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Privilege is a buzz word, but there's a reason we talk about it. - helen-louise
Privilege is a buzz word, but there's a reason we talk about it.
Totally sick of disability stuff now. It wouldn't feel so bad if I was advocating for someone else or a group of people, but having to go round fighting for non-discriminatory access just for me, me, me feels wrong on so many levels. And it's Every. Single. Day.

Today I got into an argument in the lift. Having gone down to put some heavy things in my locker before going to the bookshop, I got "trapped" in the basement for 10 minutes because neither of the lifts would come down. (This isn't an exaggeration - if anything it's an underestimate because I only looked at my phone the first time after I'd already been there "a while"). There isn't a seat on that floor, meaning that I was tired and in pain from standing (at least until I gave up and sat on the ground), and the lifts are shoved in a corner where the ceiling is pretty low. I don't really have claustrophobia to any significant degree, but I was starting to feel panicky through the sheer length of time I'd been there. When the lift finally came down, it was absolutely full of people who actually wanted to go up, but had got in the lift on the ground floor to block anyone else from getting in. And they wouldn't move to make room for me, even though there was enough room if people got closer together.

I wasn't going to let the only lift in 10 minutes go back up without me in it, so I asked if people could please make room - "You all got in this lift knowing it was coming down, but I've been waiting for it for 10 minutes". This guy - who was middle-aged, upper middle class in voice, wearing an expensive suit, clearly in senior management at his day job - got arsey with me because I wanted to go to the ground floor. "It's only one floor". I said "I'm disabled!". He said "Fine." (dismissively) and "If you bitch at us I'll get bitchy with you." Apparently he had to get in the lift because often when lifts go down to the basement they return full of people, which would stop him being able to get in the lift when it came back.

Well, one floor isn't long enough to have a meaningful conversation, but when I fought my way out of the lift (because no one would let me out either) I wasn't sure whether I should have apologised for my tone and explained that I was tired and in pain, or told him where he could stick his damned privilege. Because in his eyes, he was far more important than I was, so he had a much greater need for the lift than I did. (Did I mention he was also white? And by upper middle class I mean that he sounded like an ex-Etonian Tory politician). Absolutely reeking of privilege and inconsideration for other people's needs.

I can see how someone going to the sixth or seventh floor might feel that they have a "right" to use the lift, but the second or third floors are perfectly walkable for an able-bodied person. With my current level of pain, I honestly had no choice. Supposedly, disabled students and staff have priority over everyone else for the lifts; but there is nothing by them to indicate this.

Sat on one of the highly uncomfortable chairs and almost burst into tears from the sheer embarrassment, exhaustion and pain. But a succession of people I know from the depression and anxiety support group turned up randomly, and some of them decided to come with me to Waterstone's to have hot chocolate and a good moaning session in Costa. Which was, at least, useful.

Tags: ,
Current Mood: intimidated intimidated

13 comments or Leave a comment
turkish_coffee From: turkish_coffee Date: 25th February 2010 05:47 (UTC) (Link)
My mother goes to college.

Her building is under repair, so the elevators ("lifts") are only for disabled people (it's only three floors, by the way).

So, she makes friends with the construction people (who are using them to transport things, &c. which is why they are off to only disabled people now) so they let her on.
hobbitbabe From: hobbitbabe Date: 25th February 2010 06:24 (UTC) (Link)
What a nuisance - on top of the maybe-unavoidable part about the lifts taking ages to come, you have that jerk giving you a hard time about it.

At our institution, all the elevators have big signs on/by the doors reminding people to give priority to the mobility impaired. I'd never seen signs like that before, and I couldn't decide if it meant we were progressive, or if it meant that people were oblivious and needed to be told. Anyway, I wish I could steal you a sign.
baratron From: baratron Date: 25th February 2010 21:35 (UTC) (Link)
I think it probably means both! Your institution is progressive, but some of your staff and students are oblivious :)

I was thinking before I even wrote the entry how it's silly that there is a specific idea within the college that people with mobility issues should have priority for the lifts, but people in general haven't been told this. Generally it's whoever's most in a hurry to get to lectures who has priority :/ Signage would help, perhaps.
hobbitbabe From: hobbitbabe Date: 25th February 2010 21:50 (UTC) (Link)
The signage made me think, because until I looked carefully I thought it was going to say that people with carts full of chemicals and equipment get priority. Once I thought about it, I realised that the people with carts full of chemicals and equipment generally just get priority by being big -- and that the oblivious ones probably need to be reminded that not everyone in our engineering building is able-bodied.
baratron From: baratron Date: 25th February 2010 22:01 (UTC) (Link)
Could you take a photo of one of your signs? It'd be useful to see what it says, and the kind of font emphasis used.
hobbitbabe From: hobbitbabe Date: 26th February 2010 03:06 (UTC) (Link)
It's about 15 cm square.
elevator sign
(Deleted comment)
From: adjectivemarcus Date: 25th February 2010 10:42 (UTC) (Link)
Eeek. Glad to hear there were some supportive people eventually. The guy sounds like a right tosser. )c:
thekumquat From: thekumquat Date: 25th February 2010 12:00 (UTC) (Link)

Hope it's a bit of consolation that everyone else in that lift will now know that guy's a tosser...
barakta From: barakta Date: 25th February 2010 12:24 (UTC) (Link)
Oh meep! That's horrid. I would also if you can find the spoons let someone know, they may need reprogramming for the basement and possibly a chair put down there for people who are waiting.

And what a complete and utter tosser of a man. I'd love to find out who he is and get him into some shit - what a nasty bastard. The correct response to "I'm disabled" is not to bitch you out in fact he either needs disability awareness training or he's personally guilty and liable for direct discrimination and probably harassment/victimisation (whichever it is).

I am SO sorry you've had that. And am glad people who were made of nice came by and were supportive.
treacle_well From: treacle_well Date: 25th February 2010 13:23 (UTC) (Link)
Supposedly, disabled students and staff have priority over everyone else for the lifts; but there is nothing by them to indicate this.

Not that you have the spoons for it, but I wonder if a letter to someone at the school, describing your experience and suggesting posting a sign in the lift (or near the lift on all floors) reminding folks that disabled students and passengers have priority, would help a little. Or is there anyone you meet with regularly who you could mention this to and ask if they could draft a message on your behalf (so it wouldn't be quite such a big spoon for you personally.)

I admit that when I'm in the elevator I sometimes feel a little annoyed when someone is going only one floor, but when I do, I remind myself that there could well be some good reason for it (that in fact when I was recovering from surgery a few years ago, I was one of those people who stood in place on the narrow escalator, and took elevators only one floor even though I looked perfectly able to others.) Not that it's really my place to judge whether or not someone else should or should not be taking the stairs, regardless of their physical ability to do so.
baratron From: baratron Date: 25th February 2010 21:45 (UTC) (Link)
Oh absolutely - sometimes a person's physical impairment is not at all obvious. I know several people with bad knees whose disability is usually invisible - they only use crutches/canes/walking sticks if it's flaring. Any signage would have to be phrased in such a way that they didn't feel obliged to use the stairs.

Apparently, the Disabled Students Group is having a meeting on Friday 5 March at 8pm. I'm planning on being in college on that day but don't know how alive I'll be by the evening. But I'm going to email the person in charge of the group (who I actively voted for, on the basis that he disclosed all his disabilities to people registered with the Disability Office, is apparently even more broken than I am and wanted the job!), and tell him of this along with another issue or couple of issues that I'm thinking the Students' Union should be campaigning about. I've already written it down, so it's not really too many more spoons to send it to someone who might be able to help - and College will pay more attention if it comes as a Recommendation of the Disabled Students Group rather than just me moaning.

Edited at 2010-02-25 21:45 (UTC)
jinian From: jinian Date: 25th February 2010 17:20 (UTC) (Link)
What a jerk. I'm so sorry you had to deal with that.
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