Last night I went to a local pub, The Rye Hotel. It’s a grand old building that sits opposite Peckham Rye Park. I’ve been there many times before but not since it’s recently changed owners and undergone a bit of a makeover.
I could see some thought had gone in to making the place more wheelchair-accessible. There’s now a long sloped walkway at the side of the building into the big garden at the back, and at the front there’s a bell you can ring if you need a ramp to get over the low doorstep. It’s still not perfect but I was glad to see these changes had been made – and that a new accessible toilet had been added.
I was bursting for the loo when I arrived with Fat Sister so we headed straight for it. While it was a good size it suffered from two all-too-common problems.
The first was that it was being used for storage. This happens all over the place. I’ve tried to use loads of ‘accessible’ toilets elsewhere, particularly in pubs or restaurants, and found them full of all sorts of stuff. This one was housing a load of broken highchairs which meant it was impossible for me to turn my chair into a good position.
The second problem was that because it was also used as a baby-changing area – and because the pub’s very popular with families – the wall-mounted baby-changing table had been left down. This meant it stuck out into the middle of the room and I had to wrestle to get it out the way. The plethora of pedal bins for disposing of nappies only added to the complexity of manoeuvring.
Eventually Fat Sister and I joined King Russell and our other friends in the garden, and I started moaning about the shocking state of the loo. When I mentioned the mountain of highchairs, our friend Ollie’s sister Theo said, ‘Oops, that was me, I put them in there.” I knew she worked at the pub but we hadn’t met before so I wasn’t expecting this response. She apologised profusely and said she hadn’t realised they’d be a problem. Even though it was her day off she immediately went and moved them all out.
She wasn’t the only member of staff who was helpful during our visit. Wherever I needed assistance because the accessibility was less than perfect, the staff stepped in to help. While I fully expect pubs, shops and restaurants should be made as physically accessible as possible, I’ve long believed one of the most important things is for staff to have an understanding and helpful attitude towards their disabled customers.