Today, after doing an errand, my DH and I were in Manchester City Centre to meet my/our best girlfriend for caffeine and sugar at Caffe Nero at 67 Deansgate.
All three of us are physically/mobility disabled. For privacy reasons, I will only state that I have spastic cerebral palsy, which means, among other things, that although I can walk, I have very poor balance. Access to disabled toilets and wheelchair/scooter accessibility (if I’m using my scooter) to establishments is a must, although today I got about walking with my cane. I can and often do manage stairs as long as they have suitable railings I can grab onto for balance. My husband would not have been able to manage the Caffe Nero stairs at all; I devoutly hoped he would not need the facilities.
When my girlfriend and I needed to use the loos, we entered what we thought was a disabled toilet area. The door was clearly wide enough to accommodate a scooter or wheelchair, so what I didn’t expect to see were two flights of stairs leading down to the ladies’ and gents’ – with only a partial railing on the left side of the stairs, and none at all on the right.
My jaw dropped, and I let out a string of words which common decency forbids me to record. But as the call of nature was now urgent, and I could not safely descend the stairs, walking while digging my fingers into the wall moulding or with my left hand only on the banister (I use my cane with my left hand), I had no alternative but to slide down these dirty steps, on my ass. As a gentleman at the next table saw us going to the loos, he expressed concern that we might have trouble, as the stairs were wobbly. Great. He went to check with the servers if there was an accessible loo on the premises. Nope, there wasn’t. My husband would not have been able to manage the stairs at all; I devoutly hoped he would not need the facilities.
So, on my ass it would have to be. My friend suggested we might try going into a different cafe nearby, in case they had more sensible accommodations. I declined; it was now a matter of urgency. (Women’s bladders are roughly the size of walnuts; males’ have a slightly higher capacity, and a longer exit route – lucky bastards.) Climbing back up those stairs was much more straightforward, as I gripped the railing with my right hand and the wall moulding with my left, while my girlfriend kindly held both my cane and hers. We decided that large slices of cake and coffee were in order. That’s partly why I’m awake, having written two blog posts tonight. Zing!
This wasn’t the first time I’d encountered accessibility problems. But at least now, more than 10 years after my first brush with this kind of nonsense, I can deal with it with a certain amount of aplomb and chutzpah. And chocolate cake.
Caffe Nero can be reached at:
0161 832 3186