Look at the stairs ....but they mention its accessibility in the video - accessible in other terms.
I went to the Shine 'Un' Conference today (Friday). I had been looking forward to it - it was built as "an event dedicated to connecting, informing and inspiring hundreds of Social Entrepreneurs." It is being held at the OXO building not too far away from Waterloo station.
I signed up for two of the sessions - with Ashoka and a session on branding thinking that I could then wander about and choose other sessions.
I made the mistake of not checking for access with the organisers. I had just assumed that for an event like this it must be accessible. It was, to a certain extent. Ben Metz explained and he was apologetic and took charge of making it as smooth as possible - because the stairlift did not work properly and there was no accessible loo in the building.
They got the building without charge "We’re working within the constraints of an old building, which has been provided for SHINE at no cost." I understood all that and while I appreciated the good stuff that was going on and the good intentions of all that social enterprising and talk of ethical higher ground, I was acutely aware that by having this in an inaccessible building, disabled people were written out of the equation - the acoustics would have made it very difficult for somebody who is hearing impaired too. I supposed I thought maybe so few disabled people are actually engaged in such dialogues - would they have accepted a venue if people of BME community were denied entry?
Maybe we should make compromises? I actually asked for my money back and I did get a refund and I was asked if there were sessions I had wanted to attend-they would have got the people for me to meet me downstairs but I did not really want to be singled out like that. I think some people would have seen this gripe as unfair because they did not mean to be excluded disabled people intentionally and I had gone there to seek allies and network not to battle for my access rights - it feels so churlish. I remember what Bob Guter had said once in his Bent editorial (sept 2004, now lost in the cyberspace ) -
In our desire to be accepted we are far too often quietly grateful for what others choose to bestow on us instead of acting, sometimes noisily, for what we know we need, for our rights. As we grapple individually with each separate disability and accessibility issue we face emotional discomfort and exhaustion. On and on it goes, and far too often it seems easier to go along to get along.
In this 21st century, with all the legislation, we still do have to be battling for our rights. Just this week, Keith Armstrong complained in his local newspaper about a dinner advertised with Michael Palin which had said explicitly that there was no disabled access for wheelchair users. He wrote-
“Sorry” is not a good excuse for denying people equality.
Carlton Primary School might be currently housed in an old Victorian building, however this is no excuse, as people have been using wheelchairs in this country since the 17th century.
There has been over 300 years to resolve this issue of equality.
It is well known that children of primary school age can easily be influenced by the adults around them and especially by their teachers.
Adults holding this event are giving a lesson to these children that it is acceptable to discriminate against disabled people in 2008. A bad lesson for the many disabled people living in the borough and
a bad lesson for humanity.
While social entrepreneurs are agonizing over what is ethical and being community minded, nobody really remarked about the lack of access. I am sure the organisers will try very hard and I was told that access issues would be resolved by a lift next year and I have offered my services to help with access auditing. I just think it is a shame that I did not get the contacts I would/could have made and did not just mingle like everybody else. I was promised free entry next year but by next year I might be well set up in doing something else and might not need to go to such a conference. I might be a conference junkie at times but I do not go to conferences for the hell of it!
Having said all that, here is a very useful powerpoint about blogging - a session by Nick Temple which I really enjoyed and meeting other bloggers. I think it inspired me to write this entry while in reality, I much rather be tucked up in bed!