‘Excuse me sir, the wide barrier is over here.’ – it’s a seemingly helpful comment that is soaked in ableism.
The Wide Barrier
There are some among us who have a ‘one glove fits all’ philosophy when it comes to disability. So if you use a white cane because you have poor eyesight, you have the same requirements as a person who is in a wheelchair, even if they can see perfectly. To use a millennial expression – ‘wait … what?’
So how do you find a wide open space if you have a vision impairment? You reach your arm out or put your cane out – nothing. Reach out a bit further or put your cane out even further. Still nothing. You move forward and eventually there’s a wall or a barrier or an object. Hopefully not the edge of a platform.
Why then do so many people assume you need to use the ‘disabled’ toilet – which actually isn’t a ‘disabled’ toilet, its specifically for someone in a wheelchair? What about the wide barrier at the train station? Again, helpful if you’re in a wheelchair, or have a pram. But really not that helpful if you use a cane.
Airports and planes are a series of blog posts all on their own. But I have had a number of experiences on budget airlines where they want you to sit in the ‘wheelchair row’. The extra leg room is nice without any of the perks of an upgrade to Business. I can sit anywhere on the plane though, so why here?
For some people who have vision impairments, they may like the wide barrier – maybe because they use a guide dog. But the assumption that you go there because you have the ‘one glove fits all’ disability – well that’s just ableism. We’re not all the same.