Saturday, 11 June 2011

But it is 'Accessible'...

Sometimes I hate things labeled as accessible.
Advertised as accessible.

Accessible for me? Accessible for you? Accessible for who?

It usually doesn't bother me at all. I'll just ask questions to get the info I need -until I meet someone who's only answer to my questions is 'it is accessible'.

How does an estate agent who has met me once know what is accessible for me? What does he know about my coordination or hand function or grip strength and how that applies to my abilities to open an external, locked gate?

"Don't worry because of course any gate installed will be accessible, it has to be by law."

Erm. No.

Reasonable adjustments have to be made. That doesn't mean all external gates on the market can be opened by me. Or that a well meaning builder will put in something that I can open. It means they can be opened by most people with a range of ability levels. Accessible for 90% of people doesn't necessarily include me. - just tell me for definite what the gate opening mechanism is (key? Yale lock? (definitely not me-friendly) swipecard? movement sensor? coded keypad?) and I'll know if I'm in the 10% or 90%.

He said how helpful the developer was trying to be. And how everything would be wheelchair accessible. I appreciate all that. I'm not trying to campaign or make a point. Just answer my question. I've been asking for weeks. Any builder/developer can easily find out what kind of lock is on the gate he's bought.

I may have been patronising.
I may have raised my voice in frustration.
I am not proud of this.

But it worked. Slightly.

He called back: He'd spoken to the developer. The pedestrian gate which will be installed shortly will be opened by coded key-pad. I thanked him, said that answered my question and would be accessible for me, and that I would instruct my solicitor to proceed with the purchase.

But he didn't really understand. He continued trying to 'explain'.

If I wasn't disabled and had asked what colour the gate would be, would it have taken so long? would I have had to sit through lectures on 'the developer won't choose a colour that looks bad'? would the agent spend ages explaining that he couldn't tell me the exact chemical composition of the paint and therefore neglect to tell me the colour either?

When I ask about accessibility it isn't out of irrational fear. I don't want reassurance.

I want answers.

Direct and simple answers to direct and simple questions.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The beauty of life

Yesterday was beautiful.
It was happy.
It was perfect.

Yesterday my train got delayed by an hour.
My pain levels were high.
I used up my energy for at least a few days.
3 Taxi's refused to pick me up.
My estate agent had a moment of disability related patronising oik.

And yet, the day was beautiful. And as I arrived home I could not have been happier or more content.


Because no-one and nothing could take away from what I had achieved.

4 years ago I started drawing stickmen.
Yesterday in a meeting with whizzkidz PR and fundraising chaps we initiated a project which might help change the attitudes of the country towards those in wheelchairs. Which will raise money to help get kids the wheels they need to be kids. Which will involve working with some kids - who will then get their names in published print. And which will expand my stickman empire. ( I will post more on this later...)

Of course I was proud of myself, but actually, this was only a small part of my contentment.

The big part was that I had:
Travelled to and across London on my own.
To somewhere I had never been before.
Had a business meeting lasting over an hour during which I was able to concentrate and talk until the very end.
And then....
I went shopping. Wheeling free and independent through the shops around Victoria. Completely alone in the crowds - just one person in a seething mass of humanity. Yes, I sometimes got rescued by random shop assistants and passers by, but so would someone carrying a heavy box - and it doesn't take away from my achievements.
I randomly met an old lecturer from my pre-wheelie days. We chatted and she didn't pity me or patronise me.
I got back across London with my shopping - hailing a taxi all by myself - before catching my train and getting back home.

It was beauty. It was perfection. Simply because: I did it.

A year ago I couldn't hold a 10 minute conversation while curled up at home and remain coherent.
A year ago a trip to London wasn't even a dream. My dreams were things like being able to visit someone for coffee and not end up semi-comatose. It was so far outside my abilities. It would have put me in hospital. And medically I had been given no hope that things would change for the better anytime soon.

But with my new medical team at the Bristol Heart Institute: Dr Thomas, the Arrythmia nurses, ward nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists and their pioneering treatment, the sky is my limit.

I feel human again. Taking steps into new areas. As important as those first steps on man on the moon.

Yes, I am paying for it now. I can't concentrate for long. Speaking is difficult. My fingers ache, my elbows aren't properly attached......etc....etc...

But "what price perfection"?

It was worth it.
And no after-effects can take away the fact that I did it.

On my own.

I did it.