The Onion of Accommodation

Accessibility is both fractal and contradictory, and that’s what’s been giving me a metaphorical headache atop my literal migraine lately.

Writing in short paragraphs (or bulletpoints) and using single-clause sentences increases accessibility for people with any kind of cognitive issues.

Writing in concise formats and keeping the thought processes linear is also often difficult for people with some cognitive issues.

Replacing short flights of stairs with long, shallow ramps improves accessibility for electric wheelchair users.

It also makes it harder for people on crutches, since they’ll have to walk much further, instead of the comparatively short stair ascent.

Having the lights and volume turned down low helps people with migraines and sensory processing problems not get overwhelmed by information.

It also makes it harder for partially-Deaf or visually-impaired people to take part.

Using a constantly-turning euphemism treadmill allows people to not have to be faced with upsetting language in their activism.

But it also excludes anyone who doesn’t have the cognitive ability to keep up, and often results in people being branded as bigots when their intent is good, but their terminology is old-fashioned.

My local pool is fantastic – But it has no meaningful failities for disabled people. The disabled changing room isn’t accessible from the poolside (You have to walk, in swimming kit, through a freezing-cold corridor and push and pull open at least two heavy doors), and doesn’t have a locker. The ramp is steeper than 1:12, and there’s no disabled parking.

Against this, though, it has a pool hoist, and every single member of staff is willing to help and keeps in-mind the disabilities of the regulars.

Are they a dreadful institution that should be boycotted until they install a non-dangerous changing room for disabled people (and preferably a sauna), or are they doing their best with limited facilities, and thus should be patronised by disabled people so that they can justify to the council that they need funding to improve?

Reminding the public that disabilities are often painful, life-limiting and distressing gets across that we’re not just lazy scroungers, but conversely it makes the general public less likely to rely on disabled people as employees, partners or friends.

Reminding the public that a life with disability isn’t automatically a miserable tragedy boosts morale in disabled people, but also leads to “inspiration porn” and the idea that it can’t be all that bad to be disabled if disabled people are actors and pilots and successful novelists.

Balance is probably key, as ever.


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