Always look on the bright side of life….I tried,honestly!




 I decided yesterday to write a blog on what has been the impact of becoming a disabled person in an ableist world. And the truth is sometimes I forget how much I have had to give up, adapt, accept and buy to keep going in a positive way. Why positive, you may ask? Because I can’t live my life focussed on negatives as that takes a brutal toll on my mental health. I know this as I was stuck in that place earlier this year, with an internal black dog facing constant pain and an external context of evident climate crisis and a pandemic still being measured by excess deaths. I’m fortunate in that I have an internal reset button that helps me feel so grateful for the wonderful people I have in my life and the stability of an income that enables me to buy things that make me more comfortable. And to survive well, quite frankly, you need both. 

This week I’ve just bought two mobility scooters! I started on my journey with mobility scooters just before my spinal operation in June 2018. I was so grateful to feel again a sense of independence and the wind in my hair as I could enjoy ‘walking’ with family and friends. But the battery went quickly on this second hand scooter and recently the one I replaced it with kept stopping after any bump and leaving me vulnerable and abandoned. 

I learn constantly what I need and so far there is no one scooter that does it all. I need one that I can get around locally in Edinburgh, which protects my unstable spine but also one that I can get in a car so if I need to go further afield I have a device that allows me to move around once I arrive. A painful and inflamed wrist means I have huge difficulty with manual wheelchairs. Hence I grasped part of my savings for a rainy day ( accepting that this is a deluge) and bought the devices I hope will see me through for some time. 

I moved back to Edinburgh more than ten years ago and before any diagnosis of spinal damage. 

In part because Edinburgh has an excellent bus network that is used by all sectors of society. Our plan was to be able to reduce our reliance on a car, little knowing that our dependence on cars was to increase dramatically in just a few years. Mobility scooters are currently not allowed on buses in Lothian and in most parts of the UK. Future designs of buses will look at this issue we are told but that will not be for some time. Yet another example of being disabled by the world around me but frankly the tip of the iceberg. 

When it comes to meeting needs for disabled people, it’s never top priority. And yes, you are right even when ( DDA 1995 followed by Equality Act 2010) laws are passed, on so many occasions the law is broken without redress and people’s lives are reduced as a result. And yet again people like me feel less valuable, hidden away by societal structures and mores that assume it’s OK to exclude and be ‘othered’ by the able who assume ( wrongly) that it wont be them sometime. 

I bought my bigger scooter to negotiate pavements that are not designed for the frail and those with impaired mobility. Dropped pavements where they exist are also rarely properly designed so negotiating a trip in an urban area is usually full of frustration, pain and resignation around what can’t be done. 

But I took the new scooter out yesterday full of hope of smoother trips and I wasn’t disappointed-until trying to negotiate shops and cafes. Many I just can’t get in at all and/or have doors that can’t be negotiated to open and those I can get in are blighted by floor clutter, especially as we approach Christmas. Anyone with sight impairment or requiring a mobility aid is doubly disabled. Almost without exception every person I encounter is kind and tries their best to help and mutters apologies endlessly as they help me negotiate safer paths or provide a personal service at the door. So for all the many good folk who ask how they can help, I salute you!! But it’s the example again of how much as a society we put profit before people.

 It’s said we can get the true measure of a society by how it treats its most vulnerable. Frankly as a society the UK will not be be judged well in how it serves its most vulnerable citizens. And what I have described today is a tiny part of a whole that leaves each day a challenge that with different priorities and attitudes could be very different. 

Right I’ve said it….off to negotiate another day and as my sister-in-law would say “Always look on the bright side of life” …….

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