It was all going so well …
My mother is a wheelchair user and she wanted to see the Diamond Exhibition at Buckingham Palace. As a, sometimes, dutiful daughter I called their Access Booking Line and experienced five star customer service. Not only is there a special access route and shop but you can book to park inside the Palace forecourt – the bit where the soldiers march up and down. The thought and attention to detail for disabled visitors was impressive, we were made to feel like “guests” rather than “visitors”. Even the ticket wording was dignified, my mother was described as a “Wheelchair User” and I as her “Companion” rather than the usual “Carer”.
We had a lovely morning, banter with the policeman at the gate, oohing and ahhhing at just how much the exhibition of diamonds sparkled, a coffee in the garden and then it all went a bit soggy and the excellent customer service dissolved.
A confusing message about timings meant we tried to leave just as the guard started changing, efficiently marching around my parked car. I asked if there was somewhere we could wait: “well you could go to the cafe …” I explained that we’d just been there and got quite cold so would rather stay inside: “but there isn’t anywhere … when this has happened before people go to the cafe … or you could just wheel up and down this corridor …” there was a note of desperate panic.
So we went back to a children’s activity room – which was empty of children – and sat quietly looking at the books we’d bought. We were challenged five times in an hour as to why we were there and encouraged to move on. Each time we explained that we would love to move on but were unable to until the guard had finished changing. Between challenges there was a lot of whispering and pointing by staff who were highly disconcerted that we didn’t want to go into the cold garden.
Look, if the room had been packed with children I could understand but it was empty. I could also understand if the staff had been sloppy and inexperienced up to this point but they hadn’t. The Palace’s planning had been so immaculate that they cannot have overlooked this scenario. So, why was there provision for children but not the elderly or wheelchair users? The staff were so courteous and considerate but didn’t seem to have the initiative to adapt after all if they’d offered us “a coffee on the palace” I suspect we’d have gone away charmed!