Sunday, July 13, 2014

This Is What Poor Access Means To Me

Normally, this blog takes a very optimistic view on access. I try to portray a "by hook or by crook, I WILL get in there" attitude but unfortunately, that's not always the case. On a regular night out, if stairs are a problem, my friends and I take the Cleopatra option, which involves 2 or 3 lads lifting me up, or we simply go on to another venue.

Over the weekend, it was a mate of mine's 30th. He had the upstairs of Solas on Wexford Street booked and it was packed with mates and had the promise to be a bit of a wild one. Two of the guys were ready to lift me up when the bouncers intervened and said they strictly had a no wheelchair policy upstairs. We explained that we've done this many times before and it would be fine. No. We bartered. One friend offered the option of just carrying me up and leaving the chair downstairs. No. If there was an "incident" that night, I would be at risk. The incident perhaps being a fire. Another friend said if there was to be a fire, all the drunk people upstairs wouldn't be too great at getting themselves down either. No.

This went on for a while but the bottom line was a big, fat no. My friends couldn't leave so I just went home. This is what poor access means to me. I miss out on important nights.

I missed out on a friend's 30th because a bouncer wouldn't let me go upstairs. My wheelchair was a hazard. The drunk people weren't a hazard. The stoned people weren't a hazard. The girls in heels too high weren't a hazard and neither was the guy whose shoelaces were undone. I was the hazard.

Initially, I was fine with the outcome. This happens all the time, I reassured my mates, and it's grand. It's just something that happens. The next day, as I mulled it over, I came to the conclusion that I am going to be missing out on so many more 30ths, engagements, surprise parties, EP launches, friends playing obscure DJ sets, weddings, going away parties, retirement parties and parties just for the sake of a party parties.

My mind then went to darker places thinking of all the events maybe I haven't been invited to for that very same reason. Along with that comes the stunning paranoia where I then start to think 'maybe it's me and not the chair'. Ah, paranoia. One of the biggest downsides to having a disability. You can't shake that feeling for all of the 10/10 Legless ratings in the world.

My friends are steely when it comes to getting me in places where I shouldn't be but we can't always argue with the bottom line. Sure, some people will probably suggest that if they're real friends, they would book an accessible venue. Well, you can't ask that of anyone. Firstly, you try book an accessible venue that suits the many weird and wonderful interests all of my friends have that is also within our budget. But secondly, not every single person that is in your life is a "real" friend. I cannot expect friends of friends or people that I just sort of know to always think of access. Some friends are just casual friends or people I talk shite to at festivals and I cannot throw that expectation on them to cater for my own needs. In this wonderful non-committal age of ours, I may not even show up to an event that I say I would and then it will all be for nothing.

My bottom line here is that because of a building's poor access or their bouncers policies, I am either missing out an important celebration of someone's life  or I am testing the loyalty of people to a point where it shouldn't be tested.

This isn't a piece about forcing all building to be accessible and it isn't a piece telling the people I know to always think about access. This is a piece that simply highlights the daily inconvenience being in a wheelchair brings. It's crap. No one should have to face this sort of thing but it happens.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Blackbird Rathmines

Rathmines Road Lower, Dublin 6

I am pushing hard for Blackbird to become my local. I have never taken claim over a pub before but today, I put my first one forward. Run by the same folk that look after P Mac's and Cassidy's, there's a serious selection of craft beers here and even though I end up guzzling more Brooklyn Lager than I should, I will explore their full collection eventually. The style is kitsch and when they have a bed as a table, you have to ask if it's one kitsch too far. I will forgive them for that though. Their pizzas are pretty decent and the music goes from brilliant to "Did I fall into a 2007 indie vortex?" but maybe the best thing here is the staff. Straight up pack of sounders.

What has it got?

Seating:  The seats are all different here but at least they are moveable. They are all different heights, weights and sizes so, like Goldilocks, you should find one that's just right.

Doors:  They have double doors that are generally kept open but they are light to push open.

Ground:  They have ridged wooden panels throughout the bar and the bathrooms are tiled.

Stairs: There is one small step at the main door but it is easy to tip the chair up to it.  The ladies bathroom is up a few steps and the gents is down a few but the wheelchair bathroom is on ground level.

Bathrooms: They have a wheelchair bathroom! Huzzah! And it is big! However, the mirror is up way too high so if you're in a wheelchair, you'll just have to assume that you look great. Which you always do, you ride.

Spaciousness: When the place is packed, it is difficult to meander your way through but there are a couple of tables that are in direct vicinity of the bar and bathroom so if you land those tables, you will have no problems.

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff here are ridiculously sound. Before I had even found a table, one of the barmen came over to me to say that I could get access to the beer garden through their kitchen. It is near impossible to find an accessible beer garden so this is great news. We had a little bit of trouble finding an easy-to-get-to table that had view of a telly for the World Cup so without a flicker hesitation, they set up a table for us that fulfilled all our needs.

Parking: There is plenty of on street parking across the road on Military Road.

Rating: 9/10
Why did it lose points? It lost one point because of the step at the front door. I will need help with it every time so it means that I have to have someone with me to get in or phone a mate to come out and help. Other than that, it really is a great spot and adds a lot to the Rathmines area. Fair play.