Thud, thud, thud.
That’s the sound of years of disability rights activists banging their head against the wall as they work tirelessly, trying to achieve substantive change for disabled people.
Compared to some of the people I know, I’m a newbie at this ‘game’, and I’m still shocked, disappointed and angry. It feels like disabled people are so far behind in trying to achieve equity that they’re running a marathon while everyone else is doing the 100 metres.
Here’s my latest example, all around booking hotel rooms.
First, I need a hotel room for an MS Society conference. I’m travelling with an assistant so I need a room with two beds. None of the accessible rooms at the hotel where there conference is, have two beds. If a non-disabled person books a hotel room, they have a full range of choices of room type. Disabled people usually have one choice of room, and a choice that probably meets no-one’s needs by trying to find some sort of average level of accessibility.
So what are my choices? I can have a regular room with two beds, but I definitely won’t be able to use the bath or the shower, and I probably don’t fit in the bathroom. And getting around in the room will be very difficult – presuming I fit through the door! So now we try to see if there is a connecting room. Because it’s the MS Society, and a conference, there’s a good chance that a connecting room may be available for free, but if I was booking this as an individual? No chance.
I also have to travel again, two weeks later, for a DABC board meeting, again needing 2 beds in a room, in a different part of Kelowna. If a non-disabled person wants to book a hotel room, I’m guessing that you go on a website – like Expedia, or hotels.ca, or something – to see what’s the best rate you can get? For me, it’s phone calls and emails to see what the rooms are like, to see what accessible features the rooms actually have. Using websites like Expedia don’t work, because often the accessible rooms aren’t on there, or the description of the features isn’t detailed enough. The cost of the room is the final link in the chain. No special deals for us!
So what’s the solution? For me, there’s two things happening right now that need to come into play, as this is bigger than individuals trying to make changes happen one hotel chain at a time. Hotels are provincially regulated, so while the new Federal Accessibility and Inclusion Legislation – or whatever it ends up being called – will help to raise the expectations on standards, it won’t help with this. The two things that need to happen are a proactive BC Human Rights Commission and robust BC Disabilities Act.
The BC Human Rights Commission was disbanded in 2002, but is being brought back by the new NDP government. Consultations are currently underway, and it is hoped that it will be running in 2018. However, it must be proactive and it must demonstrate by its action that it believes in the lived experience of disabled people.
Equally, BC needs a disability law. Once the federal law is in place, we will be left with a patchwork of coverage, based on what falls under federal or provincial legislation. It’s too confusing and leaves too many loopholes. This isn’t part of the NDP mandate, even though they have said they are interested in the past. Pressure is now needed to make it happen.
In the meantime, I’ll just keep emailing around, to try to find the magical combination of availability and accessibility.