How do you deal with inaccessible spaces?

Hello all.

Today I want to talk about inaccessible spaces and how you deal with them. By 'inaccessible' I mean places with no disabled access, places with narrow aisles with no space for a wheelchair or disability scooter to manoeuvre, places who do not make provisions for fat people and as a commenter kindly reminded me - also for people with children in prams and strollers.

Yesterday I had a wonderful day out with my brother, his girlfriend and her two lovely daughters, but there was one thing which happened which reminded me I'm not 'normal'. We ate out at a wonderful fish & chip restaurant. It was warm enough to sit outside. I eyed up the seats as I do EVERYWHERE I go, thinking 'I don't think I'll fit, and if I do, it's going to hurt.'

Every time I go out to eat, I worry about 3 things:

Will the seat take my weight?
Will I physically fit into the seat?
Will it cause me pain to do so?

To have to explain this to thin or well people embarrasses the hell out of me, so I said nothing yesterday. My bum didn't fit in the chair because the arms were in the way, so I sat on the very edge of the seat, with the arms digging into my hips extremely painfully. It was painful because Fibromyalgia makes my whole body tender to the touch, like it's heavily bruised all over.

When it's just me and my husband I will tell him if I can't comfortably sit somewhere, but when there are a group of us I find it extremely hard to deal with. I find it almost impossible to sit and eat in most places without severe discomfort. Why do so many pubs and restaurants expect people to sit on hard wooden or metal seats with no padding? Why do most chairs have arms which dig in?

There's a pub in town I go to very occasionally for lunch at the behest of my friends. Their upright dining chairs look OK from a distance but are horrible to sit on. There's no bottom section to the seat, so when I sit on the cheap faux leather and flimsy padding, my arse falls into the void between the chair legs, and the wooden frame digs in my legs and bum awfully. How hard would it to be a piece of wood under the padding? Really? Sheesh.

If a place doesn't cater to me, I don't want to spend my money there.

What do I do before I'm going to eat or drink at somewhere new? Wherever possible I do a recce before the actual event so I know if I can sit without pain, if the chairs will hold my weight, and if my bum will fit into the seat.

When someone asks me if I will be OK to eat somewhere because of the seating I really appreciate it. When I was with my family over Christmas my mum made pains to take me past the place she wanted to have her birthday meal at to make sure I'd be able to sit comfortably. That kind of thoughtfulness really touches me. Of course my brother and his girlfriend aren't horrible people - far from it - they're just normal sized people who don't have to think about the things I have to consider before I eat out. It's not their fault, and I'm sure they would've been mortified to find out I was uncomfortable. It was worth it to be with them. 

So, what kind of seats are good for me? Booth type seating - which is usually padded and/or springy - so long as the seats and tables aren't fixed in place. Seats with bottoms, duh! Seats with padding. Seats without arms. Wide seats. Seats which aren't child-sized. Seats which look strong.

I feel for disabled people more disabled then me, although at least legislation does exist to protect the disabled. There are many shops which don't have enough room in the aisles for a normal sized adult to walk through, let alone room for a person in a wheelchair or disabled scooter to get around. I was once in a shop in town where a lady in a wheelchair was getting entangled in a portable clothing display. I freed her up, for her to promptly get tangled up again 2 feet away. In the end I shoved ALL the stands out of the way so she could get past. I don't want to shop at a place like that and I'm pretty sure she could've done without the embarrassment, even though we made a joke of it.

As for places with no disabled access at all, how do they think that makes people feel?! The law states certain things with regards to public spaces in relation to disabled people, but I'm not sure how well the law is enforced.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) introduced new laws aimed at ending the discrimination that many disabled people face. From here:

The DDA defines disability, and identifies who is protected under it. The definition is broad: ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.

• since October 2004, service providers have had to make reasonable adjustments in relation to the physical features of their premises to overcome physical barriers to access.

Since October 2004, where a physical feature makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled customers to make use of a service offered to the public, service providers have had to take measures, where reasonable, to:

• remove the feature, or
• alter it so that it no longer has that effect, or
• provide a reasonable means of avoiding the feature, or
• provide a reasonable alternative method of making the service available to disabled people (this fourth duty has been in force since October 1999). Physical features are defined under the DDA as ‘anything on the premises arising from a building’s design or construction or the approach to, exit from or access to such a building; fixtures, fittings, furnishings, equipment or materials and any other physical element or quality of land in the premises ...whether temporary or permanent’.

Responding to your duties as a service provider under the DDA means coming up with solutions that are reasonable in all the circumstances and which result in as many disabled customers as possible being able to access your goods and services. For small service providers (as compared to larger ones with more resources at their disposal) the emphasis is likely to be on practical, low-cost adjustments, although you should also consider more major physical alterations to improve access to your premises if feasible and affordable.

Have you ever been somewhere you were made to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed? Have you been caused pain because of the seating in a venue? Have you been entirely unable to access a place? How did it make you feel?

If you have any ideas to help me gently grow some balls and advocate for myself better, please yell!

Thanks for reading.

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