Earlier this week I was talking to an acquaintance who was saying I handle things very well. They’d been around when I’d found myself struggling with access woes a while ago and been impressed with how I handled it. It’s not the first time since that this has come up. They mentioned that I’m not the only disabled person they know and the others get angry in ways I don’t. I think it is – or was meant to be – a compliment.
I’m not sure I did handle it well. I’m not sure it’s a situation that can be handled well – life doesn’t come with a handbook for what to do when yet again the wheelchair access you’ve been promised isn’t there.
And these are situations that often seem to end up with victim blaming “oh well we weren’t planning to invite you but we had a spare space” was one line I heard last year “We don’t get many wheelchair users” is another I’ve heard many times before and of course there’s last week’s “you’re using the wrong door“. “Trying to do something nice for you” “my brother’s best friend’s mum’s sister uses a wheelchair and she can manage” and many other comments along those lines have been said over the years all of which give the idea that it’s not actually the lack of wheelchair access that’s the problem, it’s me that’s the problem.
So sometimes I handle something quietly and with a calm I don’t feel. Because whilst I’m not worried it’ll cause a scene but the memory of that victim blaming cuts deep and can’t be forgotten. I don’t want people to stop inviting me to things because of that and some reactions have made me worry that might happen. Or because I might start crying if I don’t.
Occasionally experience has taught me that in those particular circumstances things might not be ideal – so I’m prepared for shit access. And nothing helps you handle it well better than a complete and utter lack of surprise.
But there are two other reasons why I may be reacting to an access problem better than you expect.
Because this my normal. And sometimes you’ve paid the money, looked forward to the event and made the journey. You’re there and you can do nothing but make the most of what you’ve got. Do what I can, enjoy what I can and consider afterwards whether it’s a lesson learned, a don’t go there again, a complaint or an “actually that worked better than hoped.” Because sometimes, rarely, but sometimes nonetheless people are faced with a wheelchair user struggling and access being worse than expected and really come up trumps with help and solutions to improve things.
Or perhaps I’m just exhausted. Tired of having this problem all the time and lacking in the energy to make a fuss once again when it’s unlikely things will change.