First of all, I am only sharing this story because I think it needs to be shared. I don't want you to feel sorry for me and I don't want to blow it out of proportion.
As I was coming along the main road (on the path, obviously) this afternoon in my powerchair a guy in a van leaned out of his fully open window, looked right at me and yelled something at me. The only word I heard clearly was "chair" But I think it was "walk not wheelchair."
Not very nice. At all. And yet I'm luckier than Incurable Hippie who had a much more scary experience last night.
He wasn't trying to tell me something was wrong with my chair, I checked and it was fine. Plus, I've had people driving past me do that before and they've always stopped to be sure I heard them. "oh you're bag's fallen off the back" that sort of thing
I'm bothered about shouting at about that but I didn't want to make a big fuss and having it recorded as a disability hate crime (although, technically, that's what it is.) However at the beginning of this year I promised myself I wasn't going to be a doormat and was going to stand up for myself as much as possible with all those people who I don't know but who demand to know why I'm in a wheelchair or when I'll be "better" or all those sorts of ridiculous non of their business questions. And so far this year I've done it twice with limited success. And once when maybe I should have (when someone laughed at me in the doctors waiting room) I wasn't able too as I was too upset.
I was under the impression that the big disability charities had all agreed to monitor this sort of thing. So I called the Scope helpline. It is very important to me that this gets included in the statistics about this sort of thing.To be fair to them, thanks to the power of Twitter, I've since had an apology (or "we're sorry the service wasn't what you expected") but I really wasn't very happy with the way the call was handled. I felt like the person I spoke with was dismissive and her basic response was that a lot of people get shouted at in the street for various reasons like race or disability. It's not right but "it happens". And there was nothing Scope could do. The person I spoke to didn't even ask if I was OK.
Someone on twitter has since passed me a link to a site about hate crime and it included Scope as an organisation you could go to for help with this sort of thing (and I've used their anonymous online tool to have the details recorded). BendyGirl called to check on me and she said she thought the same about the big charities.
I don't want to make a big fuss about this but I wanted to share it because it's something that happens when you're disabled. So saying "it happens" is fair enough. But it's not good enough. Because it shouldn't happen. No one would expect someone who is gay or Asian or in any other minority to put up with that sort of thing or deal with those sort of questions. And I don't know why I, as a disabled person, should have to.
I'm used to people not understanding disability but truly the level of hate and the scrounger stereotypes are getting much much worse.
I've had apology from Scope for the lack of help from their response helpline but I remain disappointed that someone working for an organisation whose whole purpose is to support people with CP was so unfeeling. I considered them one of the big disability charities but obviously I got that wrong.
I'll never get an apology from the man in the van, I don't know who he is and frankly he's just an idiot. I doubt he'll read this and if he does he probably won't realise it's him I'm talking about. Chances are, however, that one day he'll have the same experience I did. Because lives change in an instant and people become disabled in a blink of an eye. Don't castigate those of us who wheel through life instead of walking or have other forms of disability. Because chances are one day you'll be one of us as well.