brokenclay.org/journal

Visitability, the personal side

Being a wheelchair user certainly cramps your style when it comes to getting into other people’s houses.

My boss has a monthly after-work gathering for his immediate staff; it rotates between 6 or 7 people’s houses. I’m tired of getting the invite, with no mention of accessibility (again, we’re talking about a small group, not a big public invitation). I’m tired of emailing or calling the host to ask about steps and bathrooms. I’m tired of how the other person rarely even pauses to think before saying, “It’ll be fine!” or “We’ll work it out!”

As we all know, a work social event is more work than social. Neediness is not the personal quality I want to highlight under those circumstances. And it’s one thing to be invited to a meeting in an inaccessible conference room, and another thing to be invited to a colleague’s inaccessible house. Criticize the conference room, you’re criticizing the company. Criticize the house, you’re criticizing the person.

My choir has a potluck at someone’s house at the beginning of each season; I’m more comfortable with these folks, but I’d still rather not be carried into someone’s house.

It helps if the host actually gives it a little thought beforehand; even if the house is wildly inaccessible, it’s comforting to think that someone cared enough to scope it out. After my uncle’s memorial service this summer we went to my cousin’s house. She had figured out a route, the best entrance to use, and had checked on the bathroom door. That was thoughtful, even though the house wasn’t be any stretch of the imagination independently accessible.

Am I whining? I want accessibility to just be there, like air. I don’t want people to have to make special arrangements to get me onto busses and trains, into movie theaters and banks, but I do want someone who invites me to their house to at least say something about it.

I didn’t go to the monthly boss thing today. I’m still deciding about the choir potluck.

Katja

8 Comments

  1. Michael Stokley
  2. Katja

    You’re welcome (don’t worry, folks, completely unrelated exchange).

    Reply
  3. I.B. Rollin

    I worked for a major corporation for 25 years, and these situations occured frequently. I refuse to be carried anywhere. It is degrading, and should go without saying. Sounds like the after work meeting should be revamped to a restaurant or local meeting place that is agreeable to everyone and is accessible.
    I really enjoy BrokenClay and thanks for adding CripRevolution to your list of links.

    Reply
  4. Katja (Post author)

    Al, thanks for your comment. I found you (I think) via a comment you left on WheelchairDancer’s site, and a lot of what you write resonates for me.

    I really do swing back and forth on the carrying (scooting, whatever) thing – I’m going to have to think about it some more in order to properly articulate my feelings about it online.

    Reply
  5. Christiane
  6. Katja (Post author)

    I just saw it, thank you! And left you some as well.

    Reply
  7. stephen

    not in a chair yet, but i still appreciate when people are respectful of the limitations of other people, the limitations of my stamina/mobility.

    Reply
  8. Claire

    I want accessibility to just be there, like air.

    I want that on a T-Shirt.

    …I don’t want people to have to make special arrangements to get me onto busses and trains, into movie theaters and banks, but I do want someone who invites me to their house to at least say something about it.

    I think you’ve managed to sum up 10-15+ years of my own frustration in one sentence; I don’t want want a circus, I just want someone who’s put in a bit of fore-thought. Ultimately, so that I don’t have to be the one to rain on the parade:

    “Thanks, that’s a really nice invite for coffee, but how wide are your door-frames again? And do you have a step up to you front porch/gate? Is that a downstairs bathroom I see, or just a toilet in a glorified cupboard that I’ll never fit into – even if given 1 million years and infinite grace?.. It isn’t? Sorry, that’s coffee out then…”

    [Cue awkward silence and apologetic looks exchanged on both parts]…

    (Apologies for the late comment – I’ve been having trouble commenting on sites of late, a firewall thing, methinks.)

    Reply

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