In our modern world building so large around us, to many it may seem like all this disability inclusion and access requirements “stuff” is quite new. The slogan for this year’s Disability Action Week is about Inclusion (due to it being the year of the Paralympics the focus is on inclusion in sport mostly). For those, even as new to the game of advocacy as myself, promoting Inclusion of people with disabilities can seem as new as teaching grandma how to use a smartphone. Truth is, we should, as a whole society, be ashamed of the fact that we are still having to be reminded, educated or told, to be inclusive.
It’s 2016 and we are STILL asking for people with disabilities to be included in every day activities in the community that everyone else takes for granted. Things as simple as travelling the footpath to go to the local shop.
Inclusion won’t happen until it starts happening without us having to ask for it. It certainly won’t happen until attitudes change to stop thinking that inclusion is a burden.
The Disability Access to Premises Standards might only be 6 years old but it was a long time coming even back in 2010 and we still have a long way to go in getting it right. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 is not 24 years old in Australia and STILL, we have cases every day of discrimination against people with disabilities in such common setting.
Just last week a large chain supermarket manager in Fern Tree Gully Victoria was approached by a member of the community about the blocking of the shared space beside a disability parking bay. The manager’s response was that they have always used that space for their fundraising stalls and if the shared space was an issue, he would have it removed.
Not only will the car park no longer comply to the Access to Premises Standards 2010 but he has effectively just told every person with a disability that he doesn’t care if you want to shop at that store, he’s not going to make it possible for you. In fact, he’s intending on doing the opposite. There was no possible way he could have utilised any of the other 90 or so regular parking spaces, it had to be in the disability parking area so hence people with disabilities have to go.
All the great legal minds in the country will tell me (what I already know) that it’s a case of indirect discrimination. There is a legal process in which we can deal with this. It is also long, arduous and can be quite costly. Naturally as you’d expect, Head Office management of this large supermarket chain dealt with the complaint accordingly and the issue has been rectified (so we are told). When there isn’t a higher power at that level to deal with the complaint we’re left with nothing but the legal process and quite frankly I think that’s a bit shit.
We’re not asking for special treatment here. We’re asking for something quite simple. Inclusion.
To be included we sometimes require alteration, adjustment or addition to something that is existing. In this case, it is access to the building via parking.
For someone with out a mobility impairment, they will just drive on in, hop out of their car and go do their shopping. For the rest of us with disability parking permits who rely on those very well set out spaced marked for disability permit holders so that we may then hop out of the car into our wheeled devices or whatever assistive device we may use and THEN we go do our shopping. For many of use our adjustments don’t stop there but that’s the basic. We asked for an anti discrimination act and finally got it in 1992. We asked for minimum standards for access to premises and finally got it in 2010. Why are we still having to then ask for these things that have already been legislated?
Before my time as a person with a disability, there were many others like me. Some of them still advocating today, some, worn out from the years of repetition are happy to let people like me continue the campaign and I can assure you after only 4 years of this crap it does wear you out.
We get tired of asking you not to park your car on the footpath because gutters are not designed for wheelchairs to travel across. We’re tired of asking you to install eftpos facilities that can be used at wheelchair height. We’re tired of asking for ramps to be placed near the access. Most of all we’re tired of having to ask to be included.
I write this article today with great disappointment. I was promised so many things this year for Disability Action Week by various sectors, agencies and businesses. Nothing happened. It seems that unless I am still there driving it, constantly annoying the people in charge to make sure these things happen, it just doesn’t happen.
Just do a search for Disability Action Week events here in Queensland and I challenge you to find an event or promotion run by the private sector. Find me something that isn’t by people with disabilities, a government agency or non profit organisation so that I can thank them for being considerate enough to act on inclusion without having to be asked or have it driven by us.
If you ever find yourself wondering why someone with a disability is cranky it’s probably because they’re tired. Tired of having to ask to be included in what everyone else just takes for granted. Life.