Being stubborn and outspoken has gotten me into trouble, especially as a teenager. These days, I’m glad that I have the backbone and grit to stick to my guns, even when it isn’t easy. Being young and disabled is a real trial. You know that you are missing out on activities that you SHOULD be able to partake in, purely because proper disabled facilities are not in place. Why aren’t they in place? Because people don’t give a shit. No one really gives a damn until it effects their life. We, young disabled people need to wake people up to our struggles.
Do you know what’s even more fun than being young and disabled? Being young and having an invisible disability. I can’t wait for someone to “call me out” on having a disabled parking permit despite the fact that my legs seem to work on the days I don’t need my wheelchair. I have had no shortage of comments from people about how I “seemed fine” last week. With every cruel comment, my skin thickens. People don’t always mean to be cruel, but it doesn’t stop it hurting. Consider my skin considerably more leather-like than it was a year ago.
I’ve had to assert myself a lot recently. I’ll give a few examples of this:
1 – I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but I had an occupational health assessment for my work. At the appointment I was told that I had “chosen” not to walk down the stairs as he looked me up and down, pointing out that I didn’t have a wheelchair and would need to have my assessment in the reception area – my wheelchair was due to arrive the next day. I was also quizzed repeatedly on my living accommodation, as if they were trying to catch me out. No, asshole, I still live on the GROUND floor of an old hospital, it’s surprisingly accessible! Almost as if it was built to house sick people… He also asked me if I was going to, wait for this… ride a scooter into work and somehow attach my electric wheelchair onto the back of it. Seriously. My work is 0.25 miles from my house. What the fuck was he thinking? Honestly, this nonsense went on for an hour. I was FURIOUS. I was laughing hysterically when my sister picked me up. It was pure manic rage.
When I got home, I e-mailed my CEO and explained what has just happened and how utterly disgusting it was. I explained that I had hoped to return to work in order to positively impact my mental and physical health but it is now very clear that this is not what was going to happen in reality. It was always going to be a massive leap of faith in my body’s ability and now it just doesn’t seem worth the risk for minimum wage and a load of grief. I felt a million times better about it after I sent an e-mail of wrath. The whole thing still isn’t resolved, but I feel better.
2 – Ordering my wheelchair has been a ball ache. I researched it, not unlike you would if you were getting a new £1000+ mountain bike. I knew what I wanted and the amazing people of Aberdeen funded it for me. I ordered it and paid for an allocated day delivery. Oh, but it was out of stock. I got a seriously patronising and LOUD phone call from a guy explaining to sweet old MRS me that they could send me a different chair. Er, no. MISS, I’m 27, my hearing is fine and if you speak to me like an idiot one more time I’ll travel down the phone line and choke you out, son. Anyway, it was going to come on the Friday or the Monday at the latest. J, my engineer boyfriend, took the Friday off work but it didn’t come, so he took Monday off. Thankfully his boss is extremely understanding of my health issues and doesn’t give him a hard time for any of this. The courier company said they didn’t have it for delivery on the Monday afternoon and I was to contact the supplier, so I sent one of my famed rage e-mails. No reply. But when J went out to the dentist, my wheelchair came! Really fucking helpful. Nigel liked it though. J got back and put it together and it all just seemed a bit off. Plastic bits didn’t fit together properly, a tool kit was missing, there was a chip glued back into the base (clearly it has been forcedly put together and crudely taken apart for some reason), oh, and the battery was charged?! The main issue is that without the tool kit, we can’t adjust the seat height or the height/tilt of the foot plate.
So, I left a somewhat scathing Trustpilot review of the supplier. No more than two minutes passed, literally 120 seconds later, my phone was ringing. It turns out when you tell their potential customers about your disappointment, they are more than helpful. You know why? Because you get the manager who has the ability to send out a brand new chair with an engineer to make sure it’s all as it should be. I’m really happy with this. It’s not that my chair is “faulty” but it’s not as it should be. I was honestly a bit disappointed that things didn’t just 100% fit and work.
3 – Doctors. I’ve spoken about this before so won’t ramble on. On this one, though, I’d bypass your practice manager if at first you don’t get anywhere. E-mail your local MP who can contact the CEO of your local NHS. It’s worth it.
I used to judge the “I want to speak to your manager” woman. Now I can see that in society, there are unfortunately some people who through physical limitations, gender or even income are treated poorly and aren’t taken seriously. We need to speak to the manager, because if we don’t, this bullshit continues. We don’t want to have to do this, but if we didn’t, we’d feel depressed and isolated and even come to doubt our place in society. I’m starting to see that my place in this society is going to be heavy on reading people the riot act – but that’s fine. I hate my body, I hate my wheelchair, I hate when people are arseholes to me about my body and my wheelchair. I’m not putting up with it. My life is difficult enough and if you add to the difficulty of my day, I’ll ask to speak to your boss too!
And if you are the boss, heaven help you.