I know I am over tired and in increased pain as I found myself in an antagonistic mood this evening and went to Town if you will pardon the pun over two issues that have been raised on a social media site today relating to my home town. My positive yesterday was about challenging accessibility issues in 2016 and tonight it just so happened the issues were being discussed.
I try to avoid becoming embroiled in such squabbles as I will be the first to admit that until I became disabled and had to use mobility aids of various forms I considered myself to be very understanding and empathetic, however it is only since using my wheelchair more and more that I have realised just how far behind we are in having equality. It is how simple things like crossing the road I had always naively believed a dropped kerb was an effective solution for wheelchair users, however I now discover less than 20% in my hometown are truly dropped kerbs and most need some sort of bunny hopping motion to get up and down them to avoid my wife’s new favourite game of wheelchair tipping – not ideal when you suffer pain throughout your spine!
Firstly if you have read my mini series around trying to get the new play area that was built in the summer of 2015 to have pathways to be accessible for wheelchair users and the amount of damning replies I have had from my local town council it was with some amusement that on my town site today I read this
Popped down to Ketts Park this afternoon! I was shocked and disappointed by how muddy it was for a new play ground area! I know we have had a lot of wet weather recently but I would advise avoiding it wellies are a must and take spare clothes if you do go!
Reading the thread on social media the vast majority of people were agreeing that it was unacceptable and the issue of poor drainage was well documented prior to the building of the play area. One or two people said we should be pleased we haven’t been flooded like up north instead of moaning but this seemed to far off topic to even reply to. My reply did however read
Try being a wheelchair user and getting access to it, I am currently in discussions with the Town Council with help from Equal Lives a disability charity to get proper pavements installed as there would have been before the park was moved from the initial plans. If you want to be proactive email the town clerk Trevor Gurney Wymondhamtc@########.com and councillor Lee Hornby the only one who has thus far met with me ######by1@####### please feel welcome to copy me in firstname.lastname@example.org
One person did reply that having had a period in a wheelchair following surgery she had managed to get enjoyment watching her husband walk their dog whilst sat on the bench in the sun so we should be pleased we have more than most. This is the view from said bench and I did express my concern as to how I was meant to supervise my child from the bench ( I am still waiting a reply to this)……….
I followed my original post up with;
Oh by the way the discussions are not going well, apparently access to the park is irrelevant as long as there is disabled equipment on the park they feel they have fulfilled their duty under the Equality Act, something I am in disagreement with them over as if you cannot get to the equipment what use is having it!
Funnily enough my last email from them said they would look at it in the spring as it is too boggy to get quotes or work done (kind of my point about access)!
Fingers crossed a few other people start hassling the Town Council and some positive action can be taken to improve the situation, I have also asked them to get #itisonlyapavement trending but we will see, it is one thing to moan, another to take positive action to remedy the situation!
The second post was relating to our local Railway station and goes as follows;
I have just returned from a day out with the grandchildren on the train , cannot believe that the new bridge at Wymondham station hasn’t got a disabled exit for wheelchairs or buggies ,it took the two of us to carry the buggy over the bridge as grandchild was asleep in it ,heaven knows how young mums on their own manage ! A very polite teenager stopped to say he also has trouble getting his bike over . Just in case we missed an exit ,there aren’t any visible signs
The string of posts go on to confirm that the postee is correct and that there is no ramped wheelchair access for people returning from Norwich at this Nationally Recognised and Award Winning Railway Station, and the option is to travel to the next town, cross where they do have access and then wait an hour to come back – obviously the ideal solution for disabled people. It is why I have for ages kept telling my LG we will go visit mummy at work one day on the train (my wife works near the station in Norwich our nearest big city, and knowing full well I cannot get her home again the return journey I am running out of excuses). There was the usual bickering, and political views, the predictable public v’s privatisation rows and so on and so forth and then I read a post that finished
you need to build a bridge, and get over it!
This really raised my shackles and my response was polite but firm
Trust me self propelling oneself in a wheelchair up a small incline is hard enough, up a bridge impossible, it is statements like build a bridge and get over it that makes living life as a disabled person very depressing and just reinforces the fact that London 2012 has left no lasting legacy for disabled people. I have to argue with the town council to get pavements so I can take my children to parks and I can not use the railway. Attitudes of get over it should have died centuries ago!
This has received a number of likes and further support from other people posting in favour of what I have written. I have received a reply from the original postee; in which they say……………
Neil, my comment was directed at the previous commenter, and was clearly ironic, so please don’t take offence; I am in no way suggesting that anyone should literally ‘get over’ anything. And actually, there is a great deal of good will and support in Wymondham – and beyond – for anyone in need.
………..and I have replied with;
Irony accepted E####, but I can promise you whilst there maybe goodwill and support by many of the citizens of Wymondham I promise you as a disabled person there is not the support by all, all too often I come to an abrupt stop because someone has parked blocking the pathway, I then have to rethink my journey because dropped kerbs are only dropped until you have actually tried to navigate them in a wheelchair or mobility scooter – the people who can ensure things like this are addressed and access to play areas are sorted do not seem to give a damn, the police resources are overstretched already so not concerned by the parking and many of the lovely shops are inaccessible to me, and those that aren’t are all too often blocked in the aisles making navigation around them impossible. I understand ignorance surrounding the issues as until I found myself being made disabled I too was ignorant to them, I simply now am trying to spread the word to as many people as possible to ensure disabled people have a voice. The argument of money should not come into Equality but all too often it does. I have offered the Town Council the opportunity to wheel in my shoes and it has been declined so I am sure you will understand my touchiness around the subject!
I guess this highlights two issues, firstly irony cannot always be read in social media posts, but also flippant ironic remarks can easily offend the person on the receiving end of them.
I am in the process of trying to figure out where I go with my life as my ability to work in paid employment comes to an end, and maybe I have already found it. As I said 2016 is the year to make sure the voices of disabled people, and not just those with mobility issues, but all disabilities are heard and considered within the local community. As I hope to find myself with time, a little more mental strength and the opportunity to do things from home at my own pace and at my own time of day it would be good to begin with networking with my local community to pull together disabled people and do just that. Now that really would be legacy……..