Monday, 10 June 2013

Speaking up…

My personality has changed quite a lot recently. I used to just get on with life and let people walk all over me. I actually would get quite embarrassed when my parents would start arguing on my behalf because I had just accepted that the world was not built for wheelchair users and nothing would change. Now, I’ve matured and take a more cynical view where I refuse to let things slide easily. This can be seen with the on-going Causeway saga (sorry if I keep going on about it). I’ve sunk my teeth into the issue and won’t back down until I win. This determination is showing that I’m willing to stand up (not literally of course) and fight for what I believe in.

Another example of my new found resilience to being downtrodden by society took place at the Galleria on Wednesday afternoon.  I went to the cinema to watch The Purge (enjoyable if you like to be kept in suspense) and decided to look around the shops afternoon. Yesterday was my brother’s birthday and I still needed to get him a present (I leave it late). The other week he mentioned a light, summer jacket so I went to look in Blue Inc. (my favourite shop) because they don’t normally disappoint. I found a decent cream-coloured jacket and went to pay but that’s where the problem was.

I tried to wheel towards the till but couldn’t because the gaps between the lines of clothes were too small. My friend then came to help me but struggled to manoeuvre around the corner. Eventually, after bumping the wheelchair and scraping through, I was greeted by a smile before paying. The woman who served me was young and fairly attractive. Normally, this would’ve been the part where I go red, say “thank you” in a high-pitched voice and swiftly exit the shop. However, like I said, things have changed. I said, “Before I go, could I speak to the manager?”

The girl seemed quite bemused by my simple request and looked puzzled as to where the manager was, as if it was a large department store. Upon finding him, she realised that it would be impossible to get to him (again proving my point). Before going to get him, she asked my friend “Are you sure you want to see the manager?” Annoyed that the question wasn’t aimed at me, my friend replied “Yes, I think HE does” and pointed at me.

The manager came over, carrying a massive poster he was in the middle of putting up. This rubbed me up the wrong way because he seemed in a rush so probably wouldn’t listen to my complaint. I took my time and spoke about the problems of inaccessibility but was met with an answer, which still has me reeling in shock. He claimed that due to large amounts of stock, some parts of the store would be off limits for wheelchair users and I’d just have to accept that as a fact”. I was dumbfounded by this response and was genuinely left speechless.

When I did manage to speak again, I reminded him that “disabled people are customers too and whether he liked it or not, the customer is always right!” This time, he had no answer. I urged him to “think about room for wheelchair when he next decides to change the layout of the shop floor” before storming out like two drama queens.

I’ve checked and the shop is only an outlet so there is nowhere to write to. Plus, I give up with letters of complaint as they’re normally ignored or the answer fobs you off with some spiel (a future blog post). Next time I’m in Hatfield, I’ll just have to check if they listened to ‘Wheelchair Boy’.

Bye for now!

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