I've sent multiple e-mails of complaints about things this week. I'm a complainer and I kinda like it because if we don't complain how will things change?
I e-mailed my care agency and really threw my toys out of the pram so to speak over an issue. They reply that they have noted my comments and will be discussing them. Good. They didn't apologise which is a little annoying but given I fully expected (from past experience) they wouldn't reply...
I did kinda feel like I was going over the top in what I said but it was what I felt and sometimes making nice doesn't get results. The thing that I find interesting here is how everyone I've mentioned it to who is also disabled finds my comments fair game and everyone who is able-bodied who knows of my wording has exclaimed in sheer shock that I would say such things to them in a complaint.
Then I e-mailed the theatre in Oxford. Their lift is broken and has been since October (or at least that's when I found out). It has to be replaced and is supposed to be "top priority this year." They have a ramp they put down on these stairs (seven of them!) and take you down. It's horrible and they manage but I question it's safety. And mum and I have tickets for the end of next month. For the farewell tour of Riverdance. I've never seen Riverdance and I really want to go - I've seen Lord of The Dance amd loved it and I want to know how to two shows differ.
So I e-mailed them and said pretty much that the ramp sucks and makes it basically impossible to get to the loo in the interval. Will the lift be fixed for riverdance?
Their response? They apologise for my "obvious discomfort" and admit they are trying to have the lift replaced but it's expensive, being "completely honest" she doesn't believe it will be fixed by the time Riverdance is on. It's not policy to offer refunds but in this case if I want I can have one. And they will keep me informed of developments if I'd like (I intend to take them up on this).
That's such a great response. I don't think I will take the refund, it's my last chance to see the show and it's not on anywhere else local. But as I wrote in my final complaint of the week what I need about access is total honesty because it allows me to be prepared. I was very pleased by this response even though it obviously didn't give the answer I wanted to hear.
I don't usually complain this much in any one week but this week just forced my hand.
I went out to eat with a group of people this week. The group had been to the venue before but before I joined (I'm the only wheelchair user) and I'd never been. The organiser and I both separately called and checked about access. I asked pointed questions and probably for more detail than the organiser but we were both satisfied there was level access and a disabled loo.
Well, they were 50% right/honest... there is a (pretty good but not great) disabled loo. But there's also a step to get into the building and one into the bar. Then to get from the restaurant (which is step free) to the disabled loo? Up the step and through the bar.
They got staff to help me and from that point of view, OK. But I'm not a child and I shouldn't have to ask to be allowed/taken to the toilet like a child. I was ranting about this to several of our group when we were there but wish I'd just said it to a staff member.
I did have to crack a small smile when one of the people I was with went to find a staff member for me and returned saying "Emma, I've found you NICE YOUNG MAN to help you." But only a small one, it was a pretty tough night. The food was nice and it was nice to see people I rarely do but... put me in a situation with poor or no access and I panic and get anxious. Fun times.
And after helping me to the bathroom said nice young man disappeared and she had to hunt him down again to help me back to our tables. Mum did say that's a difficult one because what is appropriate, wait outside or go off? I agree with that and it may be he intended to go back but we were faster than he thought. But she also (my mum) said at least they tried and a lot of pubs don't. I don't really care about that. Although I must say I'd have been a lot less annoyed if they'd just admitted "we've got two small steps but can help you if you want" when I'd called and asked. I probably wouldn't have gone but if I had I'd have been prepared at least.
So I sent them an e-mail of complaint and pointed out to them that their steps could be easily ramped and not doing so breaches the DDA. And I told them how i'd felt infantilised by having to ask to go to the loo. The biggest thing I tried to get accross was about how what I needed was total honesty and how I'd have been less annoyed about access if they hadn't lied. But without undermining my points. Not sure if I was successful.
The other thing I didn't mention to them because I'm not clear on is the fact I think by lying (or not telling me the full picture whichever you prefer - although I'm sure I did ask specifically about level access) they have broken the Sale of Goods Act. Because it states specifically that "goods and services should be providing as described." I have a question in to Trading Standards about that for future reference although I haven't given them details of which venue it was as I don't feel at this point I need go that far.
The reply I had from the restaurant/pub was the usual we're sorry you weren't happy. They say they've now told all their staff to make the exact details clear in future and will be considering my comments etc etc. Intention of staff is to help not demean or embarrass which totally misses the point that simply by having to ask for the help means announcing to the world that you need to go to the toilet and that is demeaning in and of itself.
But they also end the e-mail by hoping that now I know what it's like there I'll have the "confidence to return soon."
Um, no. Are you freaking kidding me?! Either that's one of those stupid "things people say when closing letters and e-mails fake platitudes" in which case totally irrelevant and inappropriate. Or they totally missed the point of my e-mail.
So to sum up in closing, I will always be making complaints because how else will the world change. And when you reply to me I prefer you to be completely honest and to think properly about what you have to say.