I just sent my friend Mary an e-mail and I’m going to copy and paste what I told her about Naidex in here because that’s just easier then trying to say it all again.
A dear friend managed to get the day off of work and went as well. So even though she lives here we traveled separately and I met her up there (only two wheelchairs can be on most trains due to health and safety and we couldn’t find a train with both spaces free but even if we had we would have been in different carriages so it made no difference).
First when I got to Oxford I was met by a member of staff who I’ve known for years as I travel there so often. And as always he made me smile and laugh. There was another person waiting for assistance onto the train I was waiting for and he was most decidedly trying to make it *very* clear that he wasn’t with me or with John (staff member), particularly when our conversation about the sheer number of people they’d had to help on trains to the NEC/Airport (same station serves both) that week degenerated into flying arm movements and John singing “I believe I can fly” to me. I also got told that I got the wheelchair space I’d been assigned was in first class which means I got a free breakfast (cooked to order bacon roll) and as many drinks as I wanted on the train. I got the same thing (but a free panini this time) on the way back.
Then wandering around the NEC and looking at all the new wheelchairs and other things was fun. But what was most fun was being in the majority for once. The fact that everywhere you looked there were wheelchairs and blind people and people with sticks and hearing aids. And that we seriously outnumbered anyone else. The fact that for once no one stopped us to ask stupid questions or spoke as though we couldn’t hear them. No one asked where our carers were and no one batted an eyelid when we were our silly outrageous out there selves. We did get some rolled eyes and laughs but no “oooh don’t do thats” and no “is that safes?!?!” Even when we decided to have a race on the way back to the station everyone just grinned and shifted outta the way. And when people remembered us it wasn’t “oh yeah the two girls in wheelchairs” but it was “oh yeah the leprechauns we already gave you our info” (Elisa wore a shirt which said “the leprechauns made me do it”).
When we laughed at the sheer number of things that had dolls or teddy bears in demonstrating how a person would use them people got it – and when we started joking about how the plight of these poor disabled teddies was hidden and must be brought to the world’s attention the people on the stands laughed too.
And when we went back to the station I had an hour before my train but the staff went above and beyond to try and find me a wheelchair space on an earlier train when they didn’t have to do that. So Elisa went home and I hung out at the station for a while longer. Another lady in a wheelchair tried to get on the same train (she hadn’t booked in advance as I had) and was extremely rude to the station staff – screaming disablism and threatening to sue. She tried to get me involved and I pointed out to her that 1) it’s a health and safety issue so that if the train crashes the emergency services know what the maximum number of chairs is on and where they will be and I am all for that idea. and 2) Being that Naidex is basically disability central I would never have considered not booking and I was just grateful they tried to get me home early. I don’t know what happened to her – but I do know that the staff were quite shaken up because I went onto the concourse to wait and they found me and thanked me for sticking up for them. They let me go wait in the first class lounge with it’s nice view and free biscuits and drinks and papers and nice clean disabled toilet.
I really felt very special by the time I got home.
One of the things I don’t think I have made clear properly either in this e-mail or in my earlier writing about Naidex this year is how much of a cultural experience it is/was for me. The purpose of the day is not to feel like you are part of a huge group of PWD and that you are all coming together and having a shared experience. It’s to learn about equipment and organisations and adaptations and all that jazz. I have no idea if the organisers are even aware of how powerful of an experience it can be.
But for me – it is a powerful experience. It blends in with my identity as a disabled person and it helps me to embrace my culture. Being in the majority like that is HUGE. And even though I didn’t speak to any PWD about identity or about culture and I didn’t really speak to many people other than sales people having a day like that every once in a while just really helps me.
Changing the subject slightly, but also not, I wanted to also touch on the use of the term Crip.
I am a crip. Or a cripple. Or whatever the hell I want to call myself. Hell, I’m also Emma. But just lately whenever I refer to myself as a crip or a cripple I get rubbish about how I deserve dignity and I shouldn’t belittle myself like that. Calling myself a crip is acknowledging who I am. It’s saying “yup, so what?! I am disabled. What’s the big deal.”
It’s a slightly annoying experience even though I know those who say that to me are well meaning and think they only have my best interests at heart. We just don’t seem to see eye to eye on what my best interests actually are. Part of me thinks I should start moaning when people refer to themselves as being able-bodied or healthy and see if they get it. But then the realist in me knows that they won’t and they’d just think I’m weirder than they already do (not exactly a bad thing but…)
One thing I really love is slogan tops. I am suffering at the moment from a shortage of appropriately sloganed tops. And I have never had any disability identity or crip culture related slogan tops. This is a situation which I am planning to rectify with some rapid action in the very near future.
At naidex I did see a couple of slogan tops – one only came in child sizes (or thats all they had) and it said “Wicked on Wheels.” I really want that shirt! I forget what the other said, it wasn’t as interesting. Might have been something about staring?
Anyway so ever since then I’ve been toying with the idea of making myself a top that says CRIP on it. And then having an acronym underneath it.
One of my friends suggested Cool Respectable Independant Person. And my brother suggested Carrots Rhubarb Ice cream Pasta. but neither of those really appeal to me.
I also looked at the phonetic alphabet and it would be Charlie Romeo India Papa which is slightly more interesting and cool but still not quite right.
So does any one have any ideas? Basically years ago you used to be able to get those rip off FCUK tops that said Funky Cool Ultra Kinky on them and I’m thinking something similar something which screams “Em!” but I can’t think what it is