Friday 14 August 2020

National Trust and disabled access during COVID-19

This might come across a bit #middleclassproblem but stick with me.

We've been members of the National Trust for years. As parents of a young (and seemingly inexhaustible) child, we're always looking for ways to use up some of her energy. And getting out in the open air is good for us all.  

PLUS there is, at most properties, excellent parking, great toilet facilities and a place to get lunch and a decent cup of tea. Also, in our experience they really seem to "get" accessibility. 

We live pretty much smack bang in the middle of the country so we've got some great places to visit on our doorstep.  

Sudbury Hall can provide a buggy service from the car park to the property. A similar scheme at Calke Abbey can get you right the way across the whole property.

Our nearest National Trust site is Kedleston Hall, which you might recognise from The Duchess

On a visit earlier this year they provided an off-road wheelchair (which was like a regular one but with BMX bike tyres) that by all accounts was a lot easier to push on the short circular walk. It was certainly comfier than my own chair.


(You knew that was coming, right?)

We went to Kedleston last week. Obviously in the light of the Coronavirus pandemic, the hall isn't open and we had to book our slot to have a trip around the park and gardens. 

So far no biggie. Forward planning and preparation are the norm for us.

But when we asked if the off-road chairs were available, we were told no. We kind of expected it but afterwards we couldn't help wondering why?

Yes, we know about the pandemic and the bloody New Normal and all that. But...

Why is disabled access the first thing to go out the window? 

Is it too difficult to wipe things down between uses? Supermarkets seem able to do it.

We'd even be prepared to provide our own Flash wipes

*other antibacterial wipes are available

Like I say, we expected it. And to some extent we accepted it. 

But the edge was taken off our day. And it was exhausting. 

My chair is heavier to push so Mrs D was worn out. Because I knew she was struggling, I forced myself to walk more than I probably should have. Which was severely fatiguing, which in turn made my walking worse, which was distressing for my family to see. 

The worst thing is...

It's not just at Kedleston

The accessibility options at other local sites such as the ones I mentioned above are currently severely curtailed too.

It's enough to make me feel paranoid.

I've already talked about the fact that people with pre-existing conditions during this pandemic are like the red-shirted officers from the original series of Star Trek. We get it, we're disposable. If not a downright annoyance.

This article in today's Guardian by Frances Ryan notes the fact that, during lockdown, with working from home, cultural events and venues being accesible online...

It was frustrating and joyful, obvious and revelatory. The secret was out: the world could be accessible. Inequality was actually a choice.

But now that things are starting to open up, are those of us with access requirements just meant to stay indoors indefinitely? 

Now don't get me wrong. I know this is only the case with regards to our free time and doing things which could benefit our mental health. We should forget about doing THOSE. 

But if it's getting our butts back into work? 

Come out, come out wherever you are!

By the way, I know Judy G had some substance issues (that's putting it mildly), but the description to this clip is, "Dorothy is recognized as a heroin of Munchkin Land".

Dark times.