To the woman who told her daughter to be quiet as they walked past me the other day, thank you. Thank you for reminding me why I do what I do. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own bubble, which centres around raising disability awareness, that I forget why I started in the first place. Your daughter picked up something I’d dropped and given it back to me without a second thought. It was only when she noticed I was jiggling a bit (because, as always, I needed to pee) that she turned to ask you why I was sitting down. If I hadn’t been so focused on not peeing in public, I’d have answered her question for you. What can I say? You win some, you lose some – at that point every muscle in my body was attempting to hold my bladder together whilst simultaneously breathing.
If you’re reading this, can you please give your daughter a message from me:
Thank you for picking up my booklet – if I’d have lost it, I’d have been a bit stuck., so you kind of saved the day. I’m impressed at how little attention you paid to my wheelchair. I wouldn’t have minded if you’d asked about the six-wheeled robot I ride in. I can lift it up so I can reach the top shelves in supermarkets and I can tilt in back whenever I feel like having a nap. It has a horn too, although that’s far too quiet which makes it pointless. It doesn’t go very fast either, but it gets me to where I need to be.
I heard you ask your mum why I was sitting down. The short answer is I can’t stand up without help. The long answer is I have Cerebral Palsy which means that when I was born my brain didn’t get enough oxygen and so a bit of it died. This was the bit which controlled the muscles in my legs, arms and everywhere else. I walk with a backwards zimmer frame, but I’m really slow so I use my wheels most of the time. I have someone to help me get up in the morning, go to bed at night and get me from A to B. I need a hand with things like getting in the shower and going to the loo too. Hence why I was jiggling – I needed a pee and no one was around t help me. I made it in the end though, so it’s all good.
I have what’s broadly known as a disability, but not everyone with a disability has Cerebral Palsy and not everyone with Cerebral Palsy uses a wheelchair. Disabilities come in all different shapes and sizes. Some people struggle to see, some people struggle to hear and some people struggle to communicate. Some disabilities are hidden, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
My point is there are loads of people in this world with disabilities and that makes us unique, but then everyone’s unique in their own way. We find out about disabilities by asking questions because this is how we learn. If people don’t want to answer them, they won’t, but if they do then you’ve learnt something new. Never stop asking questions.