Disabled Access Day 2017

I was 13 years old. One Friday summers evening I fell out of bed just as I was falling to sleep. Because of my condition, my bones are weak and can break easily. So I ended up breaking numerous bones. It was majorly traumatic and something I still remember. However the next week was my Dad’s 40th birthday and we’d planned to go to London to see a show and the usual tourist sites. I was determined to still go so I topped up with painkillers and went to Doncaster train station with my family.

For one part of the trip we planned to go to Madam Tussauds and I was so excited because I had never been and I really wanted to see what the wax works looked like in real life. However, imagine it – I had one broken leg and other injuries. I was low down in a manual wheelchair being pushed along the dark corridors.

If you haven’t been to Madam Tussauds I can only describe it as a place that is crowded and full of tourists with huge rucksacks pushing to get close to each wax work. With a broken leg and in general pain I was constantly ducking out of people’s way when they swung their bags turning to get that photograph posing with a celebrity. I was so concerned that people would accidentally hit me that I couldn’t enjoy the experience and even look up at the wax works.

To summarise after a very stressful and tiring experience I ended up having a panic attack and leaving half an hour after we’d entered. My dad’s typical Northern summary “well that was money well spent” oops sorry dad! It was safe to say I never wanted to go there again.

HOWEVER, 10 years later a friend asked me if I wanted to go to Madam Tussauds when I went to London recently to catch up. At first I was filled with dread and my past experience came flashing back. However I looked on the website at the access page and there is so much more information now. I found out I could bring someone for free with me to assist round and there was a maximum of three wheelchair users at one time so staff could help guide everyone round safely.

The actual layout was the same and just as physically accessible but the staff were so much more disability aware. They made way in the crowds for me so I didn’t have to shout my way through. They warned me of any bumps coming up on the floor and genuinely wanted to make my experience the best it could be. I have to say this time around was so much better.

This just shows how an experience can determine whether you visit a venue or not. Accessibility for me is being confident getting around. Knowing how to get somewhere and having a Plan A, B, C and so on. I know that a lot of places are not fully accessible. But actually complying to standards is only one (basic) part of access. Having staff around venues to help if you are stuck is so helpful and can really change your experience for the better.

That’s why Disabled Access Day (10th – 12th March) is so important to me and many other disabled people. Accessibility yes, for my personal needs is about physically being able to get around, but it’s also about enjoying my time like everyone else.

So if you’re a disabled person like me and nervous to go to new places because you’re not sure if it’s do-able, this is the perfect opportunity to look online at Disabled Access Day where there is loads of suggestions of where to go across the UK with access information. Find out more on their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DisabledAccessDay/

I would suggest to anyone to find out how you can get involved too. Can you provide access information at your venue? Do you provide BSL interpreters, discounts for personal assistants or provide alternative accessible screenings?

Any information venues can provide to inform disabled people will know doubt encourage more people to attend. In fact, once I know somewhere is accessible and I enjoy the experience it is very likely I become a regular visitor.

I’m so glad I did my research and went back to Madam Tussauds I had a great day and even got to pose with some celebs!

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