Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Oi! Where's my discount?

A bizarre incident took place today which at the time I thought nothing of. But the more I've thought on it, the more unimpressed I've become. I'm doing the family holiday thing at the moment. Just me and the parents on the East Coast and today, in honour of my Giraffe-a-licious tendencies, we went to visit my cloven-footed kindred at Africa Alive - a wildlife park just outside of Lowestoft. Prior to the trip we had taken a look at their website to assess the accessibility of the park (they score 0 when it comes to said information available on the site) and to find out their admission prices. We discovered that a wheelchair user receives a small discount and a carer a slightly larger one. Jolly good. So off we trotted.

We arrived safe and sound. I bundled myself into my wheelchair, Dad pushing, and we went to get our tickets. As we approached the desk we were greeted by a lady who quickly said "3 adults?" and rung up the charges. "Hang on a minute, is there not a discount for a wheelchair user and carer?" "Oh yes" says the lady, "only we don't give it unless you ask because some people don't like just having it handed out." What the blinking heck was that all about? At the time we just mumbled something about that being fine and that we understood, probably as a result of that innate British 'quality' of not wanting to offend anyone. But the more that my parents and I thought on it the more ridiculous and slightly disturbing it became.

Firstly, if a girl in a wheelchair being pushed by her father presents herself to such a ticket issuer it's pretty darn obvious that they are entitled to the discount that the park publicises on its website. You don't have to say out loud "1 adult, 1 disabled customer and 1 carer" and draw attention to the situation (evidently their main concern considering the explanation we were given). You just ring it up as such and ask for the total amount due. We shouldn't have to point it out to them!

Secondly, it seems to imply that being disabled is a terrible thing that no-one wants to talk about. Somehow it has become a taboo subject! How is it in anyway helpful to completely ignore the fact that someone is in a wheelchair? You don't have to waffle on about it but in this instance it needs to be recognised! Or are they worried that if they vocally confirm that I am in fact disabled and in a wheelchair that I'm going to throw a hissy fit and wheel around shouting that I'm not disabled? Bizarre indeed. This is either another symptom of political correctness gone mad or of a wildlife park trying to rip its disabled customers off and hiding it in a cloud of respectability. Either way it's just another example of the many absurdities that wheelchair users and the disabled in general have to deal with.

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