Yes you read that right, coming mob handed is how 4 disabled people and 2 carers, or more accurately 3 disabled people plus me were described as on Thursday afternoon when I visited my local town council offices. As I arrived at the council offices the Town Clerk said to me “Good Afternoon Mr Seach, oh I see you have come MOB HANDED” it has taken me until now to calm down enough to be able to blog about it. I do however think it sums up the misunderstanding of disabled people, and what life for disabled people is like.
To put this into context after all I like to share a balanced view, this week I was informed that to request items are added to a Town Council Meeting Agenda you require 5 signatures on a form that is submitted to I do not really know who, but whoever it goes to then gets to decide whether it should be included or not. The reason it is all so vague is that I cannot find anything relating to this on the councils website, even using their search option so it has all been a bit word of mouth. I could not find the exact process or who the request goes to nor a form to print off to get people to sign so I could submit it.
This left me with little option but to speak to some of the other disabled people who are to be involved in the Wymondham and District Disabling Access Group that has it’s first meeting on the 31st March to organise for us to go the council offices and complete this form. This was organised for 2pm on Thursday and we arrived here (image courtesy of Google Maps Street View);
Now the more astute will notice there is no access into the building from the street, I can also confirm that as of Thursday there were no signs, bells or anything else to indicate what a disabled person should do (hence part of the need for carers – we encounter this sort of thing on a regular basis), the blue gates to the left of the building are the entrance to the CAB Office in Wymondham, they are also apparently the way to gain disabled access to the council offices, not that there is anything to tell you this. Fortunately one of the other disabled people knew this. So we made our way around the back to a blue door with a faded sign that read “Please Shut the Door” – Still nothing to say it was the councils. My carer had to physically man handle the door open to open it far enough to get a wheelchair through it was so stiff so it tells you the last time it was opened for a disabled person.
Then to get to the office and to have the first words “Good afternoon Mr Seach, oh I see you have come MOB HANDED” issued at me. I was angry, insulted and flustered. It took me a little while to explain then why we were there, and why therefore there was so many of us to have the required number of signatories to submit the request. We weren’t chanting, we weren’t protesting in any way shape or form, no banners nothing, just simply filling in a form. Looking at the definitions of a mob, we weren’t any of these things, we were quiet, respectful, polite, courteous and totaled 6 in number a ratio of 1 Carer to 2 Disabled People;
Now I understand to many people reading this you will think well its an off the cuff remark nothing to get you knickers in a twist about but imagine this. Imagine you wake up tomorrow and you want to pop and get your morning newspaper, now imagine before you can do that you need help getting washed/showered, dressed, breakfast and drinks carried for you, and a carer to load up your wheelchair, get it in the car, get it out and push you to that shop. Imagine that every day, imagine that your independence is gone, you cannot go out anywhere without the help of others and those of you who have had children imagine going out is like being back to that routine checking you have all the things you need, knowing last minute medication gut will kick in and the person you are taking out will sit on the toilet for 10 minutes just trying to wee. Then imagine getting to your shop and you can’t get to the door because with the advertising board and the ignorant person who has parked illegally on the pavement blocking the dropped kerb to run in ahead of you not leaving a gap (you know you encountered it with pushchairs that are far narrower), you then navigate a detour only to see that the new refurbishment has meant a step has been put in, so your carer goes in asks for a ramp and there isn’t one. You go home empty handed, do not get your paper, buy your lotto tickets, or get the other things you wanted. Then imagine you don’t see that carer again for 4 days so you know that’s your trip out ruined.
IMAGINE THAT EVERYDAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE – THEN IMAGINE AT THE END OF ALL THAT SOMEONE TELLS YOU YOU’RE BRINGING IN THE HEAVIES WHEN YOU ARE SIMPLY TRYING TO DO AN EVERYDAY TASK MILLIONS TAKE FOR GRANTED.
Now think about that off the cuff remark that was made and maybe you can see why it was so insulting, offensive and left me feeling angry – when I had gone in, in a good mood trying to do a good thing for the community. Requesting an agenda item to be considered for inclusion on a full council meeting as an update on a service designed at embracing and educating the town council and all of its services and businesses on how they can be more inclusive and help to remove barriers for all disabled people. We have contacted the Norfolk Deaf Association, Autism Anglia, Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind amongst others all of whom want to be involved in making Wymondham a town to be proud of inclusive to all. I love this town, I was raised in this town, I did not expect my life to turn the way it has, now I want to help others and promote understanding and acceptance.
It is so difficult when those who are meant to be at the forefront of disability awareness are not aware of how demoralising comments can be, especially when your daily energy has been used building up to, and doing that one task. It is why I maintain more needs to be done to raise awareness and promote understanding.
Needless to say a strongly worded email was sent off to the town mayor and Councillors, and I await their response. I am not calling for a head on a platter but some real understanding and compassion from people I pay my council tax, and taxes to isn’t too much to ask is it?