Friday, July 28
One of this weeks tasks at work was to carry out an access audit of Appleby in Cumbria. The town itself is small and mostly sleepy, awoken only by the arrival of the horse fair every June. What we were trying to do in this survey was find out just how easy it was to get into shops with a wheelchair and also by someone with a visual impairment. I must admit that I went with certain preconceptions that sadly were mostly realised. Anyway, Appleby is an old picturesque town full of listed buildings. We were 4 teams of 2, 1 wheelchair user and one AB. We had a sheet of prepared questions and were also interested in the general layout of the town especially since there had just been a recent improvement scheme.
Sadly the majority of the town was pretty inaccessible for me, I managed to get into only 2 premises. Attitudes were mixed and some businesses clearly didn't want to be of assistance. In the post office I was ignored for over a minute and then they proceeded to talk to my boss who just had to be my 'carer' despite his obvious discomfort.
The day ended on a bad note at one of the local pubs. One of the volunteers who was an electric wheelchair user herself informed us in advance that this pub was totally accessible. This illustrates exactly how its so easy to judge by your own experiences. Its so important to try to empathise with the situation of others. The accessible route took us over a long haul of cobbles. Actually there weren't even cobbles but large fist sized pebbles set in the 19th century equivalent of concrete. Obviously they hadn't been touched since they were laid such was the state of disrepair. So having managed to negotiate this, and MY GOD it was hard work, we had the ramp to get up. This was steep with a large 2 inch lip at the top and was only just wide enough to accommodate my chair, we are talking millimetres here. It was only thanks to my boss who aided and assisted that I was able to flip over it and not fall off the side of the ramp. I have to acknowledge the help and support he has given over the last couple of months. He seems to be someone who has a real sense of the issues and also the only person who makes a point of sitting down when he talks to me or squatting down if we are out. This means he is at my level and I don't get that awful neck pain after 5 minutes of looking up. Where did he learn that I wonder?
So for the last few days I've had what I think must be major RSI in my hands and my ring finger on my right hand is swollen. Perhaps an industrial injury? No wonder I feel a bit glum.