Mar. 5th, 2017

hollymath: (Default)
I've seen this on my social media a few times in the last day or so, and it reminded me of an entry I wrote but never posted a few weeks ago, on the day I discovered these signs on those toilets. Here it is:
New pinnacle of helpiness today -- helpiness being where it's more important to someone that they feel they're being helpful to a disabled person than that the disabled person is actually helped.

Not just disabled people, I'm sure, but that's how I'm most used to encountering it.

Today's episode came when I was in the Arndale and headed for the toilets.

These ones are down a hallway where first you have doors to babychange rooms, then a smaller hallway heading off to the ladies', then doors to two accessible toilets, then gents' at the end of the corridor.

Sometimes I feel like a total fraud having a key for disabled toilets, but the Arndale toilets are the kind that made me want it in the first place. They're so badly designed: it always seems to be chaos in the ladies', with people crowding each other going to and from the cubicles, a trough with faucets placed at intervals along it rather than proper sinks, and the most invisible hand dryers I've ever seen: smooth white boxes on the background of a white wall, with only a tiny light that's red until it's in use when it turns green (or maybe the other way around, or some other color, but you get the point).

Regular toilets in modern buildings often suffer, as the buildings themselves to, from Design. If it's won an award, you know it'll be a nightmare for accessibility. Because people think accessibility begins and ends with a ramp for the wheelchairs, and while step-free access is important there's a lot more to consider: I've got no mobility impairments but that ladies' room would only be properly accessible to me if it were empty of humans (or, as one of my blindie steering group members calls them, "obstacles").

All this is to say that I was heading for the accessible loo. (Which, I noticed, had on its sign "not all disabilities are visible", Yay.) And as I was walking towards it, going just past the turnoff to the ladies', a man who was standing there said "here, here!" and made some kind of gesture I didn't catch. I thought he was talking to someone he was with. All I knew was that he was in my way, so I had to shuffle around him as I was fishing out my key for the door.

And it was only as I did that that I realized he'd been trying to direct me to the ladies' loos. He was standing in my way trying to direct me to where he thought I should be going.
Of course the problem I have here is sort of the opposite of the problem invisibly-disabled people have: when I'm carrying my cane, as I was then, people know I'm disabled. They just don't think of it as a disability that's relevant to an accessible toilet, I guess. But for me, having a bit of calm and knowing where everything is -- the sinks and hand-drying equipment here are not Designed. The light is often dimmer (since regular public bathrooms can be really harshly lit) but that also means it glares less.

Plus, the other blind people I know mostly seem to have keys, so it's an understood thing among us even if this knowledge hasn't trickled out to the rest of the world yet.


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