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This Is What Poor Access Means To Me

Normally, this blog takes a very optimistic view on access. I try to portray a “by hook or by crook, I WILL get in there” attitude but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. On a regular night out, if stairs are a problem, my friends and I take the Cleopatra option, which involves 2 or 3 lads lifting me up, or we simply go on to another venue.

Over the weekend, it was a mate of mine’s 30th. He had the upstairs of Solas on Wexford Street booked and it was packed with mates and had the promise to be a bit of a wild one. Two of the guys were ready to lift me up when the bouncers intervened and said they strictly had a no wheelchair policy upstairs. We explained that we’ve done this many times before and it would be fine. No. We bartered. One friend offered the option of just carrying me up and leaving the chair downstairs. No. If there was an “incident” that night, I would be at risk. The incident perhaps being a fire. Another friend said if there was to be a fire, all the drunk people upstairs wouldn’t be too great at getting themselves down either. No.

This went on for a while but the bottom line was a big, fat no. My friends couldn’t leave so I just went home. This is what poor access means to me. I miss out on important nights.

I missed out on a friend’s 30th because a bouncer wouldn’t let me go upstairs. My wheelchair was a hazard. The drunk people weren’t a hazard. The stoned people weren’t a hazard. The girls in heels too high weren’t a hazard and neither was the guy whose shoelaces were undone. I was the hazard.

Initially, I was fine with the outcome. This happens all the time, I reassured my mates, and it’s grand. It’s just something that happens. The next day, as I mulled it over, I came to the conclusion that I am going to be missing out on so many more 30ths, engagements, surprise parties, EP launches, friends playing obscure DJ sets, weddings, going away parties, retirement parties and parties just for the sake of a party parties.

My mind then went to darker places thinking of all the events maybe I haven’t been invited to for that very same reason. Along with that comes the stunning paranoia where I then start to think ‘maybe it’s me and not the chair’. Ah, paranoia. One of the biggest downsides to having a disability. You can’t shake that feeling for all of the 10/10 Legless ratings in the world.

My friends are steely when it comes to getting me in places where I shouldn’t be but we can’t always argue with the bottom line. Sure, some people will probably suggest that if they’re real friends, they would book an accessible venue. Well, you can’t ask that of anyone. Firstly, you try book an accessible venue that suits the many weird and wonderful interests all of my friends have that is also within our budget. But secondly, not every single person that is in your life is a “real” friend. I cannot expect friends of friends or people that I just sort of know to always think of access. Some friends are just casual friends or people I talk shite to at festivals and I cannot throw that expectation on them to cater for my own needs. In this wonderful non-committal age of ours, I may not even show up to an event that I say I would and then it will all be for nothing.

My bottom line here is that because of a building’s poor access or their bouncers policies, I am either missing out an important celebration of someone’s life  or I am testing the loyalty of people to a point where it shouldn’t be tested.

This isn’t a piece about forcing all building to be accessible and it isn’t a piece telling the people I know to always think about access. This is a piece that simply highlights the daily inconvenience being in a wheelchair brings. It’s crap. No one should have to face this sort of thing but it happens.

About the author

Louise Bruton

Reviewing Dublin, step by step, in terms of wheelchair accessibility. Freelance journalist and pop culture enthusiast.

4 Comments

  • 🙁

    The access isn’t the issue – you could get around it on this occasion (you shouldn’t have to but you did).

    But it’s the “stupid attitude/ideas” – if you had been on your crutches (pre wheelchair) you would not have been stopped.

    So wrong and stupid.

  • Olan McGowan spoke out on RTE’s Mooney Show in recent weeks about difficulties socialising due to limited access for wheelchair users. It might be worth contacting the show.

    If you are patient and persistent, you could make a formal complaint via the Equality Tribunal, and see where that goes.

  • Hi Louise, I only found your blog today.

    My wife is a wheelchair-user, too. We’re well-versed in Dublin’s utter lack of accessbility (and we have 3 kids under the age of 2, so you can imagine our family outings!).

    We also totally get that you can’t always expect friends to keep the chair in mind when making social arrangements. It’s always a wonderful feeling when someone asks us if Jen, my wife, can get into a venue, but it’s not expected. This is our thing to deal with, not theirs.

    Anyway, just wanted to say I’ll be following your blog with interest. 🙂

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