October 2010 Archives

Handy & Manageable

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Recently had an interesting experience on my first visit to a new and much more conveniently located branch of a large and popular clothing chain. To nutshell it:

There are no wheelchair accessible cubicles on the upper floor (Menswear and childrens clothing). Seeing as the facilities required consist of a marginally wider doorway and curtain instead of a door, and seeing as the branch has only been open for a couple of months, my first surprise was the lack of basic facilities. My second was that the staff were unaware that this was the case, or indeed whether there were any accessible changing facilities in the branch at all. There are, but they are on the other floor.

If I am in a new store, I don't see why I should have to choose items,make my way across to the lift, queue up for the lift, go down to the lower floor, make my way across to the ladies changing areas, queue up there, then have my wife refused access to the changing areas when she comes to find me as I've been gone for ages...

I contacted the Customer Services department, expecting a Helpful & Measured response.

They offered to retrain the staff and said that they should have waived the 'only one person in the changing cubicle' rule in this instance. All good, but they completely dodged the facilities issue.

I tried again, beginning to feel Heated & Mistreated. The response included these lines:

Due to this being such a new store, unfortunately, there is no current plans to amend the facilities in our fitting rooms.

We will however, be taking steps to ensure that our staff are trained to a very high standard and are able to deal with all situations quickly and effectively.

Now here's the thing. It is a new store. That's my point. I don't expect a brand that makes Hundreds & Millions of pounds in profit every year to be constructing and opening branches in 2010 that do not include the 'reasonable adjustments' required under the Disability Discrimination Act and also included in the new Equalities Act which came into force this month. I should also point out that I don;t expect to have to point out this deficiency three times before it is even acknowledged as a shortcoming.

BY now Heated & Miffed, I decided to cut to the chase, and I helpfully sent links to the specific legislation relevant to this case (for reference the DDA can be found here, and the new Equality Act here).

It seems my Haughty & Miffed approach has finally brought their attention to what is, after all, a relatively easy oversight to correct if you are, say, enormous and Swedish but don't make furniture.

The response this time was what I would have expected initially:

We would like to apologise once again for the experience you have had in our store, regarding the design of our new store and lack of disabled facilities.

This has been brought up with the area manager of this store who will deal with this in store.

We realise this has been a major inconvenience for you and we hope that it will be changed for you in the future and that shopping in --- will be more enjoyable and at ease for wheelchair users.

I look forward to availing myself of their facilities in the near future.

Oh, and by the way... I haven't avoided using the store's name out of concern over legal issues, I just love a Thesaurus. Here's hoping I don't end up feeling Hurt & Misanthropic...

Here we go again!

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As I hurtle headlong into the double dip of vicious public spending cuts and a vicious bladder infection I don't feel like raising my arms and whooping, somehow.
On the personal:
I know have to wait for a week to get the lab results back so that I can find out if it is a bladder infection, and not something more mysterious. My bladder feels like someone's playing Wipeout on it. Of COURSE the song and not the TV show.

My fever is yo-yo-ing according to my application of paracetomol, and I'm sitting here naked. OK, too much information. Sorry. Actually, I just have my shirt and socks off to help my temp to come down to a manageable level.

And all the time I wonder, Why? What's going on in there? Why am I now a regular on the UTI circuit? Boo.

I'm supposed to be going to Oxford for a weekend of clay pigeon shooting (which may challenge my motto 'if you shoot it, you should eat it'), any recipe ideas out there?

The shooting is followed by an evening at the greyhound track. Where I am sure to lose money, and the shooting is usually done in private after the hound comes last...

On to less happy times:

I feel that I have to refer to the Government's cuts to public spending, but I think the best idea is to point you in the direction of the incisive Johann Hari for a clear-eyed reading of the situation.

Here's another thing to consider: 85% of the deficit is bank bailout (£850b out of £927b)

Obviously, that's as nothing to people claiming incapacity Benefit for a minor ailment. Please remember these people were encouraged to go that way as it meant that they dropped off the unemployment figures.

To clarify: I am annoyed that some people are claiming for benefits that they are not entitled to. But can we PLEASE have a sense of proportion. Getting a bunch of people off benefits is a drop in the ocean compared to all the money we crammed into the banks when they started whining. It was ransom money, pure and simple, but the size of the sums paid are never mentioned. Instead they talk about capping benefits and Big Society. Big what? Don't they know their Thatcherist Doctrine? There's no such thing as Society, remember?

Tough times ahead, people. Tough times ahead.

"What do you miss most?"

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Last week I gave a talk about adjusting to disability for ninety 15 year old girls at a school in St.Albans.

Talking about myself is my specialist subject, and I am always happy to share my experiences, especially if it helps to improve understanding and awareness. I will be happy if all I manage to achieve is to make people ask if they can help rather than do nothing or steam in,assuming they know what to do.

After a twenty minute 'highlights' talk about my experiences, I opened the session up to questions, and hopefully a discussion. Silence. I rambled for a few more minutes and then tried again. One hand went up, then several more, and we were off. We ran out of time forty minutes later.

It was more Q and A than discussion, but I could sense that the students relished the opportunity to satisfy a curiosity in a way that they haven't been able to in the past. The questions were interesting, and often very practical. But most common were 'comparison questions,' such as:
"What do you miss most?"
It's difficult to answer that question, as the answer changes at any given moment. Probably most accurate would be,
"Whatever I couldn't do most recently."
But the experience of spinal cord injury is of an abrupt stopping of life. A stillness, an unpleasant silence.

The list of losses is exhaustive, exhausting, and not all revealed in one moment. It gets added to over a surprisingly long period of time, as some of the pleasures lost seem an irrelevance at first. Climbing a stile, for instance, or feeling wet grass between your toes.

But it is not a league table that can be ordered in straightforward terms. It is a collection of holes and I never know which one I will fall through next.


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