Definitely Dotty by Charlotte Bennie

Often, I am totally bamboozled by what the general public considers to be disabled accessible. Yes, I know, I have gone on, and on, about inaccessible toilets, but there’s a lot more to this. After all, you can only spend so much time in a cludgie. 

Take our local secondary school. On one wall, beside a totie button, is a sign in braille. Reading, in jumbo bumpons, “Press”. Some folk, noticing this, must think how inclusive our education authority is. Think again. Properly, this time. This sign is attached to a large building; containing classrooms, Art studios, a staffroom, offices for the Heidie and other staff plus several toilets. Oh yes, and much of the building is rough cast. So, can someone explain how a blinkie, without sighted assistance would find this sign? Accessible? I don’t think so. Thoughtful? Not at all. But it ticks a box and hasn’t cost the system very much.
This building can be reached by several paths, two of which involve using flights of shallow steps; irregular with broad treads. Unless you are a member of the Ministry for Silly Walks you will take two or three steps before teetering on a step’s edge. Years ago, when her daughter was in first year, a visually impaired friend attended a Parents’ Meeting. And suggested life for many people would be much less dangerous if tactile slabs and bannisters were added to these. Her wee lassie is now a merit wumman with weans of her own. As for the tactiles and hand rails?It’s just as well she didn’t hold her breath.
This well intentioned wooliness is everywhere. The Scottish Parliament has been trumpeting about banning Pavement Parking for, gosh, even longer than Brexit. All very commendable, banning vehicles from parking on pavements. But why stop there? What about wheelie bins? A frames? Men at Work signs? Not to mention vast bahoochies bending down to peer into shop windows. As far as I can tell, none of these gets a mention. Not even a suggestion such impedimenta could be removed from pavements under a certain width.
Recently, I had to tackle the mobile bank van again. And, no, I couldn’t have achieved my task over the internet. For a start, I’d gathered up some obsolete notes; the ones which feel like real money but don’t have any bumpy bits to identify them. Not that that is a problem, just use an app such as Be My Eyes or Seeing AI, And, I needed a cheque book. Yes, I still use such a thing. Apart from paying bills, none of my cyber savvy nephews has ever refused a birthday cheque yet. However, since our proper bank moved to Stranraer, delivery of a cheque book has been a problem. Last time, they posted me one for a different account. This time, they just didn’t bother.
So,there we were, on a hot Friday morning, in the queue awaiting the van. Quite a long queue, Quite an age range too. The van Had pirouetted about the car park, beeping and now stood there, locked, various bumps and thumps emanating from within. Which is when my Husband saw it. A braille notice. All dusty. On the back of the van.
“What’s that say, then?”
“What?” I replied.
“The braille stuff. There’s a big wodge of it.”
“On the van. I’ll take you over to it.”
At the expense of relatively clean digits, I spent a few minutes deciphering a chunk of braille. Which contained a spelling mistake. The gist of this was an offer that anyone requiring help could press a button.
Dusting my paws I resumed my place in the queue, while the other folk gasped, or clapped or did both.
“That’s great, eh? Them putting that there for ye,” opined the wee wifie next to me.
“Not really,” said I, “That’s a big van. How is anyone who cannae see supposed to find that?”
A long silence. Then, from the queue came a collective snort as collective realisation dawned.
The wee wifie piped up again, “And, onywey, hen, where’s the blessed button?”
The van was scanned by everybody who could do so. No one, not even my Guide Dog, could find the
Help button.
Eventually, I reached the top of the queue. Climbed into the van, negotiating the rickety, narrow steps, clutching the equally shoogly handrail.
All completed, the lassie asked me if I had any feedback anent my visit. This was my chance. Belated apologies for holding up the queue while I harangued the staff about the idiocy of providing braille it was unlikely any blinkie would ever find, while making entering their van something akin to scaling the north Face of the Eiger.
It was only when back out in the fresh air I realised I still didn’t have a clue where that Help button was. I had been so busy fulminating about missing cheque books and precarious access, I had forgotten all about that.
Strewth! Another visit to the bank van is now inevitable.


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