Tag Archives: Disablism

Memories of Disablism

This is my contribution to BADD (Blogging Against Disablism Day) 2016.
Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2016

Oh! Wait, I nearly forgot to say something to someone:

Oi! Cameron! Yes, you, Osborne, Hunt & the rest of your thieving party. I have a message for you:


I only have a slight physical disability.

My mental one however, has existed somewhere in the range between Absolute Zero (0 degrees Kelvin, or -273.15 degrees Celsius or -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit) and the energy required to close every black hole that has ever existed, exists today plus the ones that will exist between now and the end of time itself. Actually, on reflection, all those black holes could be closed by Doctor Who in the time it takes a standard episode to play out. Oh well…

It’s been a while since I contributed anything to BADD, my blog, my friends or my well-being. As its short notice and I’ve got nothing else prepared, I’d like to share some memories with you. As far as I can accurately remember, I’ve never actually posted these experiences anywhere else.

The memories coming from a very trying time, spaced over the period of about 24 months. I’d been told that I needed a routine joint replacement operation. Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan. Multiple infections meant multiple operations. With this came such pain, discomfort, fear of the unknown, ridicule, abuse and routine callousness that I’d never encountered in my entire life.

1st Memory

Being in a wheelchair for the first time in my life. Let me clarify: I don’t mean within the walls of the hospital nor do I mean within the safety of it’s grounds. I mean outside; on a pavement with broken and cracked paving stones – and by the side of a very, very busy road.

AW, my friend, had arrived to see me. Just as she did almost every other day. But this day was different; for this was the day of the ‘Take taxi to busy shopping precinct and cross the very, very busy road and thus achieve our ultimate goal – a visit to the tonsorial artist’. Sorry, I mean a visit to the barber shop.

The roar of the constant stream of traffice; the judder and jolting as AW fought to control the wheelchair over the treacherous paving slabs; the crowds parting slowly and reluctantly to let us through and finally the glances and grimaces of the people we’d offended as they looked down at the lowly creature who’d put them to such huge inconvenience – me.

I put my hand up right now , I was so scared and ashamed I did the only thing I could do – I let my head drop and just looked at the confused blur of the feet and paving stones.

2nd Memory

This happened on the same day as the 1st memory.

Waiting at a properly laid out and light-controlled pedestrian crossing. You know what I mean: buttons, images, audible alerts, stippled area and dropped kerbs. All there to help those with visual & hearing impairments and, of course, wheelchair users. I pressed the appropriate button – we were the only ones at the crossing – and after a couple of moments the audio & visual alerts kicked in and the traffic stopped. I felt the wheelchair start to move into the road and looked up to see where we were going. I heard AW swear – very uncharacteristically – and realised why, just at the same time as my uncomprehending brain made sense of what was happening: A white delivery van had just stopped so that the driver could deliver a package. But the unthinking, uncaring and totally utter bastard had parked so that his van now blocked the dropped kerb on the other side of the road! AW did the only thing she could and pulled us back onto the pavement.

The driver just gave me a smirk and AW a dirty leer as he got back into his van and pulled away.

So, I hear you ask, didn’t anyone around you help? You know, drivers in their cars stopped by the lights? Any one of the dozens of people passing to the left and right behind you? I think you all know the answer to that one: Not a bloody chance. And there never seems to be a police officer around when you need one; does there?

3rd Memory

Happened on the same trip to get my haircut as the 1st and 2nd memories.

AW did get us across the road after about 5 minutes. A short walk down the street and around the corner there stood our objective – the building with the man who wielded the the scissors. Spinning the chair around so that she could reverse us through the front door AW hit a snag: she couldn’t bump the chair up and hold the door open at the same time.

A few seconds hiatus, that seemed to go on forever, went by. Then a gruff voice said to AW: “Here darlin’, you hold the door and I’ll take care of the chair”. As we all got inside AW thanked the man who’d helped us and, quite frankly, in the few seconds I had, I thought he looked about 200 years old. His face was lined and his skin was leathered. To my even more amazement, he then turned on the 5 sullen-looking and pimpled-faced youths sitting waiting their turn. He launched a pre-emptive strike on them; verbal and physical.

I cringed. I thought the youths would pummel him, grope AW, tip me out of the chair and take it for a joyride. But that’s not what happened. What happened was this:

  • The youths apologised to AW
  • Then they apologised to me
  • Then they apologised to the barber
  • Then they apologised to the old man – who they addressed as ‘Skinner’
  • Then they left the shop

After all this had happened, Skinner, went back to what he was doing before all of this had taken place. Which was, apparently, studying the form in his racing paper!

After asking AW if she’d like a cup of tea, the barber disappeared out the back and brought her back the tea and a few digestives. I looked enquiringly at the reflection of the barber but he just gave a slight shake of his head and asked me what I wanted doing with my hair.

The haircut was great which, along with the shenanigans earlier, earned him a good tip. AW stood up, planted a huge smacking kiss on the top of ‘Skinner’s head, gave a grateful nod to the barber and wheeled me out of the shop. I couldn’t help noticing in the mirror on the way out that Skinner was completely hairless on his head. If so, what the hell was he doing in a barber shop?

(Afterword: Some 7-8 weeks later I got some answers when AW and I returned to the same shop. But this time, before she’d even had a chance to turn us around, the door was opened by one of the youths from our previous visit. He kept holding it open while another youth took AW’s arm and guided her to a seat. Another made and gave her a cup of tea – with biscuits. While yet another smiled at me, turned the chair around and very gently bumped me up the step and pushed me to a position where the barber was waiting for me.

I glanced in the mirror and saw Skinner lower his paper, lift his head and looked quickly around. Everything must have been to his satisfaction because his whole face broke into a huge grin and he went back to his paper. But, before he lowered his head I saw AW get up and, just like before, give him a huge smacker on the top of his head and sat down again.

This time however Skinner’s arms started shaking like a very exited man. Then the whole paper started rustling and the youths, the barber, all burst into laughter. The mood was infectious and both AW and I joined in also. Suddenly Skinner stood up, smiled at AW, me and the barber and left the shop. This seemed to be a signal as the youths also stood and, with smiles all around, followed Skinner. I turned out that Skinner’s family was vast and the youths were his grand or great-grandsons! I went back about eighteen months later, when I could get around on my own, but the whole row of shops had gone and a small block flats stood in their place. Cheers Skinner!)

I may only have a “…slight physical disability.” but how do people who have much, much higher degrees of pain, disability, discomfort and personal difficulties cope?

Thank you for dropping by and taking the time to read my post.

Reminder – BADD (Blogging Against Disablism Day) Sunday 1st May 2016

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2016

“The eleventh annual Blogging Against Disablism day will be on Sunday, 1st May 2016. This is the day where all around the world, disabled and non-disabled people blog about their experiences, observations and thoughts about disability discrimination (known as disablism or ableism). In this way, we hope to raise awareness of inequality, promote equality and celebrate the progress we’ve made.”