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Disability Arts Online

Disabled cash / 26 September 2008

A mate of mine, I’ll call him Ken, who usually has problems when he goes into pubs because of his small stature, has recently joined the ranks of us ‘wheelies’ and now experiences a different form of discrimination. money cartoon

Before, all Ken had to do was bring out his passport or driving licence, which clearly showed that he was over 18, and that was that. He’d get his drink and sit down somewhere to enjoy it (don’t get him started on the height of bar stools what ever you do!). In short (no pun intended!), once he’s got through the age screening, he’s treated just like any other guy out for a drink on a Saturday night.

So, the wheelchair … due to increased problems around his arthritic hips and knees, Ken’s decided that the time has come to start using a wheelchair. No problem there you might think. Pubs and clubs are getting more accessible, and if you can’t get into the local, there’s usually an accessible alternative down the road. So off he goes one Saturday night, duly armed with passport and driving licence, money in his pocket and his cleanest pair of jeans on.

‘You on your own then?’ asks the bouncer on the door. ‘Yeh. Why is that a problem?’. ‘Er, no mate … in you go then’. Ken wheels to the bar. ‘Pint of best please mate’. The barman looks down at him, and then slowly looks to either side of him. ‘You on your own then?’. Ken suddenly gets this feeling that he’s wandered into some kind of Groundhog Day scenario. ‘Er, yes. Why, is that a problem?’. ‘Not at all mate, no. It’s just that we don’t usually see you lot in here on your own’.

It still hadn’t occurred to Ken at this stage that he’d now joined the ranks of the ‘cared for’, a race of people who couldn’t go anywhere on their own unless it was part of a supervised group or with at least one support worker in tow. Being of short stature hadn’t qualified him as being Disabled in the eyes of the Joe Public, so he’d not encountered this particular attitude before. Being in a wheelchair, however, changed everything.

The penny finally dropped when he came to pay for the drinks and the meal he’s had. He’d meant to drop off at the cash machine on his way their, but had forgotten, so pulled out one of his credit cards. The barman took the card, looked at it and then at Ken, several times. Then finally said ‘Hang on a minute’ and promptly disappeared through a door behind the bar. Another man, presumably the Manager stuck his head through the door and gave Ken a quick look before disappearing. A few minutes later a women stuck her head through the door and did the same thing. Ken could hear a muttered conversation taking place and picked up the phrase ‘on his own?’ several times. The two heads did a repeat appearance/disappearance routine before the barman eventually returned and said to Ken: ‘You got any identification then?’. Now firmly back on home ground, Ken reached into his pocket and grabbed his passport!

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