Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Wonder how many UK readers even KNEW about it? As the writer displays NOTHING has changed and it is unlikely it will.
Events for Purple Tuesday aim to bring about education and change, but in reality, they are just a ruse to pretend that disabled people have a voice.
The aim is to make businesses more aware of the opportunities and challenges posed by customers with disabilities and to inspire them to make changes to improve our experience over the long term. But my peers and I know that it will take more than a PR exercise to really change the way we experience customer service. Think back to a time you were left out; everyone was invited to that party but you.
I’m guessing you felt confused, disheartened, unwanted and isolated? What if I told you that having a disability makes you feel like this almost every single day? Even with 15% of the world’s population living with some form of disability, we are still seen as an anomaly, not people to be considered. Get Society Weekly: our newsletter for public service professionals Read more The social model of disability, which is a way of viewing the world that has been developed by disabled people, holds that a person is not disabled because of their impairment; rather it is the physical and attitudinal barriers they face in day to day life that are the problem.
If this were taken seriously and properly understood, inclusivity and good customer service would be at the forefront of every business’s mind. For my peers and me this has not been our truth. When Adam George, a wheelchair user, soiled himself in a supermarket last year due to a lack of appropriate toilets, the store’s answer was to invite him back for “free gifts” when it clearly has space and money required to install proper facilities. His mother Rachel explains further: “Adam is perfectly capable of letting people know when he needs the toilet, but he cannot stand up and he cannot sit unaided.
When people see the wheelchair logo on the door of disabled toilets, they are probably picturing a person with similar needs to my son. And they assume that the logo means that all needs are catered for. The supermarket is acting contrite when they have the power to make a change.” Lucy Edwards, a guide dog owner, says: “Travelling to new places can be daunting for blind folks like myself if we don’t have the right assistance. There have been times when I am on the train and have been left to fend for myself even though I had booked passenger assistance 24 hours prior to my journey.
I was recently left for 20 minutes on a train, and resorted to asking a cleaner … if he could call someone to help me off. This has left me feeling less confident when travelling alone and I now have a lot of anxiety.” Justin Levene’s Luton airport protest is a watershed for disabled people James Coke Read more The “purple pound”, the term given to the disabled economy, is worth £249bn. But barriers to access and daily discrimination mean that people with disabilities who want to spend their money on goods and services often lack the opportunity to do so. That doesn’t even make good economic sense. Chris Cox, a guide dog owner, shared his experience with yet another supermarket: “I have had many conversations with management about this particular branch. Recently, the staff members were ignoring me and my blind wife.
After about 10 minutes we started calling out for assistance. The staff members were still not answering, and even customers were asking them to speak to us. I asked to see the manager, who came out and said all the usual nice words. The two members of staff who had ignored us, however, started to raise their voice and say that nobody had ever told them they had to speak to someone who is blind.” Advertisement As a blind person myself, I have had similar experiences. In August this year, I found myself stranded downstairs in an airport for over an hour before special assistance came to collect me.
I was herded like cattle and disregarded as an individual, even being told I could not attend the lounge I had pre-paid for, “because there wasn’t enough time”. These failures in customer service – whether it’s a cashier patronising a disabled person, access refusal, passenger assistance not turning up or non-accessible changing bathrooms – are the things that we disabled people face on a daily basis. Ignorance, exclusion and segregation are sadly familiar to us. Major brands and companies in the UK should be at the forefront of empowering disabled people, and they are not. If the people on the ground fail to provide good customer service, we can try to get in touch with the big bosses, but who’s to say they will listen?
Businesses have made vast improvements in their provisions for disabled patrons over the past 10 years, but there is still more to be done. Positive action in the form of mobile apps, such as Welcome by Neatebox, bridge the gap between inclusion and good customer service by empowering not only the disabled person but the staff member assisting them. Inclusion and equal access should be for all. I just hope that societal attitudes improve, and that by utilising technology and adjusting provisions to suit users’ needs, equality for disabled people becomes a reality sooner, rather than later.
[Conveniently avoiding saying the same thing about signed access? Deaf don't need signed access to the theatre at all, what there is is lost because the Deaf audience only watch the interpreters NOT the cast.]
As someone who was born deaf and is the daughter of an actress, it might be natural to assume that I would be the first cheerleader for the charity Stagetext’s campaign to make arts events more accessible to the hearing-impaired by offering subtitles for theatre performances.
After all, I watch television with subtitles so as not to have to elbow my husband every five minutes to ask him what’s going on. There are occasional cinema screenings of new releases with subtitles, which I’d love to benefit from but they’re always shown at 10.30am on a Tuesday when I’m working (but the deaf OAPs, presumably, are not).
Nevertheless, I hesitate.
It’s not that I’m not in favour of improved accessibility; it’s that I don’t think Stagetext’s solution – compulsory subtitles for all theatre performances, as well as spoken word events at museums and galleries – is the right one. When it comes down to it, subtitles are annoying – a distraction from the action on a screen or stage, and I don’t think that performers or audiences should be subjected to that. Particularly when the vast majority of any audience can hear the actors or speakers perfectly well.
Subtitles for occasional performances – yes please. Encouraging theatres to open conversation with their disabled or disadvantaged audience members about how to improve their experience – absolutely. But no to a “one size fits all” solution.