Before the days of VIDA Training, Dave and I were visiting another organisation to do a presentation on a project we had been working on. These were the days when Dave still had Errol (his guide dog). So, the 3 of us arrived and introduced ourselves at reception. We were greeted warmly and then told the meeting was due to take place on the lower ground floor. The receptionist offered to show us the way and then said – ‘oh but I don’t know how you’re going to get there – our lift is broken’. I was still trying to process this nugget of information when Dave asked ‘Do you not have stairs?’. The receptionist confirmed that indeed stairs were available and we explained ‘we can do stairs’! Needless to say we got safely to the meeting room – stairs and everything!!
On another occasion, we were again in an office building. Again we were greeted by someone who explained they would take us up to the meeting room on the third floor. We’d been to this building loads and always happily took the stairs (we need all the exercise we can get with our liking for doughnuts)! However, on this occasion the woman taking us upstairs proceeded to the lift. We said we could do stairs but she said something like ‘Oh the lift is easier’. Thinking that she may not be able to manage the stairs herself, we both went over to the lift. Once it had arrived, she indicated for us to go in first and then promptly turned around and walked up the stairs stating that she would meet us up there!! Dave and I just burst out laughing!
Now, please don’t take from this that every person with a vision impairment will want to take the stairs but please just ask the simple question – ‘would you prefer the lift or the stairs?’. And this shouldn’t apply just for people with a vision impairment – there may be lots of reasons why people would have a preference - I know Dave has said that if on his own (or in the past when with Errol) he’d prefer stairs as lifts are a nightmare with not knowing which button to press etc. but I also have a sighted friend who has a phobia about lifts so she’d always prefer stairs too. So don’t assume – Ask!
Dave: There are several other stories we tell similar to this including a few about ramps and revolving doors. As Vicky has said, I would always prefer the stairs to a lift; finding the buttons in a lift is really difficult and, even if they are marked with raised numbers or symbols, it’s still a bit of a lottery. Just one point here though, there is a correct technique for supporting/guiding people up and down stairs. We cover this in our training sessions (cheap plug) but the key things to consider are ‘stairs up’ or ‘stairs down’, don’t count the stairs and let the person with a vision impairment decide on how they would like to navigate them.
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