I went to see Richard Herring on Saturday night; what I really find exciting about him is his absolute transparent and congruent belief in rights for disabled people. He is just so refreshingly real about his response to living with the existence of disability…… and not everybody is as comfortable with disability as he is, as my list of anecdotes shows:
My top 5 uncomfortable wheelchair reactions!!:
(I must just say, EVERYBODY who I’m about to laugh about is very kind & trying to be helpful. I just find what I’m about to tell you quite funny; I’m inspired by Richard Herring to share).
- The Loud Wheelchair Alert: I’ll be in a crowd of people, happily mooching along, when somebody notices me and wants everybody to know that they are a good citizen. They will dramatically shout “WHEELCHAIR COMING THROUGH!”. The crowd will then part and elderly people may end up getting crushed in the furore, all so that the shouter will feel confident that other people have recognised their good social deed. I am left having to style it out, following the engineered pathway which leads me in completely the opposite direction to that which I wanted to take in the first place. Frequency of occurrence: 6/10 crowd situations
- The Unnecessary Door Hold – People get nervous if they see me approaching in a wheelchair so they quickly leap backwards through the doorway they’ve just used and hold it open. If they are holding it open and their back is against a wall, we enter an impasse situation whereby I have to run over their toes. Or, if they position themselves on the wrong side of the doorway, they then have to perform a ‘bending lean’, creating a human bridge which I must roll under. Now if I were to take the weight of the door with my chair, it would be possible for me to just roll on through without having to enter close proximity with a stranger’s armpit or run over a stranger’s feet. But people become stubborn about wanting to be helpful, even if it does result in metatarsal injury. Frequency of occurrence: 7/10 public door usages
- The Pub Comedian – EVERY time I go to a pub (not exaggerating) an old man with a pint will deliver, with self-congratulation at their own wit and originality, the line: “Have you got a license for that!!!”, or “Are you drink driving?!!!!”. Frequency of occurrence: Every. Time.
- The Guilt – Sometimes I’ll just be going along, minding my own business, when a stranger who is nowhere near me will say “sorry” to me, as one might if they bump into someone or accidentally nudge them with their handbag. Psychoanalyse as you will. Frequency of occurrence: 9/10 pavement or corridor trips
- The Smile – This one’s hard to explain but, we often accidentally make eye contact with strangers and make a judgement call whether to, say, look away immediately, give a friendly smile, or give them the Vs. But I frequently notice that people who quite obviously are so stern that they would never even smile at a baby, will engage eyeball to eyeball with me, notice my wheelchair, and give me a smile so warm and tender that it would bring a tear to the eye of an onlooker. They often even bow slightly. Frequency of occurrence: 9/10 leisure outings
This is a ‘Top 5’ because I could only think of 5 – people are generally alright I think.