Choosing your battles – Blogging Against Disablism Day 2011
Today I have read a few posts from others as part of Blogging Against Disablism Day. It has made me reflect about some of the challenges to do with access, I have faced in our small village. I do not have a disability but since getting married to a wheelchair user and having a child with Dravet Syndrome I have seen some shocking things!
When my wife became pregnant we moved to Quorn in the East Midlands. I was very happy to move and generally it was a much safer and more pleasant place to live than my home town of Gt. Yarmouth.
One thing that did surprise me was the inaccessibility of the local shops. My wife, Clare, is a wheelchair user because of a spinal injury. Most of the shops had heavy doors and steps, so she could not get into them on her own.
I was a frequent letter writer in those days! I dashed off a letter to the local Chemist, quoting the Disability Discrimination Act and complaining that due to the steps, my wife was is a wheelchair user, anyone with mobility problems or parents with pushchairs really struggled to get in. The absurdity was, that they were the people who had to use the chemist shop the most!
My letter coincided with plans for a refit and they had a ramp and an automatic door fitted. I was pleased about this and confident that the others would now follow. I started to ask at the Post Office and the local Deli when they would get their ramp. However other circumstances in my life, became much more urgent.
My newly born son developed Dravet Syndrome and I had much bigger worries. My son’s epilepsy and and the ketogenic diet became my full time occupation. I still wrote a few letters to the local hospital over carparking charges, lack of disabled spaces, and access to new drugs, and complaints over my son’s treatment in hospital. Access to the local shops became much further down our list of worries.
Seven years on since my letter to the Chemist, the Post Office and Deli next door still do not have access. I frequently ask them when they are getting a ramp. I get excuses, they go quiet and often blame the parish council! Maybe if I had written to them at the same time something would have been done.
We have also experienced discrimination at a local Chinese Restaurant. It was early on a Tuesday night. We were shown to a table away from the other guests. My wife found she could not get her legs under the table to get near enough to eat comfortably. The table was too low. As wheelchair users will know this is a very common problem! We asked to move to a taller table further inside the restaurant. They flatly refused saying that all the other tables were booked, they also refused to swap any around. We got the message! They didn’t want our custom and have lost eight years of regular trade because of it. Of course this was before Clare had created the Trabasack.
I find that I am the one who gets angry over these things, my wife sees the injustice but would rather save her strength for getting on with daily life. The point I am trying to make is that people with disabilities face so many instances of discrimination that they get tired of fighting and have to choose their battles carefully. My wife would rather forget that she is disabled and get on with life rather than let it consume her time. I wish that people had more awareness and consideration so that she didn’t have to make that choice. For every one person that does there are many that cannot. To those who do have the strength to shout out about discrimination I applaud and will support you all I can.