The preposterous assumption that just because some people can get out of wheelchairs and climb flights of steps it's ok to reckon that we all can, has been preying on my mind. With more and more people buying mobility equipment for a variety of reasons that may or may not be associated with disabilty, I wonder how Disability Equality trainers cope with this issue.
I'm well aware that the general public do not register the difference between wheelchairs and mobility scooters: wheels are wheels.
And there is also almost no differentiating between users of wheels - apart from gender. I get mistaken for the oddest of people and I do find it offensive that people who know me and the other people in question, cannot be bothered to register the difference.
I'm not talking about small, hard to spot differences, I am talking about being mistaken for the plump, blue eyed woman with both legs amputated; I'm a size small with khaki-green eyes and both my legs. I also get mistaken for the woman who always travels her powerchair with a walking frame, an assistance dog and wearing a neck brace. I have none of these.
I do have blonde hair long enough to pin up with a variety of trademark chopsticks, yet am frequently mistaken for a short and curly haired woman on a scooter.
What makes all this so ironic is that I'm currently working on material for an exhibition called 'People Like You'. The phrase, originally offered to me with the words: 'should be taken out and shot' is now intended to highlight our common humanity, infer equality and play with the implications of the word 'like'.
It isn't meant to suggest that wheelborne are all much of a muchness and indistinguishable from each other.
Hey guys it's me! No really,
I know I'm wearing wheels, but
honest, it's me and I'm not
sporting a wig. I haven't
shot the dog, or had a change
of personality. I'm
not wearing coloured contacts,
or borrowed legs, I'm not the
grumpy one who runs people
over. And I'm not the one
for screwing the
Hey guys, it's me.
On the road to equality, I often feel strangely disempowered by the process of Disability Equality Training. Why is it only the temporarily non-disabled who get offered a training opportunity? And why only on occasions?
I rather fancy the idea of some training myself. Not exactly the same kind of course, but there must be skills I could practice in order to combat the negative effects society has on my moral and there must be advanced skills I could use to influence or change the mindset of those folk who never get the benefit of expert guidance.
I just don't want to leave something so important to me totally in the hands of others, even if they are experts; but I do like the idea of being proactive, as well as the possibility of making a more subtle contribution to equality.
People who suffer trauma through accident are offered help to find ways to cope. Society is frequently the accident that traumatises disabled people, but at best we are offered nothing more than passing, sympathetic acknowledgement.
Years of feeling like a leper have taken their toll, I want to be more responsive and positive to the people who have actually taken equality onboard. And with those who haven't got there yet, I'd like to find creative ways to take the initiative, I do rather like the idea of having more control.
Rolling in to a lift I need
space to turn around,
like the wheelless do, I prefer
a face-front exit.
Equal opportunity needs
Wheelless take turning
for granted, without the need for
negotiation. Just a quick
foot shuffle, head turn;
on the spot, no-brains-cells-needed,
I should give you my car-keys, you could park my car anyday.
That's amazing, I couldn't do that with a wheelchair.
You really can get around in that tiny space, well done.
And I boil. Spontaneous anger drives me to growl:
Carkeys? Hand over your spine, I've got wheels of my own.
You are so clever walking; I couldn't, not with those legs!
And: Congratulations, you really do work those legs well, amazing you don't even fall over...
There is no real logic to this rudeness. I wasn't born with wheels and there is a skill to living and working with them, so why do I get so offended when wheelless admire my dexterity and adaptability?
Why do I feel so patronised? Why can't I stay cool and offer a lighter reply?
Why have I not developed skills to prompt people to rethink the way they see me?
Thank you, I do specialise in Ferraris, but could probably manage a Bugatti...
No, it does take skill, practice and a brain cell or two...want to give it a go?
And: Yes, I am rather good at this, for a female I have brilliant spatial awareness!
When somebody opens the lid and the opportunity for change presents itself, why are we so obsessed with the shape of the box that contains us?
I used to take words for granted
and not just because I can read.
I used to recycle, but not any more,
it's an option for folk with both feet on the floor.
I used to just drive on my own,
without the kerfuffle and fuss.
I used to enjoy going out for a meal,
aware how much fun spontaneous feels.
I used to be tall; wear a hat,
take the train to town for a show.
I used to be free to roll over in bed,
but now I'm supported by cushions instead.
I used to air-kiss with my friends,
propel, with my hand on their back.
I used to be one of the good and the glad
now I am "merely" the chairborne; the bad.