02 May 2010

BADD 10: Discrimination by ignorance and the myth of the DDA

"But I thought everywhere was accessible now."

How I loathe that sentence. It usually follows my asking "so why did you hire somewhere inaccessible for your event? Because now I can't come."

For example, I've just spent the last 3 days at a film festival/conference tied to my course (and is why my BADD post is a day late). I arrived on Thursday, picked up my ticket and was told by cinema staff "it's in screen 2, which is not accessible."


And, of course, the "but I thought..." line swiftly followed from the director of the event who'd hired the venue.

At the end of last year I joined a masters swimming team in my vague attempt to be slightly fitter/healthier. Recently the pool has had some lane closures due to building work and a member of the committee wanted to move the session I usually go to to a different pool until the building work had ended.

"Can you please not, cos, you know, I don't wanna be excluded and I hear the other pool is not accessible."

"But I thought..."

Lots of people started boo-hooing when The Astoria got demolished. Me? I was thrilled because never again will I miss seeing a band because they had their one London date in that inaccessible venue. When I told people why I was so pleased it had been demolished (and demolished to make way for an accessible train/tube station no less!) I frequently heard "But I thought..." I'm sure even most bands playing there didn't realise all the fans that were being excluded because of "but I thought..."

(I'm sure Jim Davidson would've loved playing there though.)

I'm a big fan of the DDA. Yeah, sure, it's got so many holes it's kinda like a sieve. But it wasn't around for the first half of my life and in the last 15 years since it was written I've noticed that the world has become much more accessible and less cruel.

But it does have its sieve-like qualities which means that the world isn't as accessible as it should be. There's not really any excuse for a major west end cinema that's part of a huge national chain to not have full access. But the holey law means they get away with it.

Then the myth that DDA works makes the problem worse. People book venues in good faith assuming they're accessible. The venues then think "we don't need to improve access because the money's still rolling in." And I'm the one that loses out.

I don't know how we go about pointing out to the world en masse that they're mythtaken (thanks Buffy!): The world is not accessible so when booking a venue you need to check access. But that's one I'll have to tackle another day. Now I'm going to put heat pads on my painy ankle and shoulder from hauling myself up a flight of stairs repeatedly for the last 3 days.


  1. Even calling ahead doesn't necessarily help.

    Okay, because of "reasonable adjustments" not everywhere has to be accessible, but business owners have a legal duty to properly consider how disabled people might access their premises/product/service, what adjustments could be made to increase access, and whether it is reasonable for that business to make that adjustment at that time.

    The bit that upsets me is how many don't even do that and so aren't able to give an honest Yes or No. Or the ones who say "oh yes, there's access, we've had wheelchairs here before," when what they mean is that you can get a wheelchair into the foyer but not much further.

  2. Anonymous10:31 pm

    The bit that upsets me is how many ... aren't able to give an honest Yes or No.

    This. 100% this.

    Or they don't even know what "Wheelchair accessible" actually means -- thinking it means "People in wheelchairs are allowed to attend," without even considering if they're able to attend.

  3. I do get a lot of the "well... aren't we accessible?" answers, where no stairs = automatically accessible. Except where it doesn't. And, of course, the ADA has totally fixed all of those problems, so we don't have to worry about that any more. :sigh: If only.

  4. And then there are people who seem to think that accessibility issues somehow magically manage to take care of themselves.

    Me: I'd love to do X, but they're probably not accessible for deaf people.

    Person A: Oh, I'm sure someone must have taken care of that.

    Person B: Why? What do you mean, not accessible? Why wouldn't it be?

    Person C: But even if they *don't* have an interpreter available for you, surely you can get by, can't you? Why does it have to be perfect?

    Person D: Why do you always have to bring up the accessibility thing? You should relax more. I'm sure things will be fine.

    And, yes, the DDA myth has its own counter part in the US also, the ADA myth:

    Person E: Oh, but they're required to be accessible, aren't they?

  5. Anonymous6:58 pm

    This is particularly inane and mind-boggling when said by the owner of an establishment that you are discussing. Yes, many who lease shops, etc. believe that the DDA has installed secret passageways or something that they are unaware of in their lease agreement paperwork, which will bring in disabled customers. If you are standing her looking at a flight of stairs, how did you think the place got accessed? Oh, I just assumed everywhere had access. *Face-palm*

  6. I'm late finishing commenting BADD posts, sorry!

    My recent favourite experience like this was on an evening where I felt like going out after work so looked up what was playing at the nearby cinemas. I'm not into much film, but there was something disability related so I figured I might as well go at least see what it was like. Got to the cinema to be informed that 1 of their screens was accessible. Guess what film wasn't playing at that screen? It still boggles me in that one might expect that disabled people might actually want to see a film that might be relevant to their lives. The woman at the box office told me if I rang they could arrange me a private screening, but as I wasn't *that* interested I didn't bother. I did, however, send an e-mail off to them pointing out that it was a bit odd what they'd done (no reply, of course).