I was born with a rare neuromuscular condition, impacting the joints and muscles in my arms and legs, limiting my range of movement and subsequently requiring me to use a powered wheelchair for mobility. Accessibility has been a fundamental part of my routine every single day.
Navigating my daily activities has never been as simple as just getting up and going. Planning for accessibility – in a society which is frequently inaccessible – involves calculations, schedules, phone calls, emails, equipment, questions, problem-solving and creative thinking. Great skills to have on a résumé.
This planning often starts before I leave my house, or even days beforehand.
Come with me on a night out in town. I’m going to check out the Adelaide Fringe Festival, and see a show with my friends. The show starts at 8:20pm. Do I have enough spare money to pay for a taxi, or do I want to save by catching a bus? Bus. When is the next bus coming? Is it going to be accessible? The app on my phone says no. Taxi it is.
I meet my friends, and we enter the festival site. The crowd is huge, and moving in every possible direction. It’s difficult to see where the path is, so I can stay on a flat surface for my wheelchair. We find the box office, and line up for tickets. There’s a step up to the counter. My friends speak to the staff behind the desk for me. I yell responses to questions from a few metres away when required. We have our tickets. It’s 8:10pm. We move towards the venue for the show and go to the front of the line to talk to the staff about wheelchair access. They lead us to the accessible entrance and to our seats.
A sigh of relief – I have approximately an hour to enjoy the show and not think about access. The show is fantastic. Applause. We stay seated, waiting for everyone else in the venue to exit before we can. Outside, we look for somewhere to sit and have a drink and something to eat. The lighting is dim, and the ground uneven and grassy. We make conversation, but I’m distracted as I focus on where I’m driving, making sure not to run into holes in the ground, or tree roots, power cords across the walkway, cracks in the pavement, small children running around, etc., etc. We have seats. Time for a drink! The bar is cute – a funky mobile van, high up off the ground. Steps to get up to order. My friends order for me. Same with food. I need to go to the toilet. We find the accessible portable toilet. An able-bodied girl is lining up outside it. “Can I quickly go first? I really need to go,” she says. I oblige. I wait. My turn. Small bathroom, but it doesn’t matter, at least there is one, right?