I want to talk about accessibility in public spaces.
Think of this, that moment when my favorite restaurant reopens in a new location and I am super excited. Then I get there and look at the seating and are already starting to dread the seating process. Walking past all those booths knowing how small they are knowing I can’t fit in them. Bemoaning the fact of even having to try because of the people I am having lunch with. I try anyway to sit in said booth, they don’t work. I get to be fucking embarrassed and hate myself and frankly not even want to eat because fat people aren’t allowed to eat. The waitress alone is staring enough that I want to leave.
We go to a table instead, the one table that was accessible, since for some reason all the not booth seating is up some fucking stairs. Great. We sit at the table, those chairs are always so fucking crap. I am wishing I had brought my walker with me since I know it won’t randomly collapse on me at any moment. I am wishing I wasn’t here even more now. We sit we eat, I go back once, all the accessible seating aka the one table, is taken. I never went back and still haven’t to this day.
Existing as a disabled person on it’s own is a nightmare with accessibility, especially in public places. Existing as a fat disabled person, is a fucking turbo nightmare where everyone is also staring at you very obviously and sometimes sadly unsubtle. Even though you know they think they are gawking subtly which they aren’t. I see you, I see you every single time. As a person with PTSD and anxiety I am hyper aware of my surroundings at all times and I am constantly watching and I see you, I hear you, and it hurts.
Small local shops can be and are usually in my experience the worst when it comes to accessibility. Especially since I live in a small town. I definitely want to support local businesses, especially the local bookstore, the local comic shop, I want them to stay open and thrive. However when your space isn’t accessible I physically can not go to your establishment. Or when I do try I am not there very long and probably buy my one thing as quick as possible. When I can’t use my walker in your store that is a problem and relegates me to only going on much better pain days. Even if it’s a good pain day and I am just using my cane, I still take up a lot more space than other people. Not just because of being fat but needing space to use my cane which is on the side of me. Bumping into things, having stuff on the floor that my cane catches on makes me not want to come back.
I understand that I am the minority in this, but it still hurts. It really fucking hurts when I have lived in the same town my whole life, these are the shops I grew up with, the shops I love and want to support. However I just physically can’t most of the time, not anymore at least. Maybe if you had a bigger space and spent more money on room to spread things out and make them accessible then disabled people could shop there and you would make more money. Only this is reality and not how that works. Especially when many disabled people myself in particular are on a fixed income or are barely scraping buy as is. I know I can’t make up that deficit, so I just shop online. Anything I want delivered right to me, no fuss with walking, bumping into things, possibly hurting myself. No worries about anyone gawking at me making faces, saying derogatory things to me or about me.
Even in a big chain store up here like Barnes & Noble which has a very nice large store and is almost always fully accessible. Certain times of the year they cram so much stuff into that store I can’t even get around with my walker. So I either prepare in advance like around the end of the year and those holidays I remember to not bother. Sometimes I find out when I get to the store, and I just turn around and leave. Which is really fucking frustrating when you don’t leave the house much. When I do leave and then don’t actually get to do the things I want to it hurts. These are things that will help me feel better, give me a small bit of happiness, or even can make me feel accomplished. It sucks, it feels really bad and can even add to my feelings of worthlessness for “never doing anything”.
If you aren’t disabled, look around next time you are someplace, a store, a coffee shop, wherever. Think about accessibility, in public spaces, in the spaces around you. Think and look and critique. Listen to disabled people when we talk about this stuff. About how inaccessible places can be in public. ADA or not there are loopholes for businesses and establishments, and there are a lot of us who wouldn’t even know how to file a complaint and would probably not have the spoons too anyway.
Extra side tangent about other people in public spaces.
Other people can really be the worst part about being disabled. Oh and the worst part about being fat. When I am trying to get by and say excuse me and you look at my like I am a hydracorngaroo, well okay, I will just always take the long way everywhere since people can’t be bothered to let me by. The amount of times I am very obviously using an assistive device and people just run into me, my walker or are walking close enough to me they kick my cane, I could get seriously injured. People couldn’t care less, because they are doing a thing, they are probably in a hurry, and who cares just some fat disabled person. You know what I am are probably faking anyway cause fat people are just lazy. (Intense sarcasm note here just in case)
“Excuse me, I am sorry. Is my mere existence such a fucking affront to you?”
That is what I want to say to people, to stand up for myself. Instead I hopefully am not hurt and just leave and go back into my car where I can cry and or rage (possibly both) in peace. I just wish people would give things a tiny bit more thought, just for like 15 seconds think about what you are doing. I wouldn’t run shoulder first into anyone ever, frankly I am wondering why are you that close to me?! Knocking over people and running into people in general is shit. However doing this to a disabled person, could literally mean a trip to the hospital or a week of intense pain for me.
Like when one winter someone rammed their cart into me while I was walking to my car and I did fall, and I was so messed up for a week after. Their apologies meant nothing, their intentions meant nothing. I was in extra pain for over a week, I didn’t get to go to Therapy that week because I couldn’t walk even around my house let alone drive anywhere.
Think, look, be aware, take a few seconds and just look around and freaking be careful around people. So many people with invisible disabilities who don’t even use assistive devices can get hurt. So like just stop and look and pay the fuck attention when you are in public, please.