Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Dis-Abling Lack of Empathy

I broke my foot on holiday back at the start of August.  

One month and an operation later I'm still laid up/compromised/trying to live my normal life as a working mum of young kids in the summer holidays.  I have crutches and an an aircast and am trying to use them now my stitches are out.  I spend most days deciding between backache with my leg up to stop the swelling, or foot ache if it's down to type and work.  My perenially and notoriously skinny legs are now so spindly and lopsided (I have used the word withered a little too often) that I couldn't rush the recovery period even if I tried (I have, don't tell my Mum or Sister).
Now as a normal kind of woman, generally healthy, in my late 30s, this is a frustration and what I hope will be a blip of a quarter of a year.  What it means as a mummy to a not so typical little 4 and seven-eighths year old boy, is an enormous eye opener.

My little man has two very rare genetic disorders 18p- and 22q+ and for reasons best known to higher powers, is gloriously not severely compromised by them, anymore and at the moment.  That isn't to say that life with him is all whoopadidoo easy.  He does have a "disability" and there are challenges aplenty, but he is not currently "disabled" and we're thankful that he can see, hear, talk, walk, eat, toilet, run, think and enjoy his life like others his age.

So many of his little Chromosome 18 gang have really tough challenges in many of those areas and through them I've been introduced to a world of varied disabilities.  So when a hearty grumbling pierces my "I'm fine, really" attitude, the people who've heard my moans have been the friends with typical families and typical lives and typical troubles.  Not my hard-pressed amazing supermommy tribe. But that's for exploration on another post on another site (www.differentizgood.org, here I come I promise).

Why I'm writing this is because as a temporarily not-able person in London, I am incredulous as to how people who have lifelong mobility issues get to join society at all when the simple things are made so difficult.  
  1. In most public places, if I need to use the facilities I have to go either down or up numerous stairs.  
  2. Any walking I do has my eye fearfully trained on the pavement because of the uneven flagstones and potholes.
  3. Pedestrian crossings are about two thirds as short as they need to (I knew this anyway, as an unofficial older person guardian whenever there's been one next to me crossing).
  4. And in the city of London in 2011 with countless refurbishments having gone on over the years and an Olympics coming up, I am unable to find step-free access to a major tube station allowing me to physically reach my office in Goodge Street in the centre of London. The closest I can get is to either change tube lines twice (with steps) or get off half way and then get two different buses and have to walk.  So my amazingly patient bosses have cabbed me into work one day in the last month and been great about me working from home the rest.  
Today I am hoping to brave my normal journey there and back like a normal person.  But commuters and fellow travellers please beware.

Because if any of you tut as I fearfully stump towards you gesturing for your seat as I get on the tube and try to sit down before it moves off and I fall over...... 
Or if you tut when at Goodge Street station I take 10 minutes to climb the many stairs from platform to lifts, before hoping you don't stand on my foot as I edge to the packed lifts.....
Or if I over-react a little when you shove me as you do everyday in those lifts or surge forward and squash me as you try to enter and leave...... 
I will not be nice happy sunny Zen former-tube passenger Sara. 

I will be sore, cross and vindictively passionately vocal about our disgusting lack of empathy for anyone less than typical, and how this scourge of our society shames us daily. 

You have been warned.

PS on 6th September

That post was written last week.
I have just returned home from said commuting to work and the scores are as follows:

Fellow tube-goers - nearly full marks, but I cheated by travelling not in peaktime.
Bus nobbers, as I shall now call them -  Zero, generally awful and selfish behaviour inducing a near panic attack causing me to get off a stop early because I feared falling over or being squashed by people or the bus doors.
Vindictive Sara in the face of these bus-nobbers -  Zero.  Too scared and spindly to stand up and rant.  

And now my poor little calf is yelling "what's happening" very very loudly at me, having had to walk or stand for 35 minutes at the end of a day full of more action than it's had in a month.

Tomorrow's another day.  Now where is that local cab number????

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