Our treatment of disability

Something has been plaguing my mind for the last few months and it coincides with the ‘No Go Britain’ feature that has been on Channel 4 News over the last few evenings: disability and our attitudes towards it in modern Britain.

I’ve had my eyes opened because a loved one is temporarily in a wheelchair. Perhaps I too have been guilty of taking the basics for granted. Head in the clouds, enjoying the very basics of going to the pub toilet or skipping down a street. I’d like to think, however, that I’ve always helped where I’ve seen someone in need.  My experiences over the last few months have left me bewildered and somewhat saddened. Three main issues have struck me:

People’s lack of self awareness- Yep, you’re on a train, yep you’re engrossed in a chat but why on earth don’t you realise that you are severely encroaching on someone’s space as a human being? I’m not even talking on busy trains either. I witnessed an incident at a gig recently where two drunken buffoons stood right in front of a woman in a chair. Side by side, leaning over with her as the middle of their sandwich. Beers in hand, fat guts in her face, shouting, spitting, ruining her experience. In the designated disabled area. Were they even aware of their belligerence or would they feel different if it was them sat down?

The staring- Yep. That’s a person coming up the road who is being pushed. Let’s stare. Let’s stare and forget offering help when a troublesome door flies open and the wheelchair is being rammed and rammed and rammed until enough force is used to complete an exit. Why? Why would you not offer to help? Has it really come to this?

Accessibility- The disabled toilet is not working. There is no ramp to get you up those steps. The curb has not been lowered enough so now you need to go on the road. Some moron has parked their car over the access point. People tutting and refusing to move when you are squeezing a huge metal frame down a tiny corridor. Accessibility? Where?

Of course, I’m not even the one who’s had to suffer the humiliation of all of the above. How can we expect people to want to take part in public life when we don’t make it available to all of the public?  I’m afraid to say that it seems a great deal of life at the moment is not for the public at all.  Just for selected, able bodied sections.

I don’t want to end this all on a sour note. I must add that there have been many incidents whereby human compassion has shone through. We are all guilty of a lack of mindfulness at times. That what makes us human I guess. Next time you are in a pub or on public transport or even just walking down the street, have a think; how accessible is this to all of us?

 

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