- Posted by lilwatchergirl
- 25 Nov 07, 11:32 PM
Tonight I'm thinking about how much I miss those simple days before I was disabled. Admittedly, that was mostly back in the primordial chaos of pre-history, when going out didn't mean having to plan for inevitable panic attacks, when life didn't have to be put onto the back-burner because of an unplanned week of hypomania, and when using the telephone wasn't a whole adventure in fits of sobbing and being unable to form a coherent sentence. But in this case I'm particularly talking about more recently - when I didn't have to weigh up the pros and cons of this or that mobility aid or pain medication, when I didn't need to factor in rest breaks during the fifty-metre walk to the corner shop, when leaving the house didn't mean wondering whether I would make it back without having to call The Girl to come and push me home. And when I didn't have to choose what kind of discrimination I feel like experiencing today.
The ever-complicated mess that is known round here as 'oh crap, Naomi wants to leave the house' started this evening, when a straightforward trip to the cinema with The Girl and two friends was immediately complicated by the decision over whether or not to take my wheelchair. Knowing my local cinema (and their inability to get anything right) as I do, I decided on going with my walking stick and hoping for the best. This decision was also motivated by how *obvious* I'm feeling in my wheelchair at the moment. People do keep insisting on grabbing my handles and giving me a push, and this inevitably leads me to make a scene in which I shout "GET OFF ME!" in a quite obvious manner, which might have caused my friends to be concerned. And of course, being in the wheelchair reveals a whole world of obstacles, as much as it gives me my freedom back - the usual inconveniences of doors, stairs, inaccessible toilets and people who stare become fairly insurmountable barriers. I took my stick, and the car.
It wasn't until we were faced with a massive queue for tickets that I realised I hadn't really thought this one through. While I can walk a few metres when I need to, I really can't stand for long. It makes me ever so cranky and I tend to start hitting people with one of my lovely colourful walking sticks. This evening, my 'standing threshold' was a matter of seconds. While The Girl and our friends queued for tickets, I went and sat on the only thing I could see to sit on: the stairs.
At this point, an utterly huge security guard who was checking tickets came up to me. "You can't sit here. Health and safety."
I demonstrated my stick, and my Cinema Exhibitors' Card that gets me a free ticket for a companion because I'm all wobbly and can't carry my own Diet Coke, and politely requested that I be allowed to sit there because my friends were in the very long queue for tickets, and also because of the very obvious lack of seating in the cinema foyer. "Health and safety," repeated the man who was about sixteen times my size.
Fine, I said. Could I get into the lift and go upstairs and sit on the seats there? "You can't go upstairs. You haven't got a ticket." Well, no, on account of how my friends are in the very long queue for tickets, which is why I need to sit down in the foyer with the very obvious lack of seating... "Health and safety."
I was getting quite irritated at this point, not least because several of my joints were threatening to give up on me entirely if I didn't produce a proper seat soon, and also because a lot of people were, yes, you've guessed it, staring. I don't like staring. Did I mention that? I used to do a really good imitation of an invisible person. It suited my anxiety disorder. But it's quite hard to be invisible when someone is refusing you your rights under the DDA and you really aren't happy about that. I asked the man to explain the cinema's policy towards disabled customers who need somewhere to sit. "You can sit upstairs." Oh good, can you let me through to the lift then? "When you have a ticket."
My brain kicked into ANGRY PANIC overdrive. I got up (against my better judgement), marched (well, stumbled) over to The Girl, and told her that I wasn't allowed to sit on the stairs. And swore. A lot, and loudly. She suggested I go back and sit on the stairs and see if security were willing to pick me up and move me. The security guard came over to remind me about health and safety and why I wasn't going to sit on the stairs. I said something along the lines of I AM IN A LOT OF PAIN RIGHT NOW ON ACCOUNT OF THERE NOT BEING ANY SEATS HERE AND YOUR CINEMA'S DISABLIST POLICIES SO I SUGGEST YOU GO AWAY SO I CAN BUY A TICKET AND GET UPSTAIRS AND SIT DOWN. But with expletives every other word. None of this was helped by the concerned man, using crutches, further back in the queue who suggested that I use the lift to go upstairs and sit down there...
In short, I made a scene.
The film was good, even if I was in quite considerable agony through most of it because I'd had to stand up for several minutes in the foyer. As soon as I got home, I wrote one of my mega letters of complaint to the cinema, quoting relevant laws and making it quite clear that either they take action or I will. But I'm confused, and concerned. Why, when I believe in asserting your rights under the law, could I not even ask to talk to the manager after the film? Why, when I believe in taking direct action where necessary, couldn't I stay on the stairs, making my point, as The Girl suggested? Why am I so keen for other people to get what they're entitled to under the DDA, but fall apart when it comes to defending my own rights, even when I'm paying for a service?
And do the rest of you find it this difficult to ask for what you need?
• Visit Through Myself and Back Again, where I'm doing some more of that thing I do best: ranting...