ONE day last week, I was very agitated because I couldn’t arrange a disabled-friendly veicle to transport my friend to and from a local band’s performance.
My friend is 25 years old and has lived in Hucknall most of her life. The band we were going to see were performing at The Empire in Hucknall, which is only a short ten-minute taxi-drive from her house.
I found it very disappointing that not one of the local taxi-services provided a wheelchair-friendly service in the town — until eventually Central Cars saved the day and provided us with a suitable taxi at a reasonable price.
The minibus arrived with an amazingly helpful driver who had come out to work specially to escort us to and from the gig. We hopped on board. Our troubles were over and we were free to enjoy the night — or so we thought!
Upon arrival at The Empire, we saw that the disabled access was not exactly desirable. However we were aware of this before we arrived because of a phone call we made with the venue to check if it had disabled access.
We made our way to a table and were enjoying the performance, just like the other customers that night. We did as most ladies in their early 20s do on a Friday night would do and enjoyed a few alcoholic beverages.
At the end of the night (11 pm), after maybe one or two drinks too many, we made our way out to our pre-booked taxi.
Unfortunately, my friend found it difficult to operate her wheelchair around the tight walkways between the rooms in the venue, so we assisted her to try and get her to the taxi with as little disruption as possible.
Suddenly, a gentleman started to nudge us and push from behind, at which point I turned round and requested that he gave us some space and explained we were trying to get my friend out to the taxi.
To my shock, the gentleman responded by telling me that I was disgusting for allowing my friend to get in such a drunken state and that I should be ashamed.
I explained to him that she was 25 years old and in control of herself, so if she chose to get drunk, like most people her age, that was her choice.
He continued to push us through the walkway without offering his support but reminding me that I was appalling and should be ashamed of myself for letting a disabled person get drunk.
By this time, I had become increasingly agitated with the gentleman, so I turned round and said to him:
“My friend has had a good night out after a stressful week and has enjoyed her drinks like everyone else in the club. What has the fact she is a little too drunk got to do with you?” To which, he replied that he was the manager of The Empire.
Now this took me by surprise as I would think that any member of staff would be wanting to support disabled people, rather than being disgusted by their presence. As he continued to push us out to the minibus, the manager told us that, as a group, we were no longer welcome at the venue and that we were barred.
I couldn’t understand this at all (not that we would want to return!), so I asked him why. He told me that anyone careless enough to let a disabled lady get that drunk was not welcome there.
Yet myself and all three of my friends are reasonably quiet, non-aggressive people who regularly go to see the band perform at a variety of places. We do not cause nuisance, noise or trouble.
After going home and sleeping off my anger, I woke up still unsure as to why we were barred from The Empire.
Was it because my friend was disabled? Was it because, like 70% of the audience that night, we had a little ‘too much’? This still remains a mystery to me.