Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.
Mary Anne Radmacher
One of my blogging friends, Melinda, from ‘Looking For The Light’, posted on her blog that March was Disability Awareness Month. I hadn’t heard of this, possibly because we don’t have this day in the UK. However, I’d been thinking about writing about my view of being a disabled person. I said I would do this before the end of March, as it seemed an appropriate time to write my own perspective.
So … just a bit of background information … Many years ago, I was involved in a fairground accident, which injured my cervical and lumber spine, meaning that some of the nerves from these areas were damaged. This affected my ability to walk, move, feed myself, or drink out of an ordinary mug or cup. I had a lot of care to begin with, but was determined to be independent.
I’ve come to terms with my accident and my disability. I wouldn’t have it any other way now. If I were given a wish, it wouldn’t be to rid myself of my disability. I am who I am; I am learning to love and care for myself. I can manage a few steps with a walking trolley indoors; I have an adapted kitchen and a wonderful electric powerchair called Alfie, who is my legs and wheels combined. Alfie allows me to travel independently. I don’t drive. I can’t even get a taxi; believe it or not, my town has no wheelchair-accessible cabs!
Buses are a nightmare and nigh-on impossible to navigate. Trains are relatively easy (except in the rush hour), as I learned from visiting London (40 miles away) to see my late Mum when she was in the stroke rehab. hospital. Travelling in rush hour means being packed like a sardine and at the exact height to be thumped on the head by someone casually throwing their bag onto their shoulder. Worse still, in the crowds, I’m perfectly lined up with all those armpits – close up – some more fragrant than others!
Travelling about is both a frustration and a joy. I can ride at 8mph (13 km/h), which is pretty speedy, and I am lucky to live near a foot/cycle path that takes me into town. I never knew which side to travel on, given that I’m neither a pedestrian nor a bike. I used to get dirty looks from disgruntled people on either side of the path. Well, where on Earth am I meant to go? I now drive down the white line in the middle! Problem solved!
The weather can be a challenge sometimes. I can’t use an umbrella as I’m driving with one hand and holding my bags with the other. If it rains, I get soaked – simple as that. I’ve got used to it, and knowing that my skin is waterproof and clothes will dry off, it really doesn’t bother me anymore. Yes, I could get one of those plastic capes for wheelchair users, but I wouldn’t be seen dead in one of those! So, does it serve me right if I get soaked – yes, I guess it does! Snow is out of the question. Living at the top of a steep hill, as I do, makes it far too dangerous to even step foot (wheel, in my case) out of the door.
Also, I have two major phrases used by many people, most commonly found in (but not isolated to) the US, both of which I detest with a passion. The first is one I hear said a lot on American television programmes, and that’s the use of the word ‘handicap’ when referring to a disabled person or in a car park as the description given to the allocated ‘handicapped’ parking space, as opposed to, in the UK, where we have accessible parking spaces or Blue Badge parking. The term ‘handicap’ is only used in the UK as a type of insult these days.
The other phrase that gets me is the description of a disabled wheelchair user as ‘wheelchair-bound’ or, worse still, ‘bed-bound.’ I’m not bound to my wheelchair or my bed by ropes, as the phrase might suggest. Please, think before using those terms. Thank you.
My pet hate is being stuck indoors against my will, either because of the weather or, like this week, because my battery decided to fail, and I had to wait two days for an engineer to come out to fit a new one. I feel a sense of panic as my independence is taken away, and I’m trapped at those times, and that’s not a desirable feeling for anyone. If you can imagine giving up your legs for a while, that’s what it feels like for me not to have my wheels. If all else fails, thank goodness for online shopping and Amazon.
Finally, I count myself lucky. I realise that not all disabled people feel the same way as I do. This is just my personal view of living with a disability and being a wheelchair user. I am, on the whole, very happy in my own skin.
If you have any questions you would like me to answer, please feel free to ask in the comments section; alternatively, you can reach out to me through my ‘contact me’ page. Thank you.