As someone who doesn’t drive, partly because I don’t actually have a licence, & partly because of the extortionate cost of buying & maintaining an accessible vehicle, my commuting options are limited. The options are narrowed down further by my aversion to public transport and taxis; I’ve had so many accessibility issues that I just cannot count on public transport to get me to & from work. That leaves me with one viable option; being a pedestrian. Unfortunately, even as a pedestrian, I don’t escape accessibility issues.
As a pedestrian the commute usually takes me approximately twenty minutes each way, & is a useful space for separating work from home. For the most part, it seems to be less stressful than negotiating with the inner-city traffic jams as a driver, & on nice days it can even be quite pleasant. However, it can also be equally unpleasant.
There is a pay-and-display car park on a road close to home that frequently causes me problems. The barriers that stop people from entering the car park until they have paid causes long queues to spill out onto the road, & impatient drivers never think about leaving enough space for a wheelchair user to cross the road at the only set of ramps. This can mean several minutes are spent waiting for someone to demonstrate some awareness of their surroundings, which is something many drivers worryingly seem to lack. On good days, this can make me late into the office. On bad days, I arrive at the office late & soaked to the skin with rain.
The car park entrance is made worse when people realise that they can’t pay, so reverse out, often without looking to see if someone is trying to cross. Better yet is when they park over the ramp, turn on their hazard lights, & start playing with their phone. At this point I’m forced to knock sharply on their window & tell them that they need to demonstrate some basic common sense, at which point I’m usually told that I’m rude and impatient. Can’t I just wait? Do I really have to be so rude?
What these drivers don’t see is the set of roadworks blocking the pavement, without ramps or a way around, that I might have to wrestle with a few minutes later. They also don’t see the other drivers parking over crossings or pulling through traffic-lit junctions to get to their destination a few seconds faster, meaning that I can’t cross. They don’t see those parked on pavements that obstruct my path. Nor do they see the drivers going in and out of the car park by work who block the ramps for me to cross the road then wave me across, getting increasingly annoyed when I won’t venture out onto the road with no safe way of getting off said road.
Chances are that if you’re a driver who can’t follow the law or the rules of the road, I’ve not gushed with politeness when asking you to consider the existence of other human beings. The reason I am rude is because I will have dealt with a similar incident just around the corner, with another driver who also couldn’t comprehend my impatience because surely it was just them (not that they should be doing it anyway).
It’s even been suggested to me that it is my responsibility to set off for work earlier to account for someone else’s irresponsibility. This presumes that I don’t already leave myself with plenty of time for this specific purpose as it is, as well as once again placing the entire burden of accessibility on one person, rather than making a collective effort to improve things for everyone.
The truth of the matter is that if you’re making it difficult for a wheelchair user, you’re making it difficult for other disabled people, prams, pushchairs, bikes, pregnant people, & even dog-walkers. By recognising that you’re a part of the problem, & that a small effort on your part could help resolve the issue, you could end up helping far more people than you imagined. All you have to do is recognise that what looks like one small instance for you, is actually a long chain of repeating myself over and over again to people who are just like you.
It is never just you.