It’s been a month since began sharing profiles on here and I have been really overwhelmed with the small impact it is making already…But we have so much further to go! Please share the blogs on social media, Tweet, or get in touch with your own stories! I love hearing from you and I’m constantly amazed by the individuality and strength shown in each story. Together we can raise awareness and start the important discussion about invisible disabilities and how we can improve the lives of those with them.
On to business; today we hear from Tina, another wonderful blogger, who is getting accustomed to life after a recent injury.
Can you tell me about your disability?
My disability is relatively recent. I fell getting off the bus about 3 months ago and as a result I’ve a mobility problem, which means that I walk with the aid of a crutch.
What is your typical journey like (prior to the badge)?
After my accident it was seven weeks later that I was mobile enough to start going out again, so I had only been using public transport as a person with a disability for about a month before the badge scheme started. For me to feel confident to travel on public transport I would plan every new journey before I left home, taking into consideration walking distance and the number of stairs, and whenever possible I would travel off peak to avoid crowds. When I boarded public transport and there were no seats available, I didn’t have the confidence to ask someone to give up their seat. So I would position myself where I could stand with a rail to hold onto or lean up against a partition, as I am not very stable on my feet so when the transport jolts I worried that I might fall again.
Just the short walk from home to the bus or tube would cause pain and tire me out so I would also keep looking out and try to get a seat when one became free. Sometimes there were some really kind people who would offer their seat immediately and I appreciated this. Other times I felt I was invisible and I ended up standing for the entire journey.
What happens if you don’t get a seat? How does this impact your day?
In my case, sitting down eases the pain, so when I don’t get a seat I usually arrive at my destination in quite a bit of pain. If it’s a working day it means because of the pain, I find it a little bit harder to concentrate and I might be slower than usual getting through tasks. If I’m going out it might mean I rearrange my plans and do less than what I was going to do. Overall getting a seat makes a big difference to my pain, energy levels and quality of the day.
Are there any visual cues that would signal you need a seat (prior to the badge)? i.e. walking stick, crutches. How successful is this?
I walk with a single crutch. To be honest it’s mixed. If I’m standing and the bus or tube is full it might be difficult for the people sitting down to notice the crutch. However, when possible, I stand where there’s a rail to hold onto so I am usually standing next to people who are sitting. It’s difficult to get people’s eye contact as most people are looking at their mobiles or reading and so on. I’ve had other occasions when people have been sitting quite a way from where I am standing and they make a point of catching my attention and offering me their seat.
How do you feel about the badge trial?
I think it’s a brilliant idea. Personally I like how the badge is worded; it’s polite but direct. I know some people with disabilities, including hidden disabilities, may feel vulnerable or labelled wearing the badge.
My disability is visible, so I personally feel comfortable about wearing it and for me it’s been empowering as it’s given me the confidence now to ask for a seat. I am however disappointed with the lack of TFL’s publicity for the campaign and the lack of media coverage. The scheme needs much more coverage so the general public are aware of it.
How do you feel living in London with a disability?
Overall very positive, London is a very special city. However as a person with a mobility problem the main difficulty for me is inaccessibility. As I can’t manage flights of stairs and need to use an accessible toilet, this means that there are lots of places are out of bounds for me and travelling between A and B isn’t always easy. While much more needs to be done to make London truly accessible there are some old buildings that have been adapted and new buildings are often planned with disabled access and many places have staff who are willing to offer assistance, so with a bit of pre-planning much of London feels accessible to me.
Overall the general public are helpful, some spontaneously so but when I’ve asked for assistance no one has refused. I generally feel safe in London as a person with a visible disability, there’s been quite a few stares from people and a couple of men have questioned me rudely about my disability, but I think that’s as much to do with gender issues as it is to do with disability.
What do you think would most surprise those without a disability about the way yours affects you?
The degree of adaption, pre-planning and resourcefulness that I require for everyday living as a disabled person. In the morning I have to pace myself. I just can’t get up and go, as getting ready can be really tiring, depending on my pain levels. If I’m going out I need to give myself extra time to travel as lots of things affect me and it’s extra difficult to walk with a crutch in the rain, or the nearest tube station I want to travel to might have stairs so I need to allow extra time or use a different route. I can no longer be spontaneous with where I go as my world revolves round not having to use flights of stairs and having an accessible toilet. At home I use online food shopping as I can’t carry much while walking with my crutch. I have had to store things at arm’s length so I can comfortably reach them and I use a grabber as I’m unable to pick up things that fall on the floor. I’ve had to be creative and adapt my home and lifestyle to work for me round my disability.
Another insightful look at life with a disability. A lot of this resonates with me, as I often have to use a single crutch (Smart Crutch has made this a much more tolerable experience for my joints!) when my hip is playing up. The amount of pre-planning required just to do something simple like meeting a friend for dinner can be an exhausting endeavour. Researching if they have accessible bathrooms; getting a table downstairs; making sure you get comfortable seating and not bar stools.
Relying on other people entirely is a difficult thing to do, but as a disabled person you come to accept it as a part of life. What makes it exponentially easier is having the piece of mind that all those people are aware of the importance of these things – having the accessible toilet in working order, making sure the bus ramp is working before sending it en route and so on – all things that make that reliance a lot easier to handle.
Until next week.