#587 – Advocacy: Big or Small, It All Helps

When it comes to advocacy, some people do big things in a small way, others do small things in a big way. Regardless of scope, the intention is to make things better, which was my intention when I contacted the Real Canadian Superstore.

I made this issue public because I felt that I am not the only person who would find it easier to fill one's shopping bags this way.

I received a reply stating that they were willing to help. I'm thrilled to report that they did indeed help. I'm very impressed with how responsive they were!

The Moral of the Story

If you see something that can be corrected, take the time to mention it in a respectful manner to people who have the power to make the changes. Often front-line workers are the punching bags for organizational policies over which they have no control. If you have an issue, bring it up with the manager. You can always escalate from there.

Not every issue needs to be resolved with a hammer. My mom always taught us that you can often catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. I've found that to be mostly true.

Keep in mind that for the average person, it is easy to overlook accessibility barriers. If you don't live with them, or have someone close to you who does, you may not be aware of the everyday challenges that must be surmounted. Patience, understanding, compassion and awareness help make things better for everyone.

While it is easy to take your abilities for granted, I hope you don't. (A stress undressing tip: do spend time appreciating what you are able to do, regardless how ordinary/natural they may seem. Also consider amping up your appreciation for the people who work to make this world more accessible. This is part of my self-care practice.)


Nothing and Everything

I've noticed that often small changes yield big results. As in this particular example at the Real Canadian Superstore. In the grand scheme of things, I assume that having those bag holders in place on the carousel doesn't make a whole lot of difference to the store. Yet, to shoppers like myself who wish to be independent, it means everything.

In an unrelated nothing and everything example, I have a note on my file at the pharmacy. It states that chubby bottles and easy-off caps should be used on my medications. Sadly, I always have to check to make sure that happens. (See: Make it So - Not Necessarily.) It's not a difficult thing for the pharmacist to do, yet it makes a huge difference to me.

Speaking of medication, this time OTC (over the counter) medication, Tylenol® does a good job of responding to the needs of their customers. Bravo! This means everything to someone who doesn't have the best hand dexterity.

I discuss another nothing and everything example in Disabled Canadians: Discrimination at the Gas Pumps?

Community Advocacy

Some changes are big and costly in terms of time, energy and mindset. The result is worth the effort, especially when laws are put in place to make the world more accessible and equitable.

Take time to be thankful for people and organizations who made the effort to change the laws so that they are more inclusive.

When I was diagnosed with RA forty-four years ago, there was no such thing as a handicapped decal. In the middle of a severe flare, when every step was excruciating, often my only hope was to get a parking spot close to the entrance. Fortunately, I rarely use my parking decal now. I'd rather save the space for someone who is in need.

Open or Closed Doors?

I think more healthcare professionals are thinking about who they serve and whether they're figuratively and yes, literally, welcoming their patients/clients with open or closed doors. It still surprises me when I go to an appointment and see room for accessibility improvements. I discuss this in an article I wrote for HealthCentral: Is Your Doctor's Office Arthritis Friendly? Keep in mind that these accommodations apply to the vast array of healthcare professionals; massage therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, counsellors, etc.

I remember cheering when the City of Vancouver made a bold and progressive decision to enhance accessibility.

"As of early 2014, all new housing units built in Vancouver will require a slew of new accessibility features, including wider stairways, higher outlets and a main-floor bathroom.

But the change receiving the most attention is the banishment of doorknobs, in favour of easier-to-turn lever handles." - No doorknobs allowed in new Vancouver homes after city passes bylaw

For those who are interested, here is a link to the British Columbia Building Accessibility Handbook 2020. How progressive is your community?

Now, if only something could be done about the locks on washroom cubicles! Yes, I've been held captive, more than once, in a toilet stall!

A Step in the Right Direction

An example of a tactile paving, otherwise known as a detectable warning surface, for the visually impaired.
When municipalities replace curbing on street corners, my hope is that tactile paving is used.

And One in the Wrong Direction

Steps from the sidewalk leading to a mall parking lot.
These steps lead from the municipal sidewalk into the parking lot of a mall. Why not make a ramp instead of two steps? I'm sure people in wheelchairs, using walkers or pushing baby carriages would appreciate it.

Conversation-forward Public Spaces

As a person with hearing loss, it is exceptionally difficult to find a restaurant or coffee shop that is conversation-forward. While I enjoy music, it's not the reason why I frequent these locations. I want to enjoy a meal or a coffee and good conversation with my table-mate. If I want music, I'll go to a concert...whenever that may be!

Do you ever notice how there's an upward spiral of noise in many of these places? The volume of music is loud, voices get louder. Then someone turns up the music, which forces people to speak even louder to be heard.

If anyone has recommendations of conversation-forward restaurants and coffee shops in the Lower Mainland, I'm all ears!

Advocacy Is Not Insignificant

Some people are natural-born advocates, others are funneled into that role through a variety of circumstances. Sometimes, the journey to change is long and arduous, other times the results happen quickly. Regardless, the efforts of the advocate are not insignificant.

I remember a neighbour once complaining about people using handicapped decals "when they didn't need them." That was until he had a heart attack.

You never know when your circumstances, or those of a friend or family member will change. If or when that happens, I hope you recognize that we all benefit from the efforts of the advocates.

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