Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Being Let Down

Sometimes I think that I say that too many different things are the one frustrating part of having a disability, or of using a wheelchair. Obviously, there are lots of things, big and small, that are annoying about having a disability. But usually, it’s not the disability or the wheelchair itself - it’s the way in which the world is not built to accommodate it.

Some of these things can be small - lack of curb cuts, flights of stairs - and others are larger and more complex, like airline travel. But the point is, there are lots of things that are just not built for wheelchair users to easily access. Which means that when I find something that does work for me, I come to really count on it and rely on it. I start to let my guard down a little bit, and don’t go through the song-and-dance of calling ahead and double- or triple-confirming that it will be accessible to me. And inevitably, something that I thought I could rely on lets me down.

I’ve talked a lot (here and on social media and incessantly in person) about my Drybar obsession. I can’t style my own hair - I can hold a blow dryer and dry my hair, but that’s it. No round brushes when I dry, no straightening brush, no curling irons. I have to hope that my mom or aide can do my hair the way that I want. Sometimes that turns out really well, and sometiimes it does not. That’s why Drybar is so great for me - I can go there to get my hair washed and styled, and it always turns out great.

I’ve been to Drybar here in Pittsburgh, and also in multiple New York City and DC locations. Each time, there is a removable chair in the hair washing area, so that I can wheel my chair right up to one of their sinks without having to get out of my chair. That is huge for me. Transferring and getting positioned isn’t always easy, and isn’t necessarily comfortable. Being able to stay in my own chair makes it a comfortable experience.

So when I made my Drybar reservation in Dallas, I didn’t call ahead and confirm that they had a removable chair, because I never imagined that it was something that I would need to check. But of course, I got there... and no removable chair. The manager told me that NONE of the three different locations in Dallas had a removable chair. Luckily for me, the staff was incredibly kind and flexible and worked with me to find a solution that worked. But they shouldn’t have had to, and I shouldn’t have had to stress and scramble to figure something out with them! A simple accessible solution already exists, and is already used in their other locations!

Accessibility should be standard. It’s disappointing, and disheartening, and was really jarring for me, especially since I was in Dallas for a meeting all about accessibility! And while I know it wasn’t personal, it felt like it was - it felt like they had made the conscious choice not to include an accessible feature they knew existed, because they didn’t value or think about my business. We should be moving forward towards full inclusion, not backwards, getting farther away from it.

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