Friday, April 19, 2013

Seating Arrangements



Last Friday, I went to a Toronto concert hall to hear David Sedaris read from his new book Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls — a book that apparently has nothing to do with diabetes, although owls do make a rather hilarious appearance. I had no idea what to expect. In fact, on some level I confused David Sedaris with Dan Savage – they are funny gay men who write and have the same initials. Natural mistake. A-hem. I have a couple of books written by the former, but haven't read them yet. That's going to change very soon. David Sedaris is my new favorite writer. When he read the essay linked to above, I discovered that in one respect, I'm very much like this very funny man. Because I spent a significant part of the past week trying to find out how to contact him so I can ask how much the pygmy cost. It's wrong, I know it is, but I still need to know. How is David Sedaris not on Twitter?

Anyway! This post is not about that. This post is about something else entirely.

Going to concerts and other events have the potential for a number of surprises. Some, such as the entertainment level of the performance, are general and apply to everyone in the audience. Others are unique to a few, namely the wheelchair seating.

As I may have mentioned once or twice on this blog, attitudes towards accessibility vary. Some resist progress to the bitter end, others only grudgingly adhere to standards and guidelines, yet others have a somewhat "creative" interpretation. And then there are the places that fully embrace people with disabilities as valued customers.

You can pick any number of situations to illustrate this point and I'll start with wheelchair seating. There are places that relegate those of us who use mobility aids to a particular area, congregating all the wheelchairs and scooters in one place, usually with fencing. Occasionally, I've felt like cattle. Places that choose this approach to wheelchair seating also tend to place it in one particular location, usually the cheaper seats a.k.a. nosebleed section. Because God forbid you'd give the disabled choices.

Other venues understand that wheelchair seating should be integrated among regular seats and in different locations (and price ranges) throughout the hall. The new Four Seasons Centre is wonderful for this. Unfortunately, tickets to see the Canadian Opera Company are entirely too dear for me these days. Didn't used to be quite so expensive, but I guess you have to pay for that beautiful new Four Seasons Centre somehow…

Last Friday, we went to the Sony Centre and they get it. Seats are integrated, in different areas/price ranges and when you have a wheelchair, an usher will very helpful. They'll insists on accompanying you from the entrance to your seat. And then introduce you to another usher in that section — last Friday, the owner of a magnificent beard — who will be happy to help you in any way you’d desire.

And that's another way you can tell how dedicated a particular venue is to being inclusive: the customer service. The best place I've ever been was Disneyland and that was 20 years ago. My sister and I went to Long Beach to visit a friend of mine for 10 days and had a blast. Naturally, we visited Disneyland and it was phenomenal. Many of the rides were doable by wheelchair (or fairly easy to use if you could get out of your chair) and every time we lined up, a friendly staff person would swoop down and get us right in via a side entrance. Leaving the very long lines to keep waiting. By the time we were ready to leave about four hours after we'd arrived, my friend was agog, mentioning that he'd never done Disneyland in less than a day.

I call it using and abusing the cripple factor.

Most of the time, the world is marvelously obtuse in designing everything for people who are very able-bodied. The odd time having a disability is actually an advantage, I'm gonna enjoy it!
   

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

We just returned from a trip to England with my 83 year old mother who uses a cane. Since then we've been teasing her that we're going to bring her on all future trips just to get through airports more efficiently, and stash her in a hotel room in-between. Such love!

Judith in Ottawa

Colleen said...

We went to disneyworld last year. They have passes for people with disabilities, listing what accommodations you need. Mine said seated waiting area. But, usually, they just sent me in the other way. The limit is 5 people, there were three of us. My son really enjoyed it...he and his father are never allowed to complain about me being slow on my crutches, *ever*!!! I rented a scooter for the week, best thing ever. Looked funny, crutches bungeed behind, but it sure helped me manage!

Leslie said...

I had planned a trip to Disney and booked with my granddaughter and her family and in the meantime a back injury got so bad that I could barely walk. What to do? I couldn't cancel the trip but I couldn't walk the park either! I rented a scooter and they were incredibly accomodating. I had injections in my back and PT and finally treatment for RA that set things right for me. I have been back since and would prefer the parks walking. But if there is anywhere that will and can accomodate someone with a disability, it is Disney. They do it well and with good humor and respect. would that the rest of the world could accomodate so well.

Leslie said...

I had planned a trip to Disney and booked with my granddaughter and her family and in the meantime a back injury got so bad that I could barely walk. What to do? I couldn't cancel the trip but I couldn't walk the park either! I rented a scooter and they were incredibly accomodating. I had injections in my back and PT and finally treatment for RA that set things right for me. I have been back since and would prefer the parks walking. But if there is anywhere that will and can accomodate someone with a disability, it is Disney. They do it well and with good humor and respect. would that the rest of the world could accomodate so well.

carlascorner said...

I understand your frustration. I had a client that operated senior living facilities and they would seat their wheelchair residents in a designated area of the dining room or assembly areas. While this didn't necessarily please the residents, this was done so that in case of fire or other emergency, the staff could quickly locate wheelchair residents and move them to safety. Your post points out that there certainly isn't an easy answer to the situation. We are fortunate in the US that there are some regulations. Not so much in Europe and other countries. I often wonder how those people participate outside the home. Thank you for a wonderful post.