There's been a lot of discussion lately on children being excluded from cafes because the noise they make disturbs other customers. I have to say my initial, personal, reaction was one of incredulity. I have a lot of trouble hearing over background noise. My sensory sensitivities mean the effect of background noise can be stress, meltdowns, vomiting, exhaustion for days, physical pain and more. Virtually every cafe plays music which causes these - and it is considered the norm. And yet people who ignore or defend this are suddenly making a massive drama about the noise of children.
Is it plausible that some people find the sounds of children harder than music to process, and that this comes back to their neurology or hearing levels? Absolutely. But whilst they may govern individual reactions, there are reasons the discussion moves in particular ways, why some types or causes of noise are paid attention to and others aren't.
How we create, manage, respond to, noise is a political issue. It's an issue of how we designate areas where people live, how times noise is considered to be acceptable play into typical and atypical working and sleeping times. It's about who decides the timeframe of noisy work on their house, and who has a landlord make those decisions for them. It's about noise being used to drive young people away from hanging out on the street or homeless people from public toilets. It's about who uses public transport and who drives cars. It's about disability and typical and atypical levels of noise tolerance and their impacts. And it's about children and parents - usually mothers - being excluded from social and other public space.
I want discussions about noise. The current way noise persists in our society is awful and disabling for me and many others. I think there are better ways space can be designed and organised. But those discussions need to come from a place of accommodation and inclusivity for multiple needs, not one of reinforcing the same old patterns of marginalisation and exclusion.