Friday, 29 January 2016

An Actual Fire Hazard

I've just read a story about a woman using a wheelchair who was asked to leave her local cinema during a screening of In The Heart Of The Sea. The headline, in The Metro, claims that she was asked to leave for being a 'fire hazard'. As the title of this blog suggests I know a thing or two about this. I also know the difference between being labelled a fire hazard because you use a wheelchair and.....well....,being labelled a fire hazard for causing a fire hazard.

Before we get to the reason why I say that let me first assure you that nobody needs to throw me out of a Chris Hemsworth movie. I'm leaving of my own accord lest I be subjected to two hours of the same smug facial expression. Second, and perhaps a tad more on point, I'd love to know what turgid hackery led the writer to describe the woman as a 'disabled athlete' in the very first paragraph. The story goes on to explain that she's a professional boccia player. All well and good, but so what? In what way is that relevant to the perceived injustice? Had she been a pen pushing underling like myself would the story have carried less weight? The great legacy of London 2012 appears to be that disabled people are acceptable only if they've competed in top level sport, and even then not if they've shot their partner dead through the bathroom door. If you're not an athlete then your last chance to gain respect as a disabled person is to get yourself a gig cracking shit jokes on Adam Hills' sofa. Or else be Adam Hills.

Back at the ranch, this particular woman's complaint develops a flaw when you read further into the piece. She was asked to leave the cinema not because she was using a wheelchair but because she was sat in the aisle and declined to move. Anyone would be thrown out of a cinema if they sat in the aisle and refused to move, wheelchair user or not. A disability isn't a free pass to ignore safety regulations that apply to everyone. It doesn't gain you access to that which would otherwise be unreasonable. If I can't turn up at Jennifer Lawrence's house and expect her to cede to my demands because I've got a blue badge, then why would I be able to sit in a cinema aisle rather than my accessible seat?

The woman's complaint should actually be twofold. First of all that the access on offer was inadequate. She'd moved to the aisle because her front row seat was too close to the screen and looking up was causing her neck pain. There should have been adequate accessible seating further back to eradicate this. The irony of a minority group so often pushed to the back finding themselves pushed to the front against their will is probably not lost on the woman. That there was not alternative seating available is a bloody outrage and so she has my complete empathy there. Secondly, the piece claims that the woman's 'assistant' was pulled out of the theatre and informed that the pair must leave. You're probably ahead of me in wondering why the cinema staff did not speak to the woman herself. Could a compromise not have been reached that way? That would involve actual one-to-one interaction with the disabled however, and despite London 2012 we're obviously not quite ready for that yet.

That's all for now. You can go back to clicking 'like' under that photograph of a Paralympians dinner.....

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