My first guest post is by Emma of A Writer in a Wheelchair. She describes herself as "a 28 year old Brit who loves to write and spends her life on wheels." I'd write more of an intro, but I'm late getting this up and am rushing to get ready for a wedding. If you like what you're reading please take a look at Emma's blog. I hope you don't mind me using your facebook photo. Thank you for writing Emma!
I was thinking the other day about what happens when people who aren’t disabled experience the world from wheelchairs. I suppose similar things happen when they try other sorts of equipment but it’s always wheelchairs that get mentioned to me.
A friend of mine had brain surgery when she was younger. It was a couple of years before I met her and I’ve known her about ten years so it was a good while ago. I’ve heard her on several occasions talk about the (I think) couple of months she spent in a chair whilst recovering. The thing she seems to have taken away most was the memory of places she’d always gone, shops etc, that she couldn’t whilst she uses the chair. She’s literally used the words “You wouldn’t believe the places you can’t go” to me before. And all I could think was “Well, actually, I could.”
Someone else I know had a very nasty accident and again was in a chair for a long while (and then on crutches for a while more). We don’t know each other well but the first time we saw each other once she’d recovered a bit she was telling me how she knew what I go through now. And how she’d gone out for lunch and been shocked to find she couldn’t get in. She’d ended up making a formal complaint.
I just wanted to say “Welcome to my world” – she didn’t know what I go through but she’d gotten an idea. And my trip out to lunch wouldn’t have been ruined because I would have checked in advance out of necessity. Either I would have gone somewhere else or (if she did go where I think she did) I would have known from speaking to them that they have moveable ramps to get you in.
Actually, that makes me think of another example which I wasn’t going to include but I think I will. I recently went to a barbecue at someone’s house for members of a group we both belong to (it belonged to someone’s daughter I think). I wasn’t able to go to the toilet because of where cars had been left belonging to people who weren’t there, room for people to get through but not those of us on wheels. We spoke to the organiser and he suggested we go through another door. I pointed out that it had a step and he said “Oh, does it?”
I know several people who have done disability awareness courses and whose experiences on those courses have had a lasting affect. One guy I know who went on one is adamant more people need to do them (he works doing customer services for a train company and helps a lot of disabled people on and off of trains which actually is how I know him). Seeing the opposite side has obviously helped him a lot. Apparently one local organisation that runs those sorts of disability awareness courses always sticks people in wheelchairs and sends them to a specific take away because they always ignore people in wheelchairs.
Personally I’m not 100% convinced that more people do need to do them because I think that makes too much of it and perhaps even lessens their impact. But I do find it interesting to see how people react. However I would love to come to a day where people don’t react like that.
A positive story to end on. My parents took a relative with them to a funeral. She’s elderly and they took an old wheelchair with them for her to use. Afterwards she spoke to my parents and apologised because she never realised how hard being in a chair can be. I don’t think I would have agreed with that specific phrasing but I do know what she means. And it was a reaction that is much, much easier for me to deal with.
How have you found that others react to experiencing disability?