This weekend, I’m all for getting glammed up with my friends and having a blast on the town.
We meet, pre-drink, put a mixture of three different lippies on and endure umpteen outfit changes whilst telling each other how hot we look. Then, after a ridiculous amount of pouting selfies, it’s a taxi ride or short stroll to the bar or club.
Up until now, my night has mostly been a breeze (especially if the taxi driver gets my wheelchair into the boot on the first try - result!) But, unless I’ve planned it meticulously, we can often get to a venue that isn’t step-free, doesn’t have an accessible loo (not good after too many shandies) and is so cramped and noisy that I end up having to slap numerous bottoms to make my way through… not that I always mind that bit.
So where do I go to ensure I always have a good time? And what tips do I have for other disabled party-goers? I often don’t want to go to all the obvious ‘branded’ places that I know will have what I need; I still want a night out that will give me the quirks of a weird but wonderful evening. Here are some things I’ve learned in pursuit of a ‘wheelie’ great night out…
You need a safe haven as a second option
Be it somewhere that's step-free, has larger loos, great provisions for guide dogs or hearing loops a-plenty, having a ‘fall back’ venue near you in case any and all plans go awry is never a bad thing; at least you know you’re going to have a smashing night regardless.
Equally, somewhere that’s fully accessible to your needs but the music and general atmosphere bores the hell out of you is no good either, so it’s good to work out exactly what you’re into first and go from there. Anywhere with lovely staff, toilets I’m able to transfer into and a vibe that is simply second to none is a winner for me, so much so that I’ll happily chair-dance the night away without thinking twice!
It pays to know your drivers, bouncers and bar staff
When I've been on big group nights out where access hasn’t always been fully available at all times, one thing that’s really made my evening is getting to know any taxi drivers, club security or members of staff. If a driver has been particularly helpful, I’ve always got their card and have been sure to use them again for future stress-free nights. If bathrooms haven’t been that accessible in venues (although they all should be), I’ve found out where the nearest hotel or restaurant is from a member of staff and gone from there.
I’m fortunate enough to be able to manage a couple of stairs too, and doormen have always been more than happy to give me a hand and carry my wheelchair. In an ideal world, none of this would be needed as everything would be universally designed for all. The reality is, though, that that just isn’t the case right now, and grabbing a hand or some information from someone in the know can really save time and face.
Drink can sometimes equal disaster
We’ve all done it, and I continue to on the odd occasion, but I’ve finally worked out my drinking limits now after being in a few sticky situations thanks to alcohol. Sitting down, it’s really tough to gauge how drunk I’m getting, that is, until I stand up to transfer onto a toilet, drink rushes to my head and I collapse in a heap and end up sleeping curled around the bowl. Yep, this happened at a German house party my sister and I once gatecrashed, never again.
Although I always want to have the best time, I’ve learnt to never let my drinking increase my vulnerability to the point where I can’t push myself or make sure I get home safely.
Get in touch if you have any venue suggestions for an inclusive night out; I’m always on the lookout for new ones!
Emily Yates is a disabled writer and accessibility consultant @EmilyRYates