I have just come back from a nice if not cold break from Budapest, staying with a very close friend I had not seen for a few years. One night I asked if we could go out somewhere and she thought of the nightclub attached to the Full Moon hostel, a new generation of party hostels allowing guests to party all nighg and sleep all day.
So with my volunteer, her and her boyfriend, and myself, we walked the 5 minutes to the club. I was in my newly acquired Quantum electric wheelchalr. On approaching the enterance to the club, we were confronted with the usual security type staff this sort of place has, and this is where the fun and games began.
I find it interesting that it does not matter what language it is in, even when I do not understand a word being said, I can quickly understand when I am being talked about and when it is not good news. My friend had the ‘conversation’ with the security staff, the gist of which was from what I could tell was I was being refused entry as a wheelchair user because I was a fire hazard!
My friend is an experienced coporate lawyer and I was proud to say that due to past experiences she had with myself many years ago and other dysabled friends, she was not going to let this one lie. I calmly waited, refusing to get mad at that point, as she commenced battle. She demanded to inspect the club to check its accessibility, to discover to her further annoyance that for the most part, the club was fully wheelchair accessible, the best she had seen!
Armed with this piece of information, she swiftly verbally disarmed the security staff who sheepishly now let us in. I then find it slightly insulting that after this awkwardness, we still had to pay at the door, and it was not the right place to ask for a ‘carer’s discount’. After this difficult start, we had a great time and I was proud that at almost 42, I can still occasionally really enjoy the youthfulness of an nightclub.
So why was this incident worth writing about? Surely this is commonplace in a less developed country like Hungary? Well, while we enjoy an almost unparalleled level of accessibility in many parts of the UK (to the point I am embarrassed when some activists complain about it), Hungary is a highly developed country as a member of the European Union. While Hungary may be slower at implementing accessibility, like most Western democracies, the moral arguement for accessibility has been won.
Activism has to tackle the small things as well as the large ones. My tools includes writing aricles and so as soon as the incident happened, I was starting to write this article in my head. You can call it awareness raising, revenge, an attempt to embarrassed the hostel, or simply a coping mechanism to offload the unconscious hurt an incident like this can cause. I always hope sharing my experiences will help others to take a similar stand when they face discrimination themselves.
Information is power and now the power to share information is in the hands of the masses, so lets use it to expose the everyday difficulties we face, like the discrimination I faced at this nightclub.