Most 18-year-olds hit the town with their friends for their 18th Birthday! However for a number of reasons, none of which I regret, I had never been on a night out until recently.
And unlike most people who go on their first night out, I had a film crew join me to show the general public just what it’s like for someone like me to try and navigate such an event.
With Bristol being my nearest city that’s where me, my best friend Harriet and boyfriend Dom headed for the night. But first things first; finding a disabled bay. On this occasion parking in Trenchard Street works well and has lots of disabled bays but I can’t say it’s the same throughout the rest of the city! The amount of times I will come into the centre of town to go shopping or to the hospital and it can take up to an hour to find parking sometimes. But hey! Like I say that wasn’t an issue on this occasion, phew!
But the next hurdle; the curbs, cobbles and hills. All of which I wouldn’t be able to contend with on my own which is frustrating. Having Harriet and Dom with me make all these things manageable. Oh and we can’t forget the film crew and the whole reason they are tagging along is to see how accessible Bristol is for wheelchair users like myself.
The word accessible. What does that actually mean?
I think this means something different to me than it would to you, and the next person, and the next person and so on.
A lot of place in Bristol aren’t accessible because they are old/listed buildings and don’t have the demand to need to change, which is fair enough I guess. But what about when people like me do want to go there? We just can’t … and I don’t like that word!
So we tried to get into six bars. But three of them had steps at the entranceways and no alternative doors. The three that were accessible had ramps; either permanent ones or in one case, a temporary one that the barman brought out for me. Before we went on to the nightclubs there was something else that needed doing first.
We had heard from a number of people that Bristol blue cabs often weren’t exactly “accessible”. Now on the Bristol City Council website it says “All Hackney Carriage taxis in Bristol are able to take wheelchairs”. I have never had any problems with cabs when I have been to other cities so I expected them to be fine here too.
How wrong was I! I tried to get into 7 cabs and only 3 would take me; 2 with disgust and 1 willingly. It wasn’t because they didn’t have the ramps to facilitate me, it was because it was an inconvenience to them and no one should feel like they are inconvenient! So this is when a statement like all hackney carriage taxis in Bristol are able to take wheelchairs doesn’t necessarily mean they will.
After that disappointing experience there was only one thing left; going clubbing. I called ahead to 10 of Bristol’s nightclubs and only 2 said they were fully accessible. But neither of these would let us in with a camera. So we went to one that had some steps inside and no disabled loo, but they were very friendly and helpful. Much like with the curbs, cobbles and hills I wouldn’t have managed in the nightclub without the help of Harriet, Dom and another friend of mine who joined us.
Luckily I had been to the toilet earlier on because the ones there were down a full flight of stairs but in the main area there was 2 steps to the VIP booth we had been given and 3 steps to the dance floor. Being light, having a lightweight wheelchair and 3 people with me meant this was all “manageable”. But what about those people who aren’t in lightweight wheelchairs?
We only tried one city. What about all the others in the country?? I would love to find out myself, but I am sure there are people out there who have tried and can give me an insight?
For my first night out, with a film crew in tow, I can say it wasn’t all bad … I just wonder how to cope with the cabs next time? But until the next time if you want to see for yourself how my first night out went you can catch Inside Out West on BBC Iplayer here … http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08h4m30/inside-out-west-06032017