Going Dotty

A friend read it out. A clipping from her Sunday paper. Apparently, those nice folk at the DVLA will, if requested, provide the application form for a provisional driving licence in Braille! However, they also say that anyone registered with sight problems is unlikely to pass their test. What killjoys, building up people’s expectations like that!

Mind you, I’m all right; I have a licence. Don’t worry, I don’t use it but no-one has asked me to return it. Comes in very handy as a proof of identity. I suppose, if I reach seventy, there might be a stushie; at the very least, some interesting communication with Swansea.

But I really shouldn’t be picking on the dottiness of the DVLA. This is part of a syndrome. A belief that strategically placed dots makes Everything All Right. For instance, have you noticed many a public building now has dots arranged in the neighbourhood of its maind door? Of course, if you’re a blinkie, you won’t. Finding a set of useful dots somewhere on a vast expanse of wall is as probable as picking six winning numbers on the Lottery. However, I frequently have had a paw dragged over such by a curious member of the public. It’s never very exciting; just a bell push identified by “Call” or “Press”. The system is seen as inclusive and that’s what matters. Such a pity it’s seldom followed through.

Our local secondary has recently been refurbished; drop kerbs, a ramp and that brailled button set in a big, big, roughcast wall. Indoors, it’s a different story; poor colour choice, no demarcation for handles and a disabled toilet so vast that, each time I’ve entered it, I’ve only managed to escape by alerting a rescuer, via my mobile, to hammer on its door. Well, since its refurbishment, the school has become the venue for what down here is called A Big Do. Can you imagine! Erupting, bling asparkle but askew on the Posh Frock and my face bright purple from the exertion of yelling whilst banging footwear off any available hard object?

Of course, some institutions are desperate to offer any communications in Braille. Bank statements, phone bills, minutest details regarding the satellite service. These are businesses taking the healthy attitude that, although I may be disabled, I am still a potential customer and much more likely to part with my dosh to those companies which provide the fullest service. An attitude owing more to profit than political correctness but certainly inclusive. Unfortunately, this is rare amongst organisations which imply worthy values are part of their foundation. On several occasions I’ve had tussles with institutions whose comment, when asked to provide information in Braille, has been refusal. The excuse being its expense. And, no, I’m not talking about tiny, local charities, but organisations of national, even international, renown. I won’t embarrass them further by naming them; and, anyway, I’ve no wish to be sued, but surely, any such should budget into their running costs the provision of promulgating their information? In ALL formats!

Of course, they always trumpet everything is on line. Fine. But am I expected to lug my PC along to meetings? And, wrestling with some folk’s concept of an accessible web site isn’t always straightforward. The essential is a link to the Text Only Version. This shouldn’t be difficult. Instead, too many sites offer everything from sky blue pink letters to a background of tartan dots. Fonts and point sizes in abundance. A supreme example is the BBC’s site. Once, easily converted to text only and now, a shambles of unnecessary options. A footnote announces that some crew dedicated to Accessibility has improved it. Aye right! Someone ought to tell these Experts that a blinkie bumbling around the internet either has trained their Guide Dog, or spouse, to read anything relevant aloud or has a screen reader which, when the wind is in a suitable quarter, gallops along the motorways of cyber space, chattering happily as it goes.

People should be prodding a white cane round the metaphorical corners, whilst simultaneously, wearing someone else’s shoes. Double jointed thinking; notoriously difficult, especially for those accustomed to Knowing What is Best. And, I’ll bet you a banker’s pension to my Disability Living Allowance these Experts never have to use their oh so politically correct designs!

© Charlotte Bennie 2009