Disability: ‘The worst thing is people treat you very differently even in unlikely places’

IT was a very wet Monday morning and with 5,000 leaflets to get out. I couldn’t put off my delivering for another day.

This turned out to be the wrong decision! We met as normal at the Greenstead Community Centre, Sally looked at the weather and suggested getting a coffee first to allow weather conditions to improve.

Why didn’t I listen to her?

Undeterred we stepped out, me working alone, the others in pairs.

All went well until I retreated down two small steps from a front door, I slipped, my leg found itself under the rest of my body and the pain was excruciating.

Three people appeared from their houses to answer my cries for help.

A few hours later one of those residents came up to A&E to check how I was, which was so kind of him.

Six hours later I left the hospital in a plaster cast with three breaks in my ankle and started my journey learning about life with a temporary disability.

It has been painful, of course, but the frustration is worse.

Manningtree High pupils recently held an awareness day to learn more about being disabled

I have always been a “can do” person and now I have to get used to being a “can’t always do” person.

This doesn’t come easy to me and I now realise just how hard life can be living with a disability.

I am hoping to be mobile in weeks or at worst a few months but I will have learned a lot.

You suddenly switch from “do I want to go?” or “I am going to go” to “can I go?”

I need to be pushed in my wheelchair, hired from Community 360, so I am reliant on someone driving me and pushing me, normally my husband, Tim, who is a very busy person himself.

The first weekend after it happened we went for a family meal at Miller and Carter Steakhouse.

I didn’t even consider that it wouldn’t be suitable. My son was heading off to Germany to work abroad and it was his restaurant choice for his farewell meal.

All the disabled spaces were taken in the car park so we parked a long way away and started the now familiar routine of setting the wheelchair up and off we went.

We arrived at the front door, a little damp from the long push, and a very heavy door it was too!

Yes there was a ramp, a tick for that, but tell me how on earth you are meant to open this heavy door and push a wheelchair through at the same time, it is impossible.

We were shown to a cramped table. I asked for a stall to rest my leg on which was supplied but I felt uncomfortable about imposing on the space between the two tables.

I found myself apologising for being a nuisance.

The disabled toilet was through another door and family members suggested it would not be worth trying to access it.

Oh well, I could hang on till I got home I suppose!

Now I don’t want to name and shame anyone but I just don’t think things are ever tested by people in wheelchairs.

If they were then the problems would be obvious.

Top marks to the Mercury Theatre for its wonderful areas for wheelchairs. Watching the Turn of the Screw was great from there, but the lift is another matter.

The Mercury Theatre, Colchester

It is so small, Tim was lifting the wheelchair to manoeuvre it in position, I wondered if others could have done this, I doubt it.

A trip to Firstsite gave great access with parking just outside the front door an absolute dream.

However, the locked disabled toilet meant a trip for my daughter to get the key which didn’t work and a decision was made to wait till I got home….again.

Bladder capacity has got to improve.

Colchester Council has a lift and self propelled wheelchairs are on hand.

Brilliant, I thought, a wheelchair I could manoeuvre myself.

I felt really pleased to be able to send my daughter home after getting me safely inside and into a wheelchair I could move. Independence at last I thought.

This confidence was short lived when the small lift hit the ground floor, somehow you are meant to be able to push a heavy metal door open while you use both hands to move your wheels. This isn’t easy I can tell you.

I actually felt tearful and frustrated about this as I struggled to get out, momentarily I felt completely trapped.

Once up to ground floor level in the second lift the slope to get you around to reception takes a fair bit of muscle to keep pushing those wheels around but, hey, I managed it.

I won’t go through all the buildings that I have struggled with; it would fill a whole paper.

Suffice to say the ramp at the front of a building is always a deceiver; it makes you think it is accessible but once inside the reality is so different.

I fell over twice in one bar using my crutches because of the floor surface – not because of the volume of drinks I promise.

The worst thing is that people treat you very differently even in unlikely places.

The fact I am in a wheelchair hasn’t affected my ability to speak but people talk to Tim rather than me even at the hospital.

For years I have been trying to get wheelchair access to platform two at Wivenhoe Railway Station.

It is simply not fair that wheelchair users travelling to and from Wivenhoe cannot use platform two meaning expensive taxi rides from Colchester or travelling on to the next station crossing and coming back on the next train.

I was really delighted that work started on March 26.

It will be “a legacy project” and in future years act as a reminder of just how difficult life can be for wheelchair users.

Source: http://www.gazette-news.co.uk/news/local/16140760.MY_VIEW__Councillor_opens_up_about_struggles_being_a_wheelchair_user/

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