-What is a door?
– What is it for?
– What work does a door do?
– Which doors have come to matter to you? How? And why?
– What are your door stories?
What is a door?
We need only 1 door in my home. The one that leads to their world and, the door that keeps me safe from their world. All my doors at home are open. Never closed, whilst I have to sit on the other side. Doors don’t lead my family to places I cannot go. Doors don’t bruise me as I use my knees to push them open. Doors at home don’t hurt my wrists, my fingers or my shoulders because they’re fitted incorrectly with door closers. At home, I can go everywhere, no barriers, no painful pushing and pulling. My home loves me and keeps me safe.
What is a door for?
If I venture out to their world. I panic. My breath leaves me and I have to battle with my mind. Doors out there just hurt me. They exclude me and they ignore me. I lose my voice, I lose me. Their doors are for closing.
What work does a door do?
Their doors are busy. So very busy. Open, close, open, close, open, close. They squeal with delight on occasion, happy to be back in use after a long period of quiet. They whoosh with a great swing, as someone in a hurry races through. Their doors groan as they’re pushed harder by someone laying new carpet under neath. Doors resist and fight against the person opening them because estates have been over zealous and placed a door closer on the top.
How do I know all this? Im sat on the other side, watching and listening, building up the courage to raise my hand and ask for help. A grown woman asking an adult to help them through a groaning door. “Could you possibly open the heavy, stubborn, resisting bathroom door?” The door works hard to make me invisible and return me to a state of being 5 years old.
What doors have come to matter?
Electronic doors that are switched off by walking, able people sat at a desk, upset that the wind blows in. These doors matter because it is me sat outside in the rain and sleet and snow. Keep warm in there. Turn off the electronic doors.
Sliding doors matter. They’re heavy and stiff, never serviced or checked by maintenance. Never oiled or tested. They’re made of heavy glass or solid wood. Perhaps sliding doors are only meant to be used by Olympians. Not used by me at all. Trains have sliding doors. I sat on a platform begging the guard to get out the ramp so I could travel, they refused. They were happy for two adults to step over my chair and hop through that sliding door. Sliding doors matter in that they reduce me to being no one.
Narrow doors matter. Narrow doors that they walk through. Run through. Rush through. Narrow doors that lead to tiny lifts. Narrow doors, on narrow lifts matter because they are built for people who walk and manual chairs. Not my 170kg chair. Narrow doors matter.
My front door matters. It allows me through and welcomes me. I would like to never leave.
I open my EDI training with ‘How many doors have you walked through today?’. Some people will take a guess “25” they will shout, “8 maybe 10. No more than 10”. The fact is, rarely does anyone in the room know how many doors they have pushed and pulled during their working day. I know though. Today as I write this I know I have opened 1; my bathroom door. Just 1. At work, pre-Covid, I might say “6” or “none”. At one campus I didn’t open any. I could only get through the front door because it was electronic and opened automatically. I reached the reception desk and realised I couldn’t get any further than reception without the assistance of another person.
I always know exactly how many doors I couldn’t get through that day. I don’t have to guess. I know because I have spent hours staring at a closed door hoping that someone might come past, or see me and open it. I’ve had human support before. There is nothing more degrading than hearing a colleague remind my human support “there is a fine line between assisting and becoming a carer”.
I don’t need a carer. I don’t want human support. I would just like to get through every door on campus without becoming a 5 year old asking for someone to help me leave a room, access a bathroom or reach my classroom.
Noone else has to ask. Noone else has to wait. Noone else is forced to ask a student for their help in accessing a classroom.
Doors exclude me. Doors ignore me. Doors make me invisible. Doors remove my identity and delete my qualifications. Doors don’t care if my brain is exceptional, doors just want me to disappear.
Covid was a horrific experience for millions of people and their families. My family was touched by Covid and I lost my father whom I adore. However, Covid removed almost every single barrier I feel whilst I fight to remain in their world. I love my job, I love my research. I will always keep fighting for my place among other intellectuals and academics. I doubt many others are fighting to remain in work. I understand why my peers, who face the same barriers as I, choose not to work, not to fight, not to leave their home.
Covid removed all those doors. I could suddenly attend every conference, I could attend every meeting. Noone had to scramble around when realising I was on the attendees list. Noone panicked when they realised I couldn’t get to a classroom, or couldn’t reach IT facilities. I wasn’t the centre of attention during Covid, I was just another academic. That was awesome.
Doors plague my world when I try and enter their world. A height adjustable desk, a ramp and a lift don’t open doors for me.
This is my typical journey, how many doors am I sat behind? To get to my classroom, or to a conference…
I look out of my window and see there is frost on the ground. Door #1. My electric wheelchair cannot go out in the snow, ice or rain. I skid on the ice or the rain destroys my electric chair. #snowday
I leave my home and enjoy the fresh air and blue skies. I take 20 mins to reach my train station having risked my life using the roads because the council have failed to use dropped curbs or smooth out the damaged concrete on the pavements. But, I arrive. When my train arrives, I desperately search for the disabled carriage sign and hope the on board guard sees me…
…Door #2 The guard doesn’t see me and the train leaves #missedclasses #lateforwork
…Door #3 The ramp doesn’t fit in the door of the train #onlineteachingtoday
…Door #4 I reach my destination but no one arrives to place the ramp. I have to return to my home station #missedclasses
…Door #5 I safely alight the train and hope the rain stays away whilst I battle broken pavements and no dropped curbs. I’m trundling along riding my personal rollercoaster on another 20min journey that shakes my metal and bone #painkillers #agony
…Door #6 I reach my building but sit for 10 minutes until a student sees me and opens the door #manualdoors
…Door #7 I reach my classroom and ask a student to open the door #humiliation
…Door #8 I ask my students to grab me a coffee after they open up the bathroom door #devastatinghumiliation
…Doors #9 & #10 re-read those steps and do it with your eyes and ears closed because on top of my zippy-wheels I hear and see much like you would under water in a swimming pool
If I leave my accessible home and enter your world, all I experience is pain, frustration, humiliation and torment.
Covid has been my best friend for so long, I thought it was here to stay. Instead, everyone is rejoicing that they can walk to a conference and stand with a coffee chatting about policy and research. Everyone is chattering about their ability to teach inside a real life classroom where students sit at tables and group work returns to familiar circles. Everyone wants to be back in 2019. You want what was, before.
I don’t. I cant. Im no one again.
You can walk in the door, choose a chair, make a coffee, use the bathroom, stand and network, wander through the building, explore different presentations. Im glad you are all happy with a return to 2019.
You wont ever meet me, I am no one. I wont be there with you. My most important door was Covid, the world opened up to me between 2020-2021. Barriers were removed. You are all holding that door closed whilst I sit and watch you all walk through.
Im on the other side. I see the finality of my career creeping closer. Noone to complain to, no one to ask for help.
I love my job but I see the end drawing to a premature close. Your unimportant, discounted doors are crucifying my career.