If you live in Australia and you’re having/or have had problems accessing goods and services, particularly if those things are located within a building that’s impossible for you to access because of the building’s air quality, then you may need to read this from the Australian Human Rights website:
Use of chemicals and materials
“A growing number of people report being affected by sensitivity to chemicals used in the building, maintenance and operation of premises. This can mean that premises are effectively inaccessible to people with chemical sensitivity. People who own, lease, operate and manage premises should consider the following issues to eliminate or minimise chemical sensitivity reactions in users:
- the selection of building, cleaning and maintenance chemicals and materials (see Note below);
- the provision of adequate ventilation and ensuring all fresh air intakes are clear of possible sources of pollution such as exhaust fumes from garages;
- minimising use of air fresheners and pesticides;
- the provision of early notification of events such as painting, pesticide applications or carpet shampooing by way of signs, memos or e-mail.
Note: There are a number of relevant environmental and occupational health and safety regulations and established standards, however, as is currently the case with other standards referenced in building law, compliance with those standards may not necessarily ensure compliance with the DDA.”
There are many services where you may find Fragrance Emitting Devices (FEDs), or oil burners in use. If these are a problem for you then ask the staff to turn them off for a couple of hours (or days even) before your appointment. It’s no hardship for them to do that; however, it is on you if these things effect your health (and it will be on your hair, clothing and belongings if you enter these places). Thankfully, there are now guidelines (and hopefully one day (soon), policies and laws) to help us facilitate the accommodations needed to be made for us so that we can access the same services as the rest of the population. Places that are difficult to go to can be dentists, natural therapists, doctors (though not usually allergists or immunologists) some of these are right into the fashion and marketing trend that is ‘ambient scenting’: releasing fragrance chemicals and natural scents into the air at timed intervals. Then there are places like pharmacies and shopping centres where people spray and test fragrances before purchasing; obviously, a chemically sensitive person will avoid going to a pharmacy where fragrance is sprayed, but just how do they get their medicines or other health items?
And even in health food shops people can have trouble; just because it’s natural and came from hippy-boo har’s health food shop, does not mean that everyone is going to be okay breathing fine particles of this product’s ingredients as they are dispersed throughout the air. In Australia, not everyone knows that (including some health professionals) but don’t worry too much about that at this point; just know that you are fully within your rights to ask for them to help you access the services or goods within the building. Take this example from the ‘Conciliated outcomes: Goods, services and facilities’ on the Australian Human Rights website:
Fragrance free access
“A man who has adverse reactions to perfumes complained that he was unable to access his local pharmacy because of fragrances, in particular near the checkout area. The matter was settled when the pharmacy chain agreed to develop a system of zones in its premises including fragrance free aisles, and a home delivery service.”
Or this one:
“A man who stated that he has sensitivities to a range of chemicals complained that a retail shop was inaccessible to him because of strong fragrances worn by checkout staff. The matter was settled without admission of liability when the store agreed to request staff to avoid strong fragrances, and to raise with its departments issues of use of the least toxic paints, glues and building materials available, non-allergenic carpeting, and warnings when toxic materials were present.”
Some people could only imagine the stress and anxiety that comes with standing up for our rights. But do you know what? That stress diminishes somewhat if you do stand up for yourself. (For me, I have a residual anxiety that’s always buzzing in the background, but the stress that I feel in these situations is actually a tool that I’ve realised I can use to get things done.) No-one wants to be difficult (except for Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory) and it’s often the essence of being polite, and well mannered that stops us from speaking up. But where is it written that one disability is less than another disability? Where is it written that we are less human than another human? Of course, that’s not been documented anywhere. Not that I’ve found. But what has been documented are our rights; and thanks to some brave, brave people (heroes in my book) things are a changing down under!
Australian Human Rights Commission: Access to buildings and services guidelines