As a disabled parent I have perhaps a different perspective to some others. Even as I write that I get a sick feeling in my stomach and think hang on that’s wrong, that’s not true, surely as a society we all have a collective responsibility to change, want change, implement change and to campaign for change? I know many of my friends who know me and read this share this view of society and perhaps therefore I am preaching to the converted or the wrong crowd but I just need to get something of my chest.
I am on social media part of the dad network, network and in a dad’s forum this week a dad shared a newspaper article about a family who are suing a theme park over the lack of provision of a changing places toilet. This is a toilet that goes beyond the basic level of the antiquated disabled toilet design. It is one that is more accepting that disabled access goes beyond the notion of needing a slightly larger space for a ♿. Disability comes in all shapes, sizes and abilities and whilst our home bathrooms will always be unique to us and our needs there is a best design to be as inclusive as possible. The person posting said he was conflicted about this action, had empathy for the child but at the high cost put in the newspaper article regarding the cost of installing a changing places facility surely it was too much for this family to ask for them to pay to install one.
I get that some people are conflicted and this usually comes from a lack of awareness or understanding. What is therefore reasonable action, me, I read as much as I can before deciding, in this scenario both sides of the argument would be a good starting point not just the bbc report as let’s face it the headline using the word “sues” is in itself misleading. 99.9% of the time when a disabled person sues a business under the equality act 2010 it is not for financial purposes but to change the world for the better, to provide better facilities, service, or training as recently in the case of bus spaces highlighted by Doug Paulley.
Sadly though because of the emotive language used instead of a group of people supporting parents and children (kind of what I expected of the dad network) there were lots of people saying things such as “it’s not a child suing its a mum trying to make money” and “the world doesn’t evolve around you get real”. Worse still were the ones saying what’s he doing at a theme park if he can’t use a standard disabled toilet how can he go on the rides! Then there was the ones saying this small family run company can’t afford 40K to install one (a highly inflated cost) and that the mum will ‘s playing with people’s lives as jobs will be hit (according to the business). As a disabled campaigner I have heard many, many excuses from big businesses and I know the reality is never as one newspaper article portrays it.
I tried as a disabled parent to enlighten them. I tried explaining that the way the equality act is written that you have to sue for discrimination and that sadly there isn’t an unbiased agency that can act as an intermediary and that after exploring all options there is a point when you have to take action. That this isn’t done lightly and is usually at the cost of the disabled person as legal aid is all but a thing of the past. Sadly for many of the people commenting what I was saying fell on deaf ears, it is important to say there was 5 people who openly supported me and what I was saying but 5 out of thousands shows what we’re up against. They didn’t seem to believe what I was trying to say and I was saddened and sickened. I wondered if it was because it was a mum, not a dad in the articles and being the dad network did this influence comments, but perhaps that was me grasping at straws. I’d rather believe they were anti-mum than anti-disabled. I was sickened as I know how hard a day out is to organise. I was sickened as I know how lonely I have felt at times unable to do the things others take for granted and I was saddened. I was saddened that despite the feelings of sorry that the boy was disabled there was an air of tough luck about the majority. Firstly I and all disabled people I know don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, this is me, and I am happy being me, I don’t want your pity or sorrow, and secondly all we want is for the world to be inclusive and this is much easier to achieve than many businesses want you to believe.
Above all this though I was saddened that the people commenting are DADS or EXPECTANT DADS, and that means they are going to be influencing a whole new generation of people to have the same ignorance and views of ablist living and this shouldn’t be the case. My 5 year old LG has more empathy and understanding of the situation and despite the comments of what next little cafes closing as they don’t have a toilet big enough she too understands what is and isn’t reasonable, she can see at a glance what can be done, what is good parking, what makes going out with daddy possible and also what makes it impossible.
So in the vain hope that just one or two people who were unsure of what is reasonable can have their minds changed I hope they have read this blog and also the blog below that details all the steps the family took before filing at court. It isn’t a decision any parent takes lightly and really we shouldn’t have to, unfortunately though the world is full of people who through inaction become part of the problem.
Honestly dads we need to stand together and support everyone simple as.
So if you want more information (and I haven’t bored you) have a read of the mothers blog as to why they got to where they are, what they tried to do first etc etc Society needs to learn how to be more inclusive and I thought as parents we had a major part to play in that.