>Disability Normal

>On Tuesday I bumped into a new friend in town and we went for a drink.  We chatted for quite a while about this and that.  It was fun.  She’d mentioned maybe going to Bicester Village sometime and said it would probably be short notice.

I didn’t expect it to be quite as short notice as it was (one hour) but we went Wednesday along with two of her daughters.  That (Wednesday) was I think the fourth time I met her.  I got some sailing gear (which unfortunately doesn’t fit) and a few small silly bits in Accessorize.  I think realistically there isn’t much at Bicester Village for me – being fat and restricted in what you can buy because of disability (i.e. shoes are a nightmare and certain clothes types don’t mix with a wheelchair well) and also being on a very limited budget but I’d figured that might be the case.  I’m told we didn’t see more than about a third of the place though so I could be wrong.  On the whole I thought it was very accessible although I was disappointed that they don’t have a shopmobility there.  It was flat, pedestrianised easy wheeling but you really would have thought a place selling stuff that high quality and expensive could afford a few powerchairs for customer use.  But then crips are invisible, after all.

Anyway one of the things which came up a few times – when we were chatting over a drink on Tuesday morning and again when shopping Wednesday – was about the “insight” my new friend said she was getting into my life with a disability.  I found that quite interesting too.  In fact in some ways I was surprised by some of the things she was surprised by

There are things about my life that make it different to other peoples – both other people who are nondisabled and other disabled people too.  But the same is true for everyone in this world.  I am not a tick in a box on the census form (oh that was fun to fill out last week!) but then I don’t know anyone who is.  And if you find someone who says they are then they are probably lying – either to you, or worse, to themselves.

Thinking about it, there probably are a few times when I don’t make it clear what my abilities actually are, just what I can’t do and what I struggle with, how I manage things, what I do etc.  In a way that’s probably denial.  But realistically it’s because I live in a totally accessible flat where everything is on wheelchair height, set where I need it and basically perfect for me.  And I’m right by the station so going places on the train isn’t a drag (although I do still need to book 24 hours in advance which is why I wasn’t able to go to Oxford today).  The town I live in is relatively accessible.  I’ve got a really good manual which is supportive and has reduced my pain a lot.  And I’ve got a powerchair.

All of that allows me to be as independent and outgoing and “get on a do it” as I am.  Which seriously removes a lot of the disabling barriers in my life.  But if you take those away, like when my powerchair broke down (which was something my friend and I had talked about) or when I visit a town that doesn’t have access as good (which also happened when we tried to go into Bicester itself for some dinner) and then I realise just how much of a difference those things make.  I’ve always known that… but seeing it can be a bit of a hit and make it difficult.  Almost as if just how disabled I am hits me in those moments.

But still my friends comment about the insight she was getting into my life surprised me.  Because not being able to go into a possible choice for dinner because of access – disability normal.  Wheelchair parts taking forever to come in – disability normal.  Repairs being as expensive or possibly more expensive than those for a car – disability normal.  Needing to plan train journeys a day in advance – disability normal.  Taking what many people describe as a lot of medication – disability normal.

Disability normal.  The sort of thing you accept and you might occasionally have a moan about but you hardly notice because it’s just, well, normal.  But also the sort of thing that shocks others and makes you realise just what your life is like

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