Tags

, , , ,

(Probably won’t be the UK…)

Embed from Getty Images

Ten facts about Gherkin. Ignoring a pretty sizeable one.

The chaps in capes, blue tights and questionable boots might manage. And the women wearing copper headbands and bodysuits might well cope too.

But unless you fall into the superhero category, Britain seems incapable of serving the whole of society. Making all areas accessible; being inclusive.

“You simple-headed gherkin!”

Ever seen the film The Great Race? Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. Natalie Wood and Peter Falk. The Great Leslie and Professor Fate… And the downtrodden Max.

Well the quote comes from that film. The not-so-smart Max gets yelled at (again) by Professor Fate when trying to concoct a cunning plan to foil the competition. It’s not the most well thought-out plan: the plan fails.

This genius design element presumably also excludes the elderly, those recuperating from any major surgery, new limb amputees, anyone without the strength or wish to scale a long flight of stairs.

From now on I’m adopting that word (gherkin) as an insult of the basest sort. Why? Because designers of our London ‘landmark’ have managed to construct this ‘iconic’ building without provision for the disabled. Toilets and access to the very top floor is by stairs only.

This genius design element presumably also excludes the elderly, those recuperating from any major surgery, new limb amputees, anyone without the strength or wish to scale a long flight of stairs.

How has this happened? In the 21st century. Can we continue calling this a landmark building? Nope.

So the Gherkin (let’s just call it 30 St Mary Axe eh?) is exclusive and thereby excluding. How proud we should be. A magnificent part of our capital. How tourists must be in awe of it. You can keep it. It’s a disgrace.

This leads me seamlessly on to the whole disabled access catastrophe.

Ramps where the entrance itself is stupidly impossible to use. Public conveniences that anyone with a stick, any spine or leg weakness, breathing or balance issues simply won’t tackle. Staircases with no bannisters… Inclusive my eye.

This is paying lip-service. Just scraping through regulations. Box ticking for some myopic clerk. It’s not a working way of ensuring people with movement difficulties can remain part of mainstream society.

And do you know what that means? That a swathe of brilliant people cannot take part whether in work or outside work.

And do you know what that means? That we might be making do with the least capable. The less talented. Those who have been chosen to do certain jobs just because they can scale stairs to use the loo, talk to the director, do presentations in the board room. That horrifies me.

Whether we’re in or out of Europe, Britain must have an intelligent, 21st-century approach to disability. It’s no good thinking that an able-bodied person must be right for the job. That’s idiocy.

This is not the way to be great again. And goodness knows we need that more than ever. We’re asking to be overtaken. Ruled by those who have catered for all parts of society and who can access the brilliance of all its members.

Those who have provided opportunities and ensured that the most able (and I use that word in its true, broad sense) are picked for the job. A gifted economist who has a calliper. A talented teacher who needs wheelchair access (to all areas in the institution.) A musician who sometimes needs assistance and well-thought-out planning. Chefs, nursery staff, researchers and innovators…

Can you imagine an interview like this?

“Hello. Welcome. You have a glowing and highly impressive CV. You’ve been at the forefront of ecological research. It says you’ve found a way to save the planet.”

“I have indeed. Twenty-three years of my life’s work.”

“Just the person we’re looking for. You can start Monday. Can you work on the top floor?”

“Of course. I can work anywhere.”

“Can you tackle twelve flights of stairs? There’s no lift for the top floors.”

“Then no. Not without a lift”

Next!”

“Come in Dave . Now. can you tackle twelve flights of stairs?”

“Of course I can. I’m a professional mountaineer.”

“You’re hired.”

It’s economics and in the interests of national GDP, preservation of our status and standing in the world. And that’s worth fighting for. So let battle commence.

As it is we’re struggling with zero hours contracts, minimum wages and an array of employment challenges. The solutions aren’t easy but they’re worthwhile.

I know of one forward-thinking company that employs a chap with autism. A specialist. They’ve moved the office around a bit, ensured he can work comfortably. Other staff have been briefed on some of the new issues each might face and been advised on the best ways of working together. Why all this trouble and expense Because he’s the only man that can do the supremely technical job he has to do. ‘Nuff said.

Whether we’re in or out of Europe, Britain must have an intelligent, 21st-century approach to disability. It’s no good thinking that an able-bodied person must be right for the job. That’s idiocy. Cater for all individuals as best as you can and see how successful and enriched the country becomes.

We owe it to ourselves. It’s not charity. It’s not something for nothing for the undeserving. It’s not a thinly disguised tax hike or quiet removal of services. (We seem not to mind these…)

It’s economics and in the interests of national GDP, preservation of our status and standing in the world. And that’s worth fighting for. So let battle commence.

Advertisements