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To be upset by this disabled mans behaviour?

143 replies

Greeeeenjuice · 07/07/2017 10:25

I work in a shop which is in a reasonably historic town, most shops are about 100 years old. We have a few steps leading up to our shop, there is no ground floor access

We have a glass front, and just now I heard a huge bang; almost hard enough to crack the glass. I went outside to find a man in a wheelchair, no bother, usually we have a chat outside and I go in to fetch their products. I am polite and help as much as I can.

But today all this man wanted to do was shout at me in front of loads of people about how we didn't provide for disabled people. I was really shocked. It isn't even my shop. Turned out he only wanted to check for a bit of lost property which we didn't have.

He then sped away and left me on the side of the road with a crowd of people watching. I think some of them think I'd been horrible to him.

AIBU to think this is not appropriate? A colleague thinks I am- that he had a right to be annoyed. Confused

OP posts:
regrouted · 07/07/2017 19:44

Andrewofgg, The Equality Act states a duty to make reasonable adjustment in order for a disabled person to access/use that service. It's a fallacy to make out that the problems in access are because disabled people are making ridiculous requests to local proprietors to bankrupt themselves by retrofitting some sort of willy wonka style lift into a basement restaurant.

The everyday access issues that a wheelchair user faces are usually due to lack of thought or stylistic and design decisions rather than convoluted problems regarding historic property and listed status. These design decisions like exclusive bar seating in restaurants or shelving in the way of thresholds stop a wheelchair using that service because the proprietor made those choices. Where reasonable adjustment can be made, like a temporary ramp that can be put up (yes in line with council regs and the correct degree of incline et al), it's up to the disabled person to challenge and request it. Yet, have a look at any London high street and you will see shops that would be accessible by even a threshold ramp, but yet they're not there. There will have been disabled people that have spoken to the owner about it, that have mentioned the Equality Act and reasonable adjustment - yet to enforce the Act you need to go through the courts.

So this legislation (although problematic to enforce and on the onus of the disabled person) exists but yet why is access and inclusivity still appalling? Because people don't actually give a shit - ack well it's only that one wheelchair user that goes by on a Tuesday that can't get a coffee from us, never mind.

C8H10N4O2 · 07/07/2017 20:00

Music Are you not contradicting yourself and proving exactly what my comment meant

No it isn't a contradiction both can be true in different buildings, listed or not. Some cannot be adapted for full accessibility. I've yet to see one which has no scope for improvement for some accessibility.

Its also a convenient myth that Grade 1 cannot be adapted. Or do the Grade 1s you have also have no toilets, plumbing, electricity or heating? Many can be made accessible and of course, the OP said nothing about her shop being listed either.

We have Grade 1s locally which have bus style lifts at the entrance because the steps are too steep for a ramp. Putting a bell by the door and directions to a more level entrance are also possible. Cluttered insides (cluttered with modern additions) are also avoided with a little thought and imagination.

A small percentage of buildings can't be made fully wheelchair accessible but that doesn't excuse the many which can, or failing to make other adaptations which improve overall accessibility.

C8H10N4O2 · 07/07/2017 20:07


This. And of course the people who have to enforce the law are often the very people least well placed to take court action.

It isn't acceptable in 2017 to tell black/gay/female people that 'its just not realistic' for them to do X or Y because of what they are (not saying it doesn't happen but at least its officially unacceptable which is some progress). The disabled are told this all the time when mostly it takes precious little adjustment or even just basic recognition.

MusicForTheJiltedGeneration · 07/07/2017 20:10


I didn't specify which buildings (as I'm not an expert in which ones can and can't be adapted) I said it was down to the local council, which is true.

Clearly my point has been lost in the fog so I'll bow out now.

Andrewofgg · 07/07/2017 20:47

regrouted The restaurateur I mentioned had come under pressure from the local authority (they had threatened his licence) and had had to explain that it wasn'this damned building to change even if it were physically possible. The pressure had not come from a disabled person unless that person had complained to the LA

And as for the shelving which blocks access: do you not see that some retailers would not be in business, would not be serving anyone, if they could not use every square inch of the premises? And it's their call whether they need a central display or not. It's those retailers who stands to lose their businesses and every penny invested in them if they get it wrong.

to enforce the Act you need to go through the courts. Indeed. What alternative had you in mind? If you think somebody is refusing you your lawful rights and that somebody, on being approached, thinks not - isn't that what courts are for?

AwaywiththePixies27 · 07/07/2017 21:54

No Music I'm not contradicting myself. It's called seeing it from BOTH sides hence my use if the word some in my first paragraph. Hmm

The second part is me being factual. In some places it simply is not possible. Ergo people with disabilities are going to get frustrated and take it out on the wrong people when it's the umpteenth obstruction they've come across that day.

Trying to start a game of 'who has it worse' and 'if you had walked a mile in my shoes' won't solve anything at all

Well working on the assumption that the shop assistant doesn't have any additional needs, still the person with disabilities who can't access what he/she wants.
I get shit thrown at me from both sides. Despite me being this unwell at the moment. I still got evils thrown at me from people on the bus for daring to sit on the priority seat with my friend - I'd been on a nebuliser in the doctors half an hour before and she'd come to take me home. (I dont drive and her hubby was at work). Next bus home. A man using a walking stick quilted me into moving for him.
. I was meant to be meeting friends this morning. I managed to get as far as my garden gate before I gave up, sobbed and came back in. I couldn't move an inch further. After all of this, if I had tried to access a shop and found I couldn't, I too would have probably unreasonably have lost my shit too.

Whilst I'm not saying he had the right to lose his cool, I'd give him a bit of leeway as ti why your shop was one of several scenarios that day.

regrouted · 07/07/2017 22:02

Andrewofgg; then of course that sounds very much like it would be unreasonable adjustment and an outliner example - this is certainly not the common individual experience of being disabled and asking for reasonable adjustment(and I'm focusing on physical disabilities here) nor the overall campaign for improving access and inclusivity.

Whilst I understand the point you're making, I'm not sure about the actual instances of it or whether that would even be able to be used as a defence in court. If I took the shop to court under the Equality Act, I don't know how they would work out what a reasonable profit per square metre would be in order to justify the fact that their choice of merchandising setup was discriminatory and inhibited me from accessing the store. I'm not a lawyer, so my point unpicking that is more ideology based where I don't think profit does come before people and it's simply not good enough to say I'm not making enough money so will deny you access so there's room for more stock. This perhaps is not your political leaning.

The alternative is a change in society in how disabled people are viewed - that their needs should be thought about before prompted. Other countries manage this by having legislation that is not reactive. A bakery opened last year beside my office, it doesn't have a ramp, I've asked multiple times, there still isn't a ramp. They must have had a health and safety/food safety inspection, why is it that reasonable adjustment could not have been built into the council's visit as well and identified that the bakery has level access inside but has a concrete slab and step up into it that a ramp would easily overcome this, not interfere with the business model and not infringe any street restrictions.

I've mentioned on another thread the concept of social interaction as a disability rights exercise every time you leave the house. You can go up and down the high street that you live on, with the same faces behind the same inaccessible shops and restaurants and ask all you like yet it is the minority that ever do anything about it - a minority that of course sometimes feel ashamed and absolutely appalled and will seek to rectify things.

Disabled people are not asking for the moon and stars. It is not feasible for the full weight of societal change to be solely placed on the shoulders of the disabled on a case by case basis of requesting adjustment countless times and then taking them to court if they won't oblige.

manicinsomniac · 07/07/2017 23:44

As a history, culture and travel enthusiast who has never needed to use a wheelchair, my automatic reaction is to agree with those who say that building regs protect old buildings and mean that buildings should not have to be adapted to allow equal access. The idea of a tiny, cute little antique shop down a winding metal staircase having to install a stairlift or a historical tourist site with crumbling paths and walls having to put a glass lift in place instinctively makes me think 'what a shame to spoil the view/atmosphere/authentic look'.

But that automatic reaction and instinctive thought is wrong and one that I only have the privilege to be able to think because I have always been able bodied. Giving everybody an equal chance to access places (even if there's another place that sells the same, serves the same etc) is so much more important than the look of somewhere because shrugging our shoulders and saying 'but history' actually results in a sanctioning of the idea that one section of society doesn't need as much of our time, effort and consideration as the rest. It's not about access to one specific shop or place, it's about access to equal participation in life as a whole.

I love tiny, cobbled little market towns with cute, cluttered shops - but now I really want to go round one in a wheelchair (I won't of course, that would be really disrespectful) and see how impossible it must be. It's so easy to turn a blind eye because hardly any of us are affected - but we shouldn't just be accepting this as the norm.

Please tell me how a retailer is to run a business if the cashier is expected to leave the till and go backwards and forwards to the door

what? backwards and forwards - how many wheelchair using customers do you think there are wanting to access a shop small enough to have just one or two cashiers and no disabled access?? It's hardly going to be a regular occurrence, let alone the constant one your post seems to suggest.

There will be buildings and situations that people in wheelchairs cannot access. But these should be exceptions. Most buildings and most locations could manage to accommodate everyone if they tried hard enough.

BeepBeepMOVE · 07/07/2017 23:53

What a twat!

He had no right to talk to you like that, chair or not.

BreconBeBuggered · 08/07/2017 00:22

but now I really want to go round one in a wheelchair (I won't of course, that would be really disrespectful) Years ago, when I was entirely able-bodied, a wheelchair user on the same management course as me advocated doing exactly that, and organised an event where we could all do it, it too. The location was largely flat and even, and therefore considerably more accessible than the average British town, but the experience was still an eye-opener for the able-bodied students, most of whom hadn't thought of wheelchair use as much more taxing than being able to go to the shops and stay sitting down.

Years of pain and personal experience later, it seems to me that lots of people still think wheelchair users are just having a bit of a sit down.

worridmum · 08/07/2017 00:29

btw the Rome colosseum is a complete different kettle of fish its a large open space so plently of room for a lift but in places like castles their outer walls / castle keeps normally cannot be converted for a lift without basically destorying the entire building which in no one book a reasonable adjustment

HappyFeetAgain · 08/07/2017 00:43

Yanbu he had no right to have shouted at you. I don't care how frustrated he is that gives him no right. Imagine if everyone had a right to take out their frustration on the next person. I would have walked away and left him ranting.

AwaywiththePixies27 · 08/07/2017 06:23

You'd struggle in a customer facing role then. Hmm

AwaywiththePixies27 · 08/07/2017 06:26

'what a shame to spoil the view/atmosphere/authentic look'.

But it doesn't have to. The lift installed on to the outside of the listed building in know of didn't spoil the view. You dont even notice it until you get closer to the entrance and then you see it tucked away neatly at the side of the steps.

228agreenend · 08/07/2017 06:49

There's never an excuse for being rude. He was totally out of order.

If he wanted to complain about lack if wheelchair access, then he could have spoken to you calmly, written a letter etc.

Andrewofgg · 08/07/2017 08:31

regrouted You talk about "a change in society". A certain politician got into trouble for saying that there is no such thing as society - but when you say "society must do this or that" you have to be ready to say who in society.

I use a specialist butcher whose shop is accessible. The door is wide and the surface slopes up from the street to the floor. There is no centre display so there is room for a chair to manoeuvre. Most of the stack is at a reasonable height and the staff (and other customers) are happy to help when it isn't. (I know about this because of a relation of DW, now dead, who went there on her mobility scooter). So far, so good.

But if that butcher retires, quits the trade, dies, whatever, and the premises are taken over by a bookseller, a bookmaker, a coffee shop, you name it, there will probably not be an accessible butcher's business for miles around. In that case will Society have failed my butcher's wheelchair user customers? if so, who in Society should do what about it?

Squishedstrawberry4 · 08/07/2017 08:36

Access should be provided but sometimes its accepted that it isn't possible. And that lack of access does not give anyone the right to verbally abuse staff

Sirzy · 08/07/2017 08:41

The other problem is with so many aspects of "accessibility" companies do the bare minimum to tick the right boxes legally but without any thought for what is actually needed to make them accessible to the wider public.

There is a chain of card shops I refuse to use any of their stores now with or without DS because they are all so crowded with stands squashed in that moving a wheelchair around it is close of impossible.

I have to say though we have found that a lot of national trust and similar properties really have tried all they can to make them as accessible as possible - of course they will always have bits which simply can't be accessed but they do try. Not NT but Windsor Castle where fantastic when we visited (although of course the fire will have helped them a lot in being able to do that I am sure!)

Amanduh · 08/07/2017 08:49

Yadnbu. His bad experiences or frustration, no matter how justified regarding access, or 'the straw that broke the camels back' doesn't give him the right to verbally abuse you.

Pagwatch · 08/07/2017 08:56


You seem to be trying to be a smart arse rather than debating the issue.

There really going to be issues that can't be overcome - my listed building has neither the room nor the structural flexibilty to cope with a disabled toilet for example. A basement building with no space for a lift can't change that. But a central display stand is a choice - a decision made in a refit that excludes certain customers with disabilities.

Don't pretend that financial and business choices are unavoidable

AwaywiththePixies27 · 08/07/2017 09:02

Nobody said it did give him the right to verbally abuse her? Hmm

Andrewofgg · 08/07/2017 09:02

A central display stand may make a business viable which otherwise would not be. Only the retailer can judge that.

Sirzy Whst do you want the card shop people to do? Tell other customers to leave? Sorry, that's not meant to smart arse, it's a serious question. Retailers want their shops to be full and busy.


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Sirzy · 08/07/2017 09:03

I didn't mean full of customers I meant it is crowded full with stands and display units which make manouvering impossible

Pagwatch · 08/07/2017 09:07

'Only the retailer can judge that' = business/financial decision.

Funnily enough the the business before us with two fixed central stands failed miserably. Our refit with an open area and smaller moveable displays is doing incredibly well.

Pagwatch · 08/07/2017 09:20

I think the irony is that retailers creating a narrow cluttered environment in order to increase stock are often creating a space that no one enjoys.
I can't stand squeezing between small gaps in shops and you immediately put off people with lots of bags, a pushchair, let alone people with mobility issues. You cut down how many people can actually be in your shop at a time. It's an incredibly old fashioned and unpleasant business model. It also devalues the stockbyou do have because it can't be displayed well and looks like a 'pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap' shop

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