Saturday, 20 May 2006

It's My Party and I'll Rant If I Want To

While I'm on a ranting roll, I may as well continue, to help myself deal with the disablist world.

Rant No. 1

At a concert in a church last evening, I was almost dis-abled by a church warden, a nice plump lady, strawberry blonde with pink cheeks and nice jewellery (I'm easily impressed), whom I had telephoned previously to check the church was accessible. It was, with a nicely paved discrete ramp for all, replacing the steps the Victorians added to many churches, to make them higher, literally to halt the lame (who they presumed had done something to deserve that god-given fate), and to bring parishes up to a high church, along with incense and sung services.

I love incense and sung services; we have societies to promote them.

So I had gone along quite confident in my ability to be included. The church was traditionally pewed, with aisles, so spotting a pitch with good sight lines was the first task. The church warden wasn't comfortable with that; 'that' being a wheelchair deciding for itself where it was going to sit. The wheelchair was directed to a wide aisle between blocks of pews; empty, dark and lonely, save for an ominous chest (could have swallowed me and the wheelchair) and told I would be alright there. No I won't - what about my friend ? " Well she can sit anywhere ...": No, She and I sit together. I and my wheelchair left the church warden to figure out eventually that wheelchairs, like bipeds, like to be with the rest of the audience, not put somewhere deemed suitable for wheelchairs only. Is it any wonder that some people are afraid of letting their children talk to wheelchairs or use disabled toilets. Aliens. Bitch. Except she wasn't of course, just ignorant. But she is a churchwarden, and inclusivity is her job and she will have received training for it - I bet the trainers weren't dis-abled.

I had forgiven her by the time she served me a Pimms in the interval. Yes, I love going to church ! The Pimms with summer strawberries and leaves of lemon balm and mint, highlighted the unseasonal tempest rattling the stone tiled church roof.

Rant No. 2

This rant has been removed by the editor, as all is forgiven.


Apology No. 1

If it is needed, it is only the exception like Rant No. 2 above, that proves the rule that disabled males are generally more compassionate, open, friendly, witty and wise, than able bodied males. In my experience.

Rant No. 3

SC&H have almost at last finally yes really, agreed that I need wheelchair access into my home, and to principle downstairs rooms and a wheelchair accessible bathroom. After three years of my asking. See earlier post.

At the meeting this week I had the bizarre argument, that led to the first (and second) time I have ever used the expletive 'f--k that' in front of (not at or to) my occupational therapist and care manager/social worker. OT said: wheelchair access to principle rooms, means to the door, not necessarily in the entire room. F that I said and burst into tears. (I was so so tired after three years of arguing my case). Sobbing... (oh for f's sake, let it all out...): Are you seriously trying to tell me that I can sit in my wheelchair and look at my kitchen from the widened door, but not actually use the kitchen, ditto the sitting room. She backed down on that.

And, (blowing my nose loudly) I asked boldly: are 'they' going to do the building work in two stages, so that I can still get into the house, and move all my furniture and my life upstairs and seal off downstairs rooms against builder's dust and muck ?

No, it will be done all together, will take about three months, so we will get you a temporary housing association tenancy. F that I said (second time) ... you are joking (she is newish to the job). I know someone disabled who had to wait eighteen months for a housing association tenancy; homeless and camping with relatives, their life and belongings put in storage. Not a hope in hell of that happening at the same time the builders are in. Temporary stalemate, but that is what they are paid to sort out.

Not me, I'm tired, I have engaged in the battle, I have won the war; let them fight the little remaining skirmishes.

Rant No. 4

No, I'm too tired, it will save. If you wish to prepare, read CROW 2000, as homework. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. This law applies not just to rights of way on green bits in the countryside and coast, but also urban rights of way (through the 'vehicle' of LTPs: Local Transport Plans) so it applies to the footpath through the housing estate that is too narrow for wheelchairs, the pavement in the town that has a dropped curb once every half a mile. In CROW 2000 spot the references to C123Vs if you can - you won't; they are not in there.

In the countryside, at the coast, in the town, through the village, in cities minor and capital, rights of access to paths, pavements and other public rights of way and (newly) opened access land, wherever the term 'on foot only' occurs, in law that term also includes users of Class 1, 2 and 3 mobility vehicles - manual and powered wheelchairs and trikes. I'm a country girl so lift me over the stile somebody please.

If, having done your homework, you and your wheelchair wish to pursue the issues, let me know and I will send you details of how you can have your views included. Anywhere in the UK. Down here in South West Disability Shire, I am looking for volunteers, seriously. I cannot do it all on my own.

More pills please, waiter.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Charlesdawson said...

I have, in the course of researching a future blog, been looking out small, out-of-copyright pictures of disabled people to illustrate my thesis.

And do you know, I can hardly find any. I've been through loads of bound copies of old magazines, old books, and the like: zilch.

Every illustration, even of serials about doctors and nurses, shows healthy, able-bodied people.

Is it any wonder that your churchwarden or anyone else is profoundly ignorant about wheelchair users? The very fact of their existence has probably hardly impinged on her consciousness during her entire life.

Thank God, things are changing; Read the blog Fangworld. There's a heroine!

Saturday, 20 May 2006 at 20:07:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

Thank you Charles, I do read Fangworld, another awesome lady, but I don't comment on all I read, being a bear of very little brain.

Saturday, 20 May 2006 at 20:46:00 BST  
Blogger spotted elephant said...

I understand why people are ignorant about people who use wheelchairs. But I don't get this level of ignorance-what happened at your church. I mean, would she have thought it was ok to put you in a closet?

Sunday, 21 May 2006 at 21:22:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

Hi Spotted Elephant, I read your post often; its good to get your visit.

I sometimes get the feeling (is it paranoia ?!) that there is a collection of professional voluntary 'caring' people in the church (of whatever denomination) who like to be in charge of what, when, who and how, they care.
They often seem to assume that the person they are currently directing their 'caring' persona at, is somehow needy and therefore less than them, or deserving, and should therefore appear deserving, and - let's not forget - also grateful for what they are bestowing. Independence always leaves them confounded.

Another point that may explain the church warden's discomfort; it wasn't 'my' church as such, in that it was not the parish church of the village I live in, but a concert in the parish church of a village some miles away. I was a stranger.

There remains in rural parts of England, some racial memory of the 'Poor Law', which forbade parishioners to travel to another parish, without visible means of support.

Each parish church also had to display a copy of the book of rules of Christian conduct (someone rescue me with the right title) by command of the Sovereign. I don't think there was a section on independent wheelchair users.

Charles is a gardener of note, with many companion animals, some of whom share his blogging chair, and may be reading this with him. He may have some advice to offer on the potted greens you are growing for your house rabbit.
Charles ?

Sunday, 21 May 2006 at 22:37:00 BST  

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