Sunday, 8 April 2018

Sunday Short - Non Specific Accessibility Aids

This post first appeared on Tumblr earlier this week. I was initially hesitant about posting this because that would be three disability Sunday Shorts in a row. But I decided to go for it because it's an important topic

For ridiculous reasons I have been without a mobile phone for two months now which is infuriating.

I haven’t been able to afford to buy a replacement and I have lived in hope that the place I sent it to get fixed would actually return it. That’s a whole other story though.

The thing I don’t think people realise is actually how disabling this is for some people. I know there are all sorts of stereotypes and prejudice about The Youth and Their Addiction to Screens which largely is bullshit. The truth of the matter is that for modern life, especially for people brought up with the tech, smart phones are incredibly useful. They can keep you in touch with people, you can conduct web searches, you can easily check your bank balance when you are out, you can check Google Maps for directions, use it as a train ticket and so so much more.

For pretty much anybody of any age ho uses a smart phone regularly, being without one for a protracted period of time is an inconvenience at best. We can’t deny how useful they are.

But I want you to consider that usefulness and expand it a bit further.

I want you to consider it as an accessibility aid for disabled people.

Consider somebody who has sevee anxiety or autism and who struggles being out, especially in busy places. Their smart phone has apps that can help to calm or distract them, it has music, audiobooks, meditations or white noise to drown out or distract from excessive stimuli. It can help communication if you struggle talking to other or can bypass stressful communication altogether for example by giving you directions instead of having to ask a stranger. Most importantly for many it can allow you to contact somebody you know and trust either to come and pick you up/help you or just to keep you calm and centred while you manage yourself.

Consider the person with ME who gets struck with excess fatigue or pain while out. They can use their phone to look for the closest taxi rank, bus stop or to order a taxi because they cant walk anymore and aren’t safe to drive. They can use apps or google street vie and similar to find the nearest bench to sit. They can use their phone to communicate to people f the fatigue effects their speech. They can use apps to check when they last took meds and when it’s safe to take another dose. Again, they can call for support, help and guidance when they are so exhausted they can’t think clearly.

Consider the person who is partially sighted who can use apps to magnify text on labels and packages or to read out loud signs. They can have spoken directions to navigate a busy town centre. They can use the bus services app to get a ticket so they don’t have to try and see the coins and ticket machine when travelling.

There are so many different ways a smart phone can help disabled people access the world around them. They are useful for pretty much everybody but they can be the thing that makes the world actually accessible to others. But a smart phone isn’t considered an access aid. You’ll never get government funding for a smart phone no matter how useful it is to a person.

There are so many other everyday objects I could have used as an example - a hand blender, a microwave, a laptop or tablet, a “fancy” one cup kettle- but also a pre booked seat on a train, first class on a plane (for the leg room amongst other things), taxis, specific housing.

We have to stop seeing access aids as medical devices that are prescribed and start recognising that what might be a convenience to you, an able bodied person is actually a major help to a disabled person. We need to do this to reduce disableism, increase accessibility and to realise that things like being without a phone isn’t always just a minor annoyance.

This is what is often called a “disability tax” - the extra costs that disabled people need to pay in order to have normal access and a normal standard of living. What is a non-essential item or a perk to an able bodied person is virtually a necessity to a disabled person.

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