whoever you want to be…

London with a disability.

I’ve never wanted people to feel sorry for me because of my disability. I don’t need your pity.  I’ve never wanted to be known as “the disabled girl” or as though I’ve got an “attitude problem” or I’m always angry, never happy, really sad etc etc.  I’m not those things.

Sometimes I read blogs or tweets from other disabled people and I wonder why they only post about activism stuff. Don’t they get tired of being angry all the time? It’s not that bad after all. And really, there are much more important things to do with my time and energy than being angry about everything that happens. Fight the big stuff, like the small stuff go and if you get stuck in the middle, try to find a chance to laugh whilst figuring out what to do.

But then I get inadvertent reminders of how difficult things can be and I remember that I’ve got most of the equipment I need.  I’ve got family and friends who support me and I live in a very accessible flat in a relatively accessible area.  This week has been full of those things and I can’t be happy and “being disabled is ok”. I’m at the I wouldn’t change and I’m proud of my disability but I won’t be treated like this angry stage of things where everyone and everything can just fuck off now.

One day this week I went to London to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical. It was pretty good but not up to the standards of things like Les Miserables. And unfortunately access niggles abounded.

So during my day to London I…

…booked help to get on the train and had it arrive less than two minutes before the train was due to go. I knew they would come but I must admit to getting very anxious that they wouldn’t and I’d miss my train and then my connection and mess up my whole day.

…spent about twenty minutes wandering around in London because we could find the bridge we needed to cross but couldn’t find a wheelchair accessible way on getting on it. Must admit to this being partially my fault because I knew how to get to the bridge so didn’t follow the directions I had from the train station. Said directions would have taken me the accessible way. Still, it shouldn’t have been that hard to find when we were right by the steps up to the bridge.  The nearest tube stations to the theatre don’t have step free access. But I probably wouldn’t have been able to use the tube anyway because the lifts into the tube station at Waterloo were reported as out of order.

…had a random woman appear next to me and say “can I help you?” When I said I didn’t need help she told me she was going to adjust my clothing for me which I loudly declined (turns out my jumper was caught up a bit. Why she couldn’t have just told me my top was messed up so I could sort it myself I’ll never know). Here was me thinking I was 32 years old but apparently I am in fact a child who needs to be treated as such.

…had to go into the gents in the theatre because that’s where the disabled loo was. I think the friend I was with was a little shocked by that, especially when I told her it’s not the first venue where that’s happened. I wasn’t overly bothered by that because I didn’t end up seeing stuff I didn’t want to and hey at least they had a properly accessible loo. You do get funny looks wandering into the gents as a woman though.

…heard the person in the seat behind my wheelchair space in the theatre moan about how low her seat was and how difficult to see it was. Annoyed me, but that may have been more my issue because I had a previous bad experience with a similar thing.

…had access to a lift in a restaurant blocked by two buggies left right in front of it. My friend moved them then put them back. Personally I’m a big proponent of moving things that are in the way and not putting them back where they were to make the point to their owner.  Then had to go in round the back and through the fire exit because I got in the lift and it wouldn’t work.

A lot of those things fall in the categories of they tried, they succeeded but should have been better, it was well meaning why are you so pissed off and such like. But the problem is when you get so many of those things so often and have spent so many hours and years learning to become independent and develop skills that others take for granted it gets too much when they keep getting belittled and ignored and taken away.  And then I snap about the stupid little thing.

The problem this week has been more that those things happened and I was happily going along pretty much at my limit of “stupid things happening because of my disability” and then had to deal with an unrelated major access fail yesterday.

I’m not saying don’t offer me help or don’t tell the theatre that really the seats are too low. What I’m saying is that sometimes my anger and my frustration isn’t about the one well meaning offer you’ve made to me. Sometimes it’s about the fact that you’re the fifth person today whose stopped me, got in my way and tried to tell me there’s a problem with my wheelchair and I need to get the tires pumped up. I know you do it to help and mean well, but I can only nod and smile and say “thanks but actually they’re fine, they’re soild tyres.” I just want to get on with my day without interruptions and reminders which stack up and make me feel very othered and aggravated and hell even at times a bit like society views me as a worthless fuck up for being born with cerebral palsy. And the last two times I’ve been to London (I went in February for an awards ceremony – I wrote a poem about it on my blog here) have ended up being days like that.

I’m writing this post a day early which isn’t something I usually do, but I’ve got to go back to the outskirts of London tomorrow because a friend is getting married there. I’m really looking forward to it. I just hope it’s London at its most accessible best rather than the central London access faff I’ve experienced lately.

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About Writer In A Wheelchair

Emma describes herself as mouthy and independent, something she's very proud of as it helps her to campaign on disability issues which she is very passionate about. She loves knitting, sailing, swimming and reading. One day she'll be paid to be a writer a goal she's determined to make happen. In the meantime she writes and rambles in many places online including her blog, http://writerinawheelchair.co.uk

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This entry was posted on April 12, 2014 by in Bea Current and tagged , , , .
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