Yesterday, my friend and I were invited to talk to Health and Social Care students about what it’s like living with a disability. This is a topic we could both talk about for hours, boring everyone to death in the process, so the students pre-planned their questions for us. They were a lovely bunch of people and they all seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say, but you what it’s like when you get chatting, we ran out of time. So, here are the questions alongside my unsugar-coated uncensored responses.
How does your disability impact on your day to day life?
The truth is, most of the time it doesn’t. I’ve had cerebral palsy since birth, so I don’t know any different. Don’t get me wrong, the fact my legs are wonky means I can get into some proper scrapes which usually result in me landing on the floor or in a precarious life or death position. Sometimes, especially when alcohol is involved, my friends drop me or bang my head.
And if there’s a staff shortage, I can’t get out of bed in the morning. That’s when I have to call upon my friends for assistance. By now, they know any conversation that starts with the sentence, “Please, thank you, love you” will involve them coming to rescue me and my bladder from the bed, the loo, or the middle of a field. Regardless of the situation, there always has to be a plan A, a plan B and a plan Z.
Speaking of the toilet, CP doesn’t just affect my limbs, it affects all my muscles, including my bladder. I unintentionally pee a lot.
Have you ever experienced any rude comments from the general public?
Not rude per se, but I’ve had a few bizarre ones thrown in my direction. There was once a guy who hollered, “Yo! Cool dude in a chariot”, that’s one of my favourites. Another bloke caught me totally off guard when he asked, “What is wrong with you?” For some reason, I couldn’t think what to say, so I just responded with feebly with, “My legs don’t work”. But the one that will make it into the Book of Classics has got to be the incident when a random woman appeared with an ornament which depicted a hunt. She said she wanted to give it to charity so the disabled children could play with it. It was a hoot and a half. To read the full tale, click here.
How do the public treat you when you’re out?
There’re three kinds of folk; the starers, the pitiers and the ones who treat me normally.
The starers are generally kids who are intrigued as to why I travel in a six-wheeled, robotic pushchair. Once, a girl stared so much that she fell head over heels and crashed into a trolley. I shouldn’t have laughed, but what else can you do?
The pitiers look at me as though it’s an absolute tragedy that I’m on wheels. Honestly, sometimes folk react as if their grandma has just died or World War Three has broken out. Life with a disability ain’t that bad.
The ones who treat me normally don’t need much explanation. But they’re usually my friends who find most of life’s joy in taking the piss out of my disability or the fact that I’m vertically challenged.
Where do you find the most accessible in Lincoln?
Anywhere that’s flat – my chair doesn’t do stairs or steep inclines. Having said that, I have been down Steep Hill once. I thought I was gonna die. It was good fun though. In all seriousness, accessibility is better than it used to be. If you want to be stepped over in stupidly narrow aisles, go to Next, but if you want to chill out with a coffee, go to the Drill Hall.
Do you use public transport in Lincoln, and if so, how easy is it to use?
I try to avoid it because it’s a bloody nightmare. There’s only one wheelchair accessible taxi company in Lincoln that’s available to the general public. They go by the name of Cab Serve - they’re good but it’ll cost you an arm and a leg to get from one side of the city to the other, and unless you book in advance there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to catch a ride. Buses are shocking, and god forbid you want to go somewhere with a fellow wheelchair user. There’s only one space per bus for a chair. The best thing I ever did was getting my car. It’s accessible, it gets me from A to B and it’s free on the Motability Scheme. You get loads for free when you’re a cripple!
Have you ever been discriminated against, and if so, how did it make you feel?
Not that I can remember and if I have, I’m too laid back to give a shit. I understand that disability discrimination happens and it’s wrong that it does, but when you think about it anybody can be discriminated against for anything these days.
Do you take part in any activities and are they inclusive?
To be honest, my idea of taking part in activities is hanging out with friends whilst watching a film and eating junk food. So yes, that’s inclusive. I don’t pay that much attention to what’s inclusive and what isn’t; as long as I can physically get through the door and there’s someone who’s willing to lend a hand, I’m all good. I like to do my bit for the disabled community though, and I’ve recently become a member of Lincolnshire Young Voices – read all about what we do here.
What helps minimise challenges to your daily living?
Good staff, good friends and a lot of laughter.
What are your favourite things to do?
Anything creative. I’m a passionate writer and I love hearing other people’s stories. As cheesy as it might sound, I just want to make a difference in any way I can. When I’m not blogging about crazy tales which generally involve a wheelchair-related, catastrophic disaster, you’ll find me with my friends, laughing about something that really shouldn’t be funny, and generally #LivingMyBestDisabledLife.