Saturday, 5 June 2010

On Life with Disability in England

I love my adopted country, so much so that I wish it would adopt me. There are things which I find completely confusing about England and the English. Often they're things that I can just just brush off--the eggs being shelved with the baking goods at the grocery store for instance. But I still can't get past the very different views of those with disabilities (both seen and unseen). It's something that I'm sure I'll write more about as time goes on, but a friend's question about induction loop systems for hearing aids made me go out and take some pictures.

The English are far and away better about making sure the hard of hearing are included in society than the Americans, but there are some other problems of accessibility. Below are some pictures of Bath and it's accessibility standards.

This sign appears in a major  bookstore's window. From the top left, they are able to help people with mobility difficulties, there is wheelchair and pushchair (stroller) access. They have an induction loop system to make hearing and paying easier for people with hearing difficulties. This particular store has access via a ramp but no access to several floors of books, so browsing the science and autobiography sections would be rather difficult.

This is a major department store retailer with stores throughout the country. They have a loop system and wheelchair access. Pet dogs are not allowed. I used to work for one of the concessions (meaning a brand that rented space within the department store) here, so I know that there are many short flights of stairs throughout the store. One need only ask and a portable ramp will be deployed. But one does have to ask which means finding a sales assistant who can be bothered to find a manager.

Sales assistants are also expected to help those with mobility problems though the training for this is completely lacking. The visually impaired are also offered help; though, the sign doesn't indicate this. Not that indicating it would help the visually impaired as the sign itself is too small.

The one section of the store that is not accessible for chair users is ladies underwear because it was determined that using the portable ramp in that area was too dangerous. The ladies will bring down every pair they've got to a dressing room and then bring what someone likes in their size.

A Bank which isn't open 24 hours a day except online: No smoking, No pet dogs, No face coverings, Big Brother is watching you, help for the visually impaired. Help for wheelchair users, and a loop system is in place.

This is a small boutique style shop: Loop system, help for those with mobility issues, and a disabled fitting room are available.

This is typical of English signage. The chair access isn't the door to which this sign points (even I don't fit through that door) but is up the street.

You've probably noticed that that is not a ramp but stairs. The sign indicates that a portable ramp is available. You'll have to find someone to go in and ask for it to be deployed though. You see the problem? In England protected building status trumps accessibility rules where the opposite is true in the States. I'm much more comfortable with the US system as it assumes that the living should get the opportunity to participate in life to fullest and that should be able to do that without a carer wherever possible.

This business seems to have twigged (caught on) that people need a way of asking for the help on offer. However, the bell isn't reachable from a chair, so you'd still need to ask for help.

I wonder if things are just as bad in the Northeastern US where people are also dealing with old buildings?

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