Thursday, 22 June 2017

Complacency or the long game?

My local dentist is a five minute walk from my home. I use my mobility scooter when I visit as it's too far to walk and this way, I don't have to worry about parking. This week, I went for a check up and for the first time, there were three ramps in place on arrival. 

The back story: in 2010 I sent my dentist a strongly worded letter explaining their three steps meant access for people using wheels, i.e. me, wasn't good and I made some suggestions. They invested in a portable ramp so I could get in. I would call the dentist when I was approaching and they would come out and put the ramp down. I'd go up to the first platform and wait whilst they put the same ramp on the next step and so on. It was a bit of a palaver but just about worked. It took time but I'm rarely in a rush to climb in to the dentist's chair. This week, to have enough ramps for me to go straight in was the warmest welcome I've had there. My smile was bright before seeing the hygienist.  

I posted a photo of the new ramps in situ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and received numerous likes. There were a number of comments too, ranging from the pun filled 'glad they ramped up their service' to the somewhat missing the point 'nice tiles'. There was one from a colleague who asked 'is it 20 years since it became the law?'

Indeed it is, and it has been seven years since my strongly worded letter. This made me ponder, had I become complacent? I'm a disability consultant for goodness sake. Why didn't I push them further, or consider a case under the access to goods and services provisions of the Equality Act? Alternatively, why hadn't I taken my custom elsewhere and shown them the power of the disabled / purple pound? Should I have contacted some of my activist friends to ask them to hold a demo and embarrass the dentist in to action?

The reality is a combination of make do and mend but also playing the long game. The first ramp in 2010 was the minimum: adequate but legally arguable as less favourable treatment or a lower standard of service. If I'd gone to court I might have won and things changed but it would have been tough and maybe costly. If I'd taken my custom elsewhere, I suspect their single ramp would have gone in a cupboard and nothing would have changed. Instead, I just kept going back, calling them each time I was approaching, reminding them every time they needed another ramp. My continued presence was pressure. The problem was I only went once or twice a year, so they had long stretches of not being reminded.  

Today though, it's in place and it's great! It's not just me either, it will help plenty of other people including the gazillions of parents with buggies where I live. It shouldn't have taken so long. Some people won't wait that long, some can't wait that long. The long game came good this time but it won't always. 

(Scroll down below the pic for more)

It's a long narrow entrance with graduated steps with level platforms in-between. There are three ramps over the black and white tiles. At the bottom of the steps, so on the pavement, the receptionist doing a happy dance.
Above is a photo of the three ramps in place and the receptionist doing a happy dance. 
Finally, below two links to the recent BBC Ouch podcast which I co-host. There's the show I'm calling 'Life' in which we interview the chap who had booked a date with death in Switzerland but because of the kindest of a stranger, he postponed it. Yep, sometimes help is incredibly urgent. Or if you prefer, a quirky, and utterly enjoyable to make, interview with a comedian who is losing his sight so has made a show about it. 
BBC Ouch talk show  - Life
BBC Ouch talk show - Comedy