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When people think of accessibility they might just think of wheelchair access (which of course is extremely important and it is disgusting that there are still so many places and venues that don’t offer it!). What people might not immediately think of is accessibility for those with hidden disabilities, such as for Autistic people. The past few years there has been progress, such as the sunflower land yard to help identify yourself as someone that needs extra assistance or is unable to wear a face mask, or certain shops having a quiet hour where the lights are dimmed and music stopped. However, I still don’t think that has scratched the surface for making places more accessible.

For instance, right now I want to buy something but I feel I need to see and feel it in person before I can make a decision. My problem is that the store (and most stores in general) is always so busy and so loud and so crowded. This is a huge barrier that I just can’t overcome unless I want to have a full on meltdown. I can’t simply access the store like everyone else can. I can’t get the thing I want. All because the store is not accessible for me. (And yes I can order online which I do a lot but as I said this is something I need to feel in person and the hassle of ordering and returning is just as stressful and overwhelming).

The store I’m referring to is within a large shopping centre in which they claim to be “autism friendly” and when looking at what makes them autism friendly I see some okay things such as private cinema screenings catered to Autistic people, as well as a “quiet area” for people to go to if needed. The other two options for accessibility are a nature trail outside (which isn’t accessibility, it’s telling you to just walk outside) and a general management desk (which again isn’t exactly going the extra mile to be accessible). On top of this they offer the quiet hours where they dim the lighting and turn off the music in main areas, but what is important to note is that they do this once a week for two hours…

Apparently, our accessibility is only worth two hours a week. We need to arrange our entire schedule and life to fit into those two hours just to experience the minimum accessibility. Obviously I have contacted the store and the shopping centre to point out they need to do more, whether that’s offering access to the store or centre a little bit before it opens or a little bit after it closes so we can avoid all the crowds and people, something I don’t think is asking too much, especially as it still requires us, the disabled people, to adapt our schedules to be there early or late just to feel comfortable, just to feel like everyone else, just to be able to access and have the same opportunities as everyone else. I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere else, if it’s better, if it’s worse but I’m once again reminded how something that should be so simple to do has become yet another mountain to climb whilst it isn’t even an incline for a non-Autistic person. I hope things change.

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