Out of Order

I finally returned to work last week after an almost laughable streak of bad luck that will probably fill another blog post worth of content – promise I’ll treat you to the juicy details at another point. 

Tuesday 6 November was the day I plucked up the courage to challenge my body with work. Yeah, yeah, I know my job is largely desk-based but the physical act of getting in the car, driving to work, moving myself from the car park and getting to my desk (on the top floor of a fairly big office building) is a task in itself. Not to mention nipping up and down the building and across site for meetings or to grab a coffee. At the moment, I can only just about cope with the above. Yep, I’m not proud of the fact that getting to work in the morning saps most of my energy for the day – it makes me feel so unfit and like a reallyyy reallyyyy old lady. Don’t get me wrong, I love old ladies, my Grandma is my hero but at the same time she’s got 60 years on me and I’m not quite ready for my mobility to be poorer than hers!

Talking of elderly women – It’s not just getting to my desk that I struggle with. My energy levels and breathing is so poor at the moment that over the weekend, I had to have a disco nap during my partner’s 87 year old Grandma’s birthday celebrations…

All of the above is meant to act as a bit of context as to why I really need the lift in my work building. It’s not something I rely on all the time but when I’m having a flare-up, it becomes a vital means of me being able to get to my desk and get back to work. This is hugely important for me as being at work does wonders for my mental health – it actually makes me feel like a functioning member of society again. At the time of writing, the lift in our building has been broken for over a week. This means that the only way for me to get to my desk is an endurance challenge involving me climbing 4 steep flights of stairs and panting/puffing/coughing my way along the corridors. It not only makes me feel really unprofessional and slightly embarrassed, it saps my precious energy and just becomes another obstacle in the way of me getting through my working day. I’ve reported this several times to our building manager, who has in turn being doing their best to get estates to rectify the issue but it falls on deaf ears.

This week also saw the first ever “Purple Tuesday” in the UK. It was labelled as a day aimed mostly at customer-facing businesses to become more mindful to make changes to improve the disabled customer experience over the long term. Basically, a national day of visibility for accessibility on the high street. Despite my original gripes…see: “Why isn’t this just standard practice” and “Why is it being pitched to retailers as a way to make more money from those with disabilities rather than something that is enforced due to being a protected characteristic/ the Equality Act 2010?” It looked like a move that could, at the very least,contribute to raising awareness and visibility of the issues surrounding accessibility on the high street. I certainly saw several shops in my area advertising their support for Purple Tuesday and read a breadth of articles. It was picked up on local and national news channels too, so why had the message not filtered down to my workplace? How could it be that my building was left inaccessible?

It hasn’t just been a problem for me. The catering contractors were unable to deliver their orders due to the lack of a lift. We struggled to prepare for external events as there was no way to transport bulky items out of the building other than using the stairs. It has been reported multiple times. It has been raised with our Safety, Health and Environment group as an issue but they are unwilling to take responsibility for it.

The whole experience seems to suggest to me that unless somebody with more power and influence starts to take these issues seriously, it’s something that will be overlooked until an embarrassing problem occurs. It has really made me think about visible vs invisible disabilities and the need to not assume that because a person may appear ‘able bodied’ they do not need additional support. It’s so frustrating to watch a system that is unwilling to change unless it has direct experience or is directly affected by accessibility issues. I cannot fathom how this can be a problem in 2018. Turns out, it’s not only the lift that’s ‘out of order.’

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