Friday, 14 November 2014

Empowering or Humiliating?

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m normally a happy, placid and contented person. It takes a lot to ruffle my feathers!

But over the last couple of days I have managed to get my feathers ruffled…. a lot. 

And what has caused this amazing ruffling of feathers?

A holiday booking. (And if you read on... a worship event too)
Someone kindly gives us a gift to cover the cost of a holiday, and we really appreciate it. So we make sure we get the most out of it…. as you do. We were also happy that we were able to book almost a year in advance - giving us a better choice of the more accessible accommodation.

We had checked on accessibility whilst on our last holiday, having found somewhere that fitted the bill perfectly.

Then the battle began to get the travel company to confirm we could have a ground floor room. Apparently they couldn’t confirm before our arrival that I could have one of many ground floor rooms, despite the fact I told them I was a wheelchair user. They blamed the hotel, so I emailed the hotel direct, and they said “Of course you can have a ground floor room!!”

There followed a to and fro of emails with the travel company - if you follow me on Facebook, you will have seen the updates on the progress of my complaint.

I had also raised a few other issues that concerned me…. they didn’t bother answering those at all.

Begging for what you need is humiliating - I didn’t appreciate it.

All this came after a whole catalogue of access issues - here’s just a few of them:

There were conferences I wanted to go to but couldn’t because either the building was inaccessible or the route to it inaccessible (Financially inaccessible due to the need for a taxi - why do all conferences have to be in London?). Apparently Christian leaders don’t have extra access requirements

A major note taking app’s support team refusing to talk simple font accessibility, despite repeated requests from thousands of people. (Now swapped to another one who have recently updated their accessibility - Thankyou OneNote!)

Struggling with web sites who just don’t do accessibility and don’t see the point in it, thus meaning it takes twice as long to get info or read articles (Excessive use of Java/instant video freezes my screen reading/clipping service)

As I said before - begging is humiliating.

Out there in the real world are millions of people, adults and children, who have to go through the de-humanising act of having to beg for basic access to their world. Even in their daily living. Even in church, and for me - even in trying to attend useful conferences.

At least I know what to ask for and how. Many others don’t. 

At least I have a myriad of friends and supporters who walk with me through some of these issues and cheer me on from the sidelines.

My own organisation, and the other main organisations I work with are brilliant in making sure I can access what I need: the staff at head office provide me with accessible format notes for meetings, other organisations do the same, and pay for taxis to London based meetings as well as seeking out accessible venues to accommodate me…. even if it is only me that needs it. 

I don’t feel humiliated with them…. I feel empowered.

I tend to write, and then ‘sit’ on my posts for a while, and then make sure I want to post what I have written.

During the time I was letting this post settle I got my feathers ruffled even more!

I went to a Rend Collective concert in Derby. It was fantastic!

The ‘Big Church Night In’ people had organised it really well, and the accessibility was great. Those with wheelchairs and those who needed to sit where given a taped off area at the front so we could see and not get squished……well… that was the plan.

I was ok, just. But many in the wheelchair area were left staring at the bottoms of able bodied people who decided there was some space in the accessible area for them to stand and see….in FRONT of those seated. Many were backed into, knocked and jarred. The people were standing there, worshiping with their hands in the air with absolutely no regard to those disabled people who couldn’t see sitting behind them.

Let me tell you how these accessible areas work for most, by explaining how helpful I find them.

When people knock my chair it’s painful. Any jarring motion sets off spasms, so I really appreciate having a space where no one is going to lurch into me. I can position myself so I can move my legs around if any random spasms hit. These areas mean I am close enough to see and not worry about trying to see around the crowd.

The empty spaces in these areas are there for a purpose - they are not there for able bodied people to utilise as a dance floor.
At the sides of these areas many youngsters had gathered, and were edging onto the front near the stage, and were moving in front of some of the older people seated there. They didn’t notice they were in the way, and the adults with them couldn’t see the problem either. But they were all worshipping heartily - blocking the view of lyrics on the screen for those who needed to be seated

Most folk who accompany disabled relatives and friends in these areas know not to stand…they realise it will be a problem to those behind.

You may be asking why we didn’t ask them to move…. well… we did! Many times. Those behind me didn’t and I could tell why. It was what I said earlier in this blog: It’s humiliating having to beg. It’s even more humiliating when you’re having to beg your fellow Christians to think more (and have basic manners).

When a Christian appears to think their worship is more important than their fellow Christian, who happens to be disabled, there is something very wrong.

It’s not exactly empowering.

Here’s a couple of questions for you… does your church empower those with additional needs and disabilities - Children and Adults? Could it do more to empower them?


  1. I like your lovely clear font - I wish more blogs and websites used it. I am not visually impaired myself, but I work with people who are and they would love your site, as would some of my students who find reading tricky. I'm sorry that you have had a difficult time with these events. My husband and I have been discussing just tonight that so many people don't mean or set out to be a pain in the backside, it's just that they are living in their own little world bubble. We are off to see Rend on Saturday and I will try very hard indeed to make sure that my hulking great teenagers do not stand in front of those seated - I think my friend Julie might just give them a poke in the bum with her walking stick if they did and quite right too. Sometimes we all need a reminder to get out of our bubbles and see everyone around us for a change. Here's to some bubble popping. x

  2. I wish I had been there. I can't say more publicly, but those able-bodied ones would not have got off so lightly. I'm a quiet sort of chap, but my anger (righteous anger, of course) would have been expressed. Ooh, I've got a bit of a fume on. Breathe in. Breathe out.
    Maybe a b
    Joke my size standing in front of them for a few moments could have illustrated to them the error of their ways. I really would have loved to try it.
    Anyway, Kay, I apologise on their behalf. No that doesn't help. I hope some of those concerned see your post and THINK! Grrrrrrr

  3. Bloke, not b Joke. Sorry, I really should have checked it


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