
I recently visited the city of Blois. I spent a few months there when I was studying, just before my accident. It has changed a bit, two-thirds of the shops now have a ramp, are accessible, and have a non-slip threshold. So, people, stop trying to make us believe that this can’t be done (thank you).
« And if you look at the door of the next building, there are two steps, whereas the shop has only one. It’s good that they’ve made an effort. »
I’m reassured when I read this kind of comment. I tell myself that as a speaker on disability there’s no danger of being out of a job tomorrow. But as a person with a disability, I’m also completely desperate! How do you make people understand once and for all that when you are in a wheelchair (for those who can’t get up) the result is the same whether there is one step, or two or three — either you turn back or you accept that you have to rely on someone else?
Yes, yes I know, getting help from time to time doesn’t hurt, it can even help with chatting someone up. That said, if “from time to time” equals three-quarters of the shops, this can slow us down on a shopping trip. If I look at things in perspective, I can tell myself that it saves me money, but if not it’s a bit frustrating.
But let’s get back to the story of the doorbell. My first instinct was to disapprove of it. And then I remembered this shop in the street next to mine. When I ring the bell, they take out a mobile ramp that they keep in their storeroom and they leave it in place while I do my shopping. In the end, a bell should be judged by its result — if it’s there just to warn someone to come and help us or push us I don’t like it very much. I don’t like strangers touching my wheelchair, it’s a part of me. But I think the mobile ramp is a good alternative — goodbye administrative obligations for the shop, hello freedom for us!