One of the few outings that I allow myself in these hard days of confinement is a small trip to Luxembourg ville with my newborn child.
Our little routine consists of a stroll into Parc Pescatore and around the city centre, where I do some window shopping and enjoy the change of scenario while my baby realizes that outside home there is a whole new world of more masked human beings. We only enter a couple of shops a few times, always checking beforehand the number of customers already present and taking into account the time spent in an enclosed space.
It isn’t however because of Covid 19 that we don’t regularly enter shops. It is because of the shops themselves.
Have you ever tried to enter a shop in Lux ville while pushing a pram or successfully opened a non-automatic door while carrying your child on a baby carrier? Sometimes this requires a considerable physical effort, some creativity and a little bit of masochism.
Many shops in Lux ville, or at least those that happen to interest me (baby clothing, home accessories, healthy food and wine), seem to have forgotten that certain customers, such as pregnant women, disabled people and people pushing a pram, might need a tiny thing called “a ramp” to overcome stone steps located just beneath their entrance. On top of that, some shops have not opted for sliding doors but for very hard manual ones that make it practically impossible for someone manoeuvring a pram to simultaneously push the door open.
Last week’s visit was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I needed to buy items from four different shops and only made it to one. Why? Because shop no. 1 (food and wine) had a ramp but no internal elevator, meaning I did not make it to buy what I needed, since it was located at basement level. Shop no. 2 (baby clothing) had a very hard non-automatic glass door and shop assistants that could not care less about the difficulties I was in. Shop no. 3 (baby clothing) had three massive stone steps at the entrance and no ramp. Luckily shop no. 4 had a sliding door and an internal elevator.
At first I felt resentment towards such shops, because it was clear that even though I represented their target customer, they did not bother allowing me to enter their premises by installing a simple ramp and/or opting for a sliding-door. So much for what Japanese business manuals say about “the way you conceive and present your shop to its customers stands for the level of respect you feel for them”. Then I realized that if I was in such trouble it meant that so were disabled people. And there real disappointment kicked in.
Why would local shops ignore the fact that by not installing a simple ramp they prevent people with various disabilities from entering their premises? Had I actually ever come across any disabled people while walking in Lux ville?
Such were the questions that led me first to join some forums used by parents in Luxembourg and then to contact the city’s authorities. While fellow parents shared my disappointment and suggested I avoid the city centre of Luxembourg since it isn’t “pram friendly”, local authorities came back to me in a very detailed and thorough way, explaining that despite their best efforts, each and every shop is free to determine whether to install a ramp or an automatic door that makes it possible for a pram, a wheelchair or a pregnant lady to enter their premises.
I am grateful to the authorities for their immediate and detailed feedback and to those parents who took their time to share their “pram misadventures in the city centre”. However it is deeply saddening to realize that the already complicated daily life of a disabled person can be made even harder because of the absence of something so basic as a ramp.
I understand that internal elevators cannot always be installed due to architectural constraints of historic buildings, but this cannot apply to ramps since they do not spoil the façade of the building and can actually bring a smile to a customer’s face, even though it’s hidden under a mask nowadays.