Recently I felt excluded when I went out for dinner with a couple of friends. One uses a wheelchair and I decided to use one as well so I could keep up with her. Our other friend is able-bodied and she had to keep up with us as we made our way to the restaurant.
We decided to try a new cuisine and we went to a German restaurant (ironically I don’t drink beer). We called in advance to make sure the venue was accessible. We were told that it was.
When we finally reached our destination we were surprised to find two steps at the entrance of the restaurant. While my friend in the wheelchair organised for a portable ramp that we had brought with us, to be set up for us, the waitress looked directly at my able-bodied friend and asked her whose name the booking was under and how many people were there. I was totally ignored as I sat there in my scooter. I felt like I was not treated as an equal, rather as an inferior person, by the most likely unintentionally neglectful hostess. This made me question equality for people with a disability.
Looking back on the event, there are a number of ways I wish I had handled the situation.
1. I could have yelled at the hostess and said “Look at me! I exist and have my own voice!”
2. My friend could have turned to me and asked me for my opinion, showing the hostess I that I can speak for myself.
3. I could have wheeled myself off to another restaurant.
What I ended up doing was staying in the background and I let my friend handle the situation. I was left out of the decision making process and in my eyes that’s not being included. It’s not equality.
How would you feel if someone assumed you weren’t able to make your own decision? This is often what happens to people with disability, daily. I encourage you all to think about how you would you feel if something like this happened to you.
Every year, Yooralla runs the YoorallaTEE competition. YoorallaTEE aims to encourage people from across the world to create positive images of disability through a t-shirt design competition. This year Yooralla is focusing on “equality”. Equality is the expression of human rights for people with disability – this really resonates with me and this why I shared my experience with you.
How would you feel if someone assumed you weren’t able to make your own decision? This is often what happens to people with disability, daily. I encourage you all to think about how you would re-design equality for people with disability, and to enter the YoorallaTEE competition at this link http://www.yooralla.com.au/whats-on/yoorallatee