This is not a movie, this is a real-life story.
When you are in a wheelchair, sometimes you come across hindrances and discriminations, some mild, some big, when you least expect it. Sometimes these happen in places that you would swear should know better.
Take this little incident that happened to me recently.
I went with a group of friends to a licensed club, one of the bigger, better-known ones in Brisbane's bayside area. We were going to have lunch there. None of us were members, but if one of our group joined as a temporary member, the rest of us could go in as his or her guest. The cost of this temporary membership was minimal. After some discussion, the group decided I should be the "temporary member" for the day.
I paid my two dollars (maybe it was one dollar – very cheap anyway) to the lady at the reception desk. She passed me a membership application form, quite a simple affair. Then she asked to see some photo ID. That's when things went pear-shaped.
"What sort of photo ID?", I asked.
A driver's licence will be fine, she replied.
"I am in a wheelchair, I don't have a car, and I don't drive."
Does Sir have a passport?
"Well yes, but it's at home. I don't normally carry a passport when I just go out locally for the day."
Proof-of-age card, perhaps?
"Come off it, do I look under 18? I'm 71!"
If Sir has a bank or eftpos card, plus a rates notice showing Sir's address ...
"Well, I have an eftpos card, but I don't normally carry a rates notice with me when I go out. Who does?", I added, with more than a touch of sarcasm. Then I had an idea.
"Tell you what. I have a taxi subsidy membership card, which has full photo ID. I'll show you that."
That's no good. That's just issued by the taxi companies and is not official.
"Hang on, a taxi subsidy card is not a taxi company card. It is an official Queensland Government identity card showing that I am a member of the Queensland government's taxi subsidy scheme. Many, if not most people in wheelchairs will have one and is probably the only form of photo ID they will ever have!"
Sorry sir, it is not on our list of approved photo ID documents, so it is against government regulations for me to accept it.
She wasn't going to budge on this. Finally, in temporary defeat, one of my able-bodied friends with a driver's licence became the notional "temporary member". We all then went on to have a very nice lunch. I decided I wasn't going to let this matter rest.
Next day, I wrote an e-mail to the CEO of the club, outlining what had happened. I explained, rather tersely, that most people in wheelchairs applying for membership at his club were unlikely to have a passport or a driver's licence, let alone a rates notice. A few might have an "over 18" proof-of-age card, but only if they were pretty young-looking. The most common photo ID among the disabled community in Queensland is the Queensland government's own taxi subsidy photo ID. An official government card establishing identity for an official government benefits scheme. If clubs like his refused to accept them, then, in my view, this amounted to unlawful disability discrimination under both state and federal anti-discrimination laws.
I sent this off, then waited. I waited for a week.
Then, one afternoon, out of the blue, I got a phone call from the club CEO. He was very apologetic. He explained that, on the day in question, his reception staff had been working from an outdated, superseded list of acceptable photo IDs. They had made a mistake in refusing to accept mine. He said his staff have now been re-trained and counselled on that particular matter, and the out-of-date list replaced with an up-to-date one. He assured me the error wouldn't happen again.
Well, that was a satisfactory outcome, but it just goes to show: you never know when some petty discrimination, based purely on the general public's lack of knowledge of disability matters, is going to crop up.
We, the disabled community, must always remain alert, and not put up with sh*t.
Always fight it.