An unusual request of a passer-by
‘Can I assist?, the stranger said to me as I attempted to take my wheelchair apart at the side of my car and lift it over to me into the passenger seat. Which whilst I do this routine task several times a day on Wednesday it was difficult as there I was on an extreme slope – anyone who has visited Bishop’s Castle will know what I mean – it was difficult because the chair does not sit flat on the roadside it leans against you and your car and you fear the wheel once detached will go under the car. ‘I am ok’ I said ‘I think I know what I am doing’ I then said more in passing I have more of a problem in being hungry and explained to him that due to just rushing out of a meeting going onto another and having realised I had not had my breakfast and had bought out nothing for lunch I was starting to feel the pains of hunger. Anyone else would have been able to simply pop in a shop and buy a sandwich but not me and certainly not in Bishop’s Castle, I would either find myself careering down the road or having to have arms like a weight lifter to get up the hill and even if I could have tackled the incline the shops all had steps and little sign of a doorbell to ask for assistance.
‘You don’t know where I can easily get a sandwich do you I said’ I had not realised he had come out of a shop that he worked in and he instantly said ‘hey I will make you one, what do you like?’ and he did just that, he went into his Deli and came out with a sandwich we exchanged some money from the side of my car and I was on my way – what a great guy, what an unusual reasonable adjustment request perfectly executed. He saved me and my tummy from starvation and had me still smiling up until Friday – in fact Friday I shared the story on BBC Radio Shropshire ‘on their hats off to humanity session’.
I cannot say the whole week went quite so well – a trip to Lichfield District Council on Tuesday reconfirmed the notion that even customer facing staff continue to be unclear of their own organisations policies when it comes to supporting visitors with a disability.
Having arranged to attend a meeting at the council offices with the Employment and Skills team in order to discuss a new project we are currently delivering at Wave-length in working with the local Job Centre to help people with social challenges see self-employment as an option, I triggered an action in the diary to find out about access and particularly parking arrangements for gone are the days I can just jump in the car and drive somewhere without such detailed planning. I rang the general line and got through to reception ‘can you tell me as someone with a blue badge can I park at the council offices?’ the woman on the phone said ‘no we have limited parking and it is all for staff, you might however want to check if the person hosting the meeting might be able to arrange for you to use the staff parking or failing this you will have to use the bus station car park nearby and cross over to us’. So then rang the person I was meeting and asked if he had arranged for somewhere for me to park ‘did not know I could do that’ he said ‘I will come back to you’, a few minutes later he rang for my car registration and said he would send me over a pass to use the staff car park. Great, sorted and settled back into my work he then rang again and asked if I had a blue badge?, yes, ‘oh then you can just park in the staff car park without a pass just tell the guy on the gate!’
I don’t blame the man I was meeting for the time lost through several phone calls, he may not meet many wheelchair users. It was the receptionist who seemed not to know the arrangements for blue badge parking on the councils own site which then led to several phone calls and the time of two people. I just wonder if staff training or induction stretches to meet the needs of visitors with disabilities and how to confidently manage an enquiry.
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