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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Disabled Access vs Disable friendly - there is a difference.

There are times when you just get so fed up of trying to fit in to peoples boxes or ideas of what being disabled is supposed to look like, feel like or how it is supposed to affect you.
Being born with talipes I thought I knew what it was like to be disabled, different from everyone else and the difficulties that went with that…..I was wrong, so very wrong! It wasn’t till I had my amputation and got diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that I found out what it was like to be disabled.

It’s so depressing and soul destroying when all you want to do is go out and enjoy yourself whether it’s for a meal, drink or shopping, holiday or stopping somewhere over night and you can’t or it’s just too much trouble to organise. Why? Because everything has to be planned in advance.

Is it accessible? Will I be able to get through with my wheelchair? Are the toilets downstairs? Do they have a disabled toilet? Would someone be able to push me up/down the bank safely? Is there a lift? Could I reach the bar? Am I going to be ignored/ stared at/ treat differently to everyone else? Can I get into / on to/ out of that?
These are just some of the things that I have to take into consideration every day when I want to leave the house to do anything. Gone are the days of just being able to get up and go without worrying.

You see people who don’t have to live with someone or who aren’t disabled themselves, things like this don’t even cross their minds or come into the equation. It creases me when shops, business, hotels etc have things on their websites like “disabled friendly” or “accessible” but when you turn up what they meant was they have a lift but you need to get up three or four steps to get into the building, or the door ways are maybe a little wider but still not wide enough for a wheelchair to get through or they are wide enough but there is a 90 degree angle to negotiate as soon as you get through the door.

What people and companies don’t seem to understand is “disabled access” does not mean the same as “disabled friendly”. For instance take my university. The psychology department has been moved into another building which is supposed to be disabled friendly, I say supposed to be as I haven’t used it as all my lectures are in other buildings. These other buildings are old, fair enough a grade II listed building means there are limitations to how it can be adapted if it can at all, I get that, but it’s as if the people they get in when adapting, updating or building these buildings have their heads up their arse. One building where the majority of my classes are they have literally took it to the letter of the law. They have made reasonable adjustments but just because they have made it accessible does not mean I can use it. The entrance is ether the service entrance, where I have to find someone to let me in or up a bank that you would need to be a strong man or marine to push me in my chair up the bank or back down safely. The lecture theatre is small with no disabled space for a wheelchair and if I was to use it I would be sat at the front of the class like a pleb in front of the only entrance/exit…can anyone say health and safety?

The inside is a horse shoe shape and is corridors with two or three steps up or down every so often so it means getting into a lift to go half a floor every time I change classroom, so much carry on, inconvenience and effort. All I want is to be like everyone else at uni..The only effort I want to worry about is getting out of bed in the morning and being arsed to attend!

It’s made me realise that everything I want to do, everywhere I want to go and everything I want to experience I have to work harder, or take longer or worse yet become a performing monkey while others stop to stare at the antics you have to go through just to do something that is taken for granted by everyone else.

And this seems acceptable, as a disabled person your dignity, pride and self-respect doesn’t seem to matter anymore because “we have made reasonable adjustments”. Reasonable adjustments is more than making sure there is a bloody lift!
It’s the same with shops that you can’t access for whatever reason “reasonable adjustments” means that if you can’t access their goods/ services then these should be brought to you. I ask you do you always know what you want to buy when you go to a shop. Or sometimes do you just want to browse? Especially if that said shop is new/ just opened. I don’t so when I go to a shop that I can’t access and someone eventually realises they have to help me access their goods this means I have to know what they have in the shop, what I might want to look at /buy….hey I am studying Psychology not bloody telepathy ! How the hell do I know what you have in your shop? That’s why I want to come in and have a look!! Hey don’t even get me started with the not being able to shop in privacy like everyone else instead of having my buying habits scrutinised by all to see. The temptation to go to Anne Summers and ask them to bring out various items from the back of the shop for me to view…..“I would like to see the 12 inch strap on with the deluxe gimp mask but not the ball gag…”

This is one of the reasons I started doing what I do with The Psych Twins if you are to redesign a shop, building new premises, holding an event etc get someone in who is actually disabled for god’s sake, not someone with a degree in technical drawing who “thinks” they know what it’s like to access these places in a wheelchair.
These people who design the buildings to be “accessible” or make the “reasonable adjustments” have no idea how much of an impact on someone’s life in so many different areas their decisions make. Why would they? After all am alright jack.
It’s not just the pain in the arse advance planning that has to go into everything I do or go, nor is it the fact that there are things I just can’t do/access or the fact that family/friends/colleagues stop inviting you places due to the “hassle” but the being put on display trying to access/ do whatever it is, the loss of dignity not to mention the self-loathing and depression that goes along with it.

Don’t get me wrong am a strong person (well I think I am), but am not made of stone, eventually these things do effect you and upset you am only human. Things such as anxiety, panic attacks, social exclusion, isolation and depression. The feeling that you are continuously on the outside looking in watching everyone else living their lives and having fun. Hotels I can’t stay at, beautiful rooms that I can’t stay in, holidays I can’t take, excursions I can’t go on, experiences I can’t have, Luxuries that aren’t accessible. The list goes on.


Then we talk about jobs. Another area that boils my piss. I want to work but am what you would class “unemployable” due to my health issues. Companies need to think about money and time and keeping backsides on seats and I get that. Another reason I started my own business. But I always feel guilty for not having on my CV or telling them (if it’s an agency) that am disabled and in a wheelchair before being put forward for an interview. It’s like turning up and shouting “surprise !!!” at them, the look on their faces is like the Christmas present you get of your least favourite aunty of the horrible jumper or your parents finding your porn stash…yea that look.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

HELP! I NEED SOME ONE- BUT It SHOULDN’T COST ME MORE

With being a below knee amputee and in a wheelchair with many other health issues, the first thing I do before going anywhere new is check the website for help, carers discounts, disabled facilities and access points.

Why?

Because unlike before where me and my husband or family could just go out somewhere if we wanted too, these days it’s like planning a military operation. I need to be prepared and find out what to expect when I get there. Is it accessible to wheelchairs? If its not then that pretty much rules it out for us, does it have disabled toilets? Is there a lift? Is everything easy to get too from a wheelchair? Will my wheelchair fit through the doors? If going on my own are the doors automatic or will I struggle to manage them? These are things that before I never had to worry about or even give a second thought to.

The other thing I look for is discount or free carers tickets. Now I know that a lot of people have took advantage of these schemes. And still do! which makes it really difficult for those like myself who need this help to be believed without jumping through hoops and I know a few people who think it’s unfair that just because am disabled I get “ preferential treatment”.
So why do I look for carers tickets or disabled discount?

Simple. If am going somewhere that the fee or ticket is for a seat reservation or the ticket price includes this then it is useless to me – I bring my own with me. If I can’t access half the event or venue or business because you have not catered for wheelchairs or people with mobility problems or half the shop/ event is on an upper level and the organisers have booked a venue that can’t or doesn’t have a lift, then why should I pay the same as people who can access that? Or what if your services or some of your services are not accessible by myself? Is it fair I pay full price and not receive the same as everyone else? Is any of that fair?

The other reason is sometimes, just sometimes I do like to go out without my husband (who is my full time carer) and go out with friends (yes, I do have a few who still bother with me and want to socialise and be seen with someone in a wheelchair and don’t mind checking places out before booking or going out.) It’s amazing how many friends and family drop you because you become disabled and an inconvenience…but that’s a blog for another day…Any way back to this blog. So what if I want to go out with a friend or own my own but need someone to go with me to help and they don’t want/like/or into what I am? Is it fair that they have to pay full price to accompany me because I need the help? Or worse again what if am paying for a carer or helper to accompany me should I have to pay twice as much as everyone their as am not only paying for my carer to accompany me but then having to pay for them into the event etc.

This is just one of the reasons why carer’s discounts and tickets are important. The other reason is if you have a family member who is your carer and they can’t work the money they get for working over a 40 hour week most of the time is less than the living wage. Is that fair?

To be honest and fair most places these days either have free or discounted tickets and /or are accessible. Examples are wheelchair spaces on trains ( as you don’t use  seat), carers tickets for showmasters for entrance but still paying full price for autographs and photo shoots, cinema card where your carer gets a free ticket. However there are still places that don’t see the need to make either the accommodations/access or the discount available. Conventions where they will not give out a carer’s ticket and if you register as a carer you cannot have photo shoots or autographs or the only other choice is to fork out over £1000 for a PA for the weekend on top of my ticket!

So let’s say you have checked the website, there is nothing saying it is accessible or (this ones my fav) they say it is disabled friendly and you arrive to find that either half of it is not accessible/ the disabled toilets are upstairs and there Is no lift/ the whole building is accessible as long as you can get up the front steps or you either can’t see a damn thing i.e. concert or the upstairs part of the venue is only accessible by a stair lift and once up there is no room for your wheelchair. Not to mention how do you get your wheelchair up there any way if you are on your own or even better, if you can’t stand up, have no legs but can’t transfer on and off the stair lift!!

So you see, in my opinion and am sure am not the only one, companies need to start really looking at how they operate and improving a few things and why:

1.    Free or discounted tickets, we shouldn’t be charged twice to get half the show or event or get the same benefits that others get.
2.    If you are saying you are disabled friendly then check that you actually are, think about how it would affect you if you were in a wheelchair and what would help
3.    For events and shows make sure as much as you can that it is accessible to everyone that includes people in wheelchairs, with other disabilities and people with prams. I get that it is not always possible or that the venue or building is listed or there is another good reason why they can’t be disabled access or lifts, but try to limit the effect it will have on the person’s enjoyment. Have a special viewing area, have staff available to help etc.
4.    Put information up on your website. I am pretty sure I can’t be the only one who has to pre plan everywhere I go.
5.    Get an expert in to do a full review of the business, event or venue. It’s one thing to say you understand how certain things will effect someone, but unless you have actually experienced it you don’t.

Finally never underestimate how it can make someone who is disabled or who is in a wheelchair feel when they can’t access something and they have to ask for assistance because it is not available and they are looked down on with pity and told “am sorry, we can’t accommodate wheelchairs “or you try to compromise and it becomes a farce and the disabled persons dignity has been shot to ribbons or they are made to feel that they are an inconvenience or their business is not wanted.
My favourite pastime is going in shops and trying to get through the displays, or look at clothes or even navigate to the till to end up knocking things on the floor or looking like a rolling clothes rack! Even better is when the staff ignore you because they haven’t been trained how to handle these things, stare at you and not offer help, walk away or tut. Great way to make sure I won’t shop there again.

So business owners and event organisers we need the help and discounts because you may not be aware but you are losing a lot of potential customers and revenue. To the moaners and the “it’s not fair” people would you put up with this kind of treatment? Would you pay more for less and be happy about it? I think not.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Discrimination I tick all the boxes aren’t I lucky?

I have often heard the word “discrimination” being bandied about, a lot, in the last ten to fifteen years. I never saw myself as being discriminated against though. Not when I was a child and I had to wear calipers, not as a young adult who had to wear surgical boots. It wasn’t until my last amputation which has ended up with me in a wheelchair due to other health issues, have I felt discriminated against.


Employers discriminate against me, travel companies, friends, strangers, hotels, events, venues, I could go on, and hell even inanimate objects discriminate me!
This is not just because am an amputee but because am in a wheelchair. In fact I seem to tick all the boxes when it comes to people to shame, hate or discriminate against. I am disabled I have no legs and am in a wheelchair, this means am lazy, scrounger, pulling a fast one, unable to hold a conversation, understand what is being said to me or indeed hear ! God forbid I have feelings, like sex, (yes I have been asked that) have romantic intentions, enjoy compliments (other than a pat on the head and a “good girl”, I sometimes feel like either panting and whining like a dog at this point or wheel myself over to a window and start licking it), let’s not forget the looks which are a mix of horror, morbid fascination and surprise when people find out that I am a wife, mother,
business woman running her own company or studying for a degree.
Then you need to add the weight. I must eat everything in sight, it’s my fault am this big, I have let myself go, am disgusting, no one could want to be with me, how can I be married or have children being this old. Now I see this kind of fat shaming all over the place. The latest being a picture going around on the internet of a girl dressed as Harley Quinn with the caption “she must have ate the squad” https://www.facebook.com/Deadpoolisasavage/?hc_ref=SEARCH Mate you’re a dick!! And while am at it https://www.facebook.com/keith.harris.3154284 you are a dick as well. What if we got hundreds of people to comment on a photo, a REAL photo of you and you had a big nose or spots or wore glasses or had freckles. Would you like to have this picture put around the internet with some derogatory comment so that anyone and everyone can have a pop at insulting you or discussing your size and whether or not you should or should not be cosplaying a character? Do people actually have any idea how this makes a person feel?Yes am calling them out on social media, whats good for goose is good for gander so they say. so if it is acceptable to fat shame some on on Facebook then it is acceptable to shame some one for being a dick. I myself am a lot bigger than the person they are insulting and I sometimes cosplay.
It can take a lot of courage and confidence to do some cosplays and I have in the past let my size and my disability dictate my costumes…no more. My weight is not from eating too much, it’s down to the amputation, not being mobile enough or being able to exercise the way I used to, medication am on that causes weight gain, and have six beautiful, highly intelligent children, IBS, Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. So no not pizza, or sweets, although am partial to crisps – but only salt and vinegar though.
Finally add my age. I am past…. Well… Pretty much everything according some people. Having fun, flirting, University, cosplaying, going to events, being a nerd just to name a few. Oh and we can’t forget the best one, the fact I have six kids. Obviously I only had them to scrounge off the tax payer and the state, because, you know I have NEVER EVER worked…yea so the last 31 years must have all been a dream then? Going to work with plasters on after major surgery to my feet, back at work three month after a double below knee amputation, signing on at the dole to look for work whilst waiting for a fitting for new legs, going to interviews with my stump boards on and no legs….I could go on but what’s the point.

Now if you add all of this together, you end up being treat like shit, ignored and feeling inside that you are unattractive, unappealing, waste of space and a sub human, non-sexualized as you don’t count.  
You are left wondering why you bother trying to live your life like everyone else or try to enjoy what others do. You give up trying to make an effort with your hair, makeup or clothes – why should you? No one cares, no one notices you are still treat less than anyone else who puts in less effort.  You are left wondering “ should I starve myself to try and force my body to lose weight? “ or “ who cares, why should I care what I eat any more instead of restricting myself and being good – sod it – am going to stuff my face, makes no difference any way does it? Still going to be seen and treat the same way.

You’re not seen as a person or a women you feel like you are seen as nothing more than a lump in a wheelchair, an inconvenience, someone to either feel sorry for or to ignore because you don’t know what to say are how to react ( for future reference, the same as you do to anybody else who isn’t in a chair !), hey I get it, who the hell would want to be reminded just how fragile life is, that this is something that could happen to anyone at any time on any day. No one wants that shit rubbed in their face now do they.
There are a lot of people banging on about equality in recognising disabilities as not all are visible. I get this, I really do people need to understand that the person using the blue badge may look perfectly healthy but they could just be having a good day, or have some health issue you are not aware about, so it is unfair to say they do not deserve that blue badge and parking space. But I often wonder if it’s not easier having an invisible illness or disability? No one knows unless you tell them. Until that point, or even maybe after that point as well with it not being visible and in their faces, people treat you no different. You’re a woman / man, attractive, a sexual being who likes compliments and being flirted with who is capable and people wouldn’t be surprised if you went to university or got married, had a job or started your own business.

You see, am so used to this crap that most days I can ignore it, but there are days I cannot. This weekend whilst working I could not. In your personal life being treat like that is bad enough, but when it is in your professional life. When you are looked down on and treat differently to all the other professionals who are there for the same reason just because you are in a wheelchair, with no legs. When, for the same reasons, you are blocked from interviews that have already been arranged, that you are made to feel that your business isn’t good enough, big enough or the people you write for are not important enough, that’s bad….real bad.