Awkward Conversations

Published: Aug 12, 2018

It can be difficult to understand how inaccessibility affects disabled people. So, I created a small thought experiment to help people better understand the issue.

Imagine accessibility issues as a series of awkward, and repetitive conversations you have to take part in. Whether it’s opening a door or moving through a restaurant, you have to talk to someone before you can continue. How many times will you stop and talk to someone before you stop entering these spaces? How many conversations are you willing to have before it’s no longer worth the struggle to go about your day?

Every time you want to open a door, you have explain to the person in charge of it that you need to enter. Then, wait for them to find the key, unlock the door, and allow you through it. Every door, every time.

When you board a bus, it’s a thirty second conversation. You tell the driver you need to board, where you will sit, and where you will be getting off.

Stairs are a nightmare as it takes a forty‐five to sixty‐second explanation with someone at either end to go up or down.

Restaurants are agonizing as you talk your way through narrow passageways of people. You spend a few seconds with each person, apologizing for interrupting their meal.

What if there’s no one to talk to? What if there’s no one watching the stairs? Or the bus driver can’t understand you? What if the door attendant is on their lunch break? What then? You sit there awkwardly conversing with passers by. They’ll smile, nod, and maybe even take a second or two to lament the utter lack of available door or stair attendants. But they cannot help you.

This is what it is like to be disabled and have to navigate through a world that is not designed for you. You’re constantly having to explain yourself to complete the most basic of tasks. This is why real accessibility is so important for people with disabilities. Without it, we spend all our time stuck in these “conversations” instead of doing what we need to do.