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Category archive for: Accessibility

Open Letter to All Bus Drivers – from a Wheelchair User Passenger

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Customer Service, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Education, Equality & Diversity, Personal, and Public Transport

You see me waiting at the bus stop and I try to search your face for a clue as to which camp you fit into.  You see, you fit into two camps and sometimes I can’t tell until you pull up and open the doors. All the time, I’m filled with dread and anxiousness, wondering if this time I’ll have a fight on my hands. Whether I’ll be welcomed or made to feel like a complete and utter nuisance.  Quite often it’s the latter.

Some of you are friendly, welcoming and seem to understand that I have as much right as anyone else to use public transport.  You go out of your way to gently lower the ramp for me, to ask where I’m getting off and to make sure that the wheelchair space is clear.  If it’s occupied by a pushchair, you politely ask them to move or fold it up.  You kindly help me to position my chair into the sometimes stupidly difficult spaces which aren’t really suitable for wheelchairs at all.  When I get off, you share a friendly word and wish me well.  I feel like a valued passenger.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel as welcomed by some of your uneducated colleagues who openly grimace when they see me waiting for their bus.  One of two things can happen at this point.  They either refuse to let me on, saying their bus is too full or that the wheelchair space is full.  They seemed to have completely missed the memo that the wheelchair space is for the use of wheelchair users and that this is law.  They refuse to ask other passengers to move, for fear that heaven forbid, their bus might end up late or their shift might overrun.

Or they make it crystal clear that I’m a nuisance for needing their assistance.  They huff and puff as they climb out of their cab, then slam the ramp down in front of me. They don’t care if other passengers are blocking the wheelchair space, which I’m supposed to reverse into.  That’s my problem, I’m supposed to ensure I’m safe and ask fellow passengers to move, even at peak times.  I’m made to feel like an inconvenience, a problem and I’ll tell you now – it makes me feel like utter crap.  That’s probably the first time I’m sworn on my blog but it’s the only way to convey how it makes me feel.

How I feel when that treatment makes me late for work or late to collect my son from school.  Yes, that’s right, I’m just like you. I have commitments and I’m trying to get somewhere just like everyone else.  I’d like to get home after a day’s work, just like you.  I’d like to get home without dealing with your attitude because it STINKS.

So thank-you so much if you fall into the first camp; you make my life as a disabled wheelchair user so much easier.

May I suggest, that if you sadly fall into the second, that you consider a career change.  You’ve clearly misunderstood that your job isn’t about just driving a bus. It’s about transporting passengers – whether we’re disabled or not.

My “PIP” journey: Please don’t treat me as a number

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, and Personal

Tomorrow is my PIP assessment and for those who are not familiar, PIP stands for “Personal Independence Payment” and is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

I’m nervous for two reasons: a) I’ve heard and read about many people who have had a bad experience of the PIP assessment process and b) my experience thus far hasn’t been great. When I phoned to start my application, the delightful lady I spoke to was more like a robot than a human being. She refused to listen to me or answer my questions until she had completed her “script” and the whole conversation felt very impersonal and forced. It didn’t fill me with confidence for the rest of the process, put it that way.

Regardless of the assessment outcome, I just hope I’m listened to tomorrow and not just treated as a “number”. I hope the assessor understands the complexity of disability and isn’t just fixated on the medical side.  I hope they take the time to listen to my speech and not rely on my husband as an interpreter. I hope they appreciate that my disability is different from day to day and that 15 minutes cannot paint an accurate picture of living with Cerebral Palsy every day.

Most of all I hope I’m treated as a human being!! More to follow!

Building an inclusive, more tolerant future

Posted in Accessibility, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Education, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Media, and Schools

I just posted on my Flyinglady Website about how I love going into schools and doing Disability Awareness sessions for the children; I’m so passionate about it that I offer the sessions for free wherever I possibly can.

The sessions help kids to understand that everyone is different and that’s a good thing; life would be incredibly boring if we were all carbon copies of each other.  I go on to try and help the kids to understand how they help people with disabilities and explain how including everybody is so important.  Inclusiveness, in simple, age appropriate language.

Now, as I sit watching the news of yet another, hate driven, evil terrorist attack, I feel despair the same of everyone else. I fear for my little boy and a friend tweets her advice that “All we can do is be the change and teach our children better. The majority of people are good.”

And we are.  The world is full of good, kind, peace loving people and we need to teach our kids – our future – to be the same. Teach them that it’s OK to ask questions, to be curious and that they must be accepting of differences. We need to teach them from a young age about diversity and that age, sex, disability, ethnicity, sexuality and religion make each of us who we are. We’re all different, all unique but ultimately, we’re all human beings and that’s the bottom line which needs to be respected.

So let’s have Disability Awareness on the curriculum but let’s also give Equality and Diversity generally a higher priority from a young age.  Let’s invite a range of people, from all walks of life, to give presentations to schools and allow our children to explore these issues. Let them ask the questions that perhaps their parents would struggle to answer. Let them learn from personal experiences, not just teachers and books.  Perhaps adopting such an approach will help us create a much more tolerate society for our future.

Challenges of a Disabled Mum: Capturing Memories

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Parent, Family, Motherhood, and Personal

It’s something most parents don’t even think about. Quickly grabbing the camera to capture your child’s first of something is what every parent has done at some point. Indeed, my hubby has thousands of pictures capturing everything from Jack’s first taste of sweet potatoes to his first attempt at writing his own name.  Each are being kept safely for the day he brings home his first girlfriend!

But for me on my own, it’s not so easy to capture these precious moments, though I do my best. By the time I get my phone or camera out and then steady myself enough to take a decent photo, the moment is often lost. On Jack’s first day of school nursery, Jack very nearly threw an understandable tantrum as I begged him to keep still, click after click, until I managed to keep steady enough.

 

 

I was therefore very touched at a recent Mother’s Day assembly when another parent kindly offered to take some videos and photos of Jack and send them to me.  Each child had to stand up and say a line about why they loved their mummy and it was a moment I wanted to focus on (pardon the pun!) rather than be worrying about recording it.  I was able to laugh as Jack told the whole assembly that I “put on her lipstick and then she dances!”   Two things I definitely never do but a moment to treasure forever, none the less!

Thanks so much to the parent who was so thoughtful and enabled me to just enjoy a wonderful Mother’s Day assembly!

 

Challenges of a Disabled Mum: A to B and beyond

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Customer Service, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Parent, Motherhood, Personal, and Public Transport

Last week’s blog talked about the challenges I’ve faced getting my little boy from A to B as a disabled mum.  With some creative thinking, we’ve managed to get out and about locally, visiting friends and family.  However, going any further has presented bigger challenges which aren’t so easily resolved.

Since the age of 13, I’ve been regularly going over to Ireland by myself to visit family and friends. I’ll never forget that first time, when Mum entrusted me into the care of the airport staff, with my uncle waiting to meet me in the Arrivals Hall of Dublin Airport. I felt so grown up, travelling all by myself! It’s something I began taking for granted, as airports are obliged to provide support for disabled travellers.

That was until Jack arrived.  As he grew bigger and Dean returned to contracting, I thought I’d be able to pop home for long weekends and half-term breaks, once Jack started at school. Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be as I discovered that the airlines didn’t allow disabled travellers to travel with minors.  Well, technically I could book the tickets and not declare that I need support until arrival at the airport but even for me, pushing boundaries as I do, I’d fear I’d be on very dodgy ground!

So the first time this came up, we decided Dean would fly over with us and then return home for work.  Two weeks later, darling hubby drove back over to Ireland to bring Jack and I home. On other occasions, we’ve managed to work things so that Jack and I travel over with Dean and then return with my parents or sister.  As you can imagine, this takes planning and I find myself having to fit into other people’s plans, rather than making my own.  It has obviously been more expensive and on occasions, I’ve had to miss family events because Dean is working and there’s nobody to travel with.

Whilst in some respects, I accept these limitations as a disabled mum, it is frustrating that it has kerbed my independence! I know that, God forbid, in the case of emergency, Jack and I would need assistance but on the other hand, I don’t think the airlines, like much of society, have considered that yes, disabled people do have children!!  What if I was a single parent wanting to take my child away on holiday? Would I have to wait until Jack was 11 to do what the majority of parents take for granted? 

Whilst it’s not a huge problem, it’s something I didn’t think of when I was considering all the challenges I would face as a disabled parent and once again, we’ve had to think in a different way to other parents. 

I wonder whether airlines and businesses as a whole, could consider ways that they can support people like me, thus raising awareness that disabled people are parents too?  Maybe offering a £20 chaperone service which would be cheaper and easier than the arrangements we currently have to make, would be a start!