On Tuesday I bumped into a new friend in town and we went for a drink. We chatted for quite a while about this and that. It was fun. She'd mentioned maybe going to Bicester Village sometime and said it would probably be short notice.
I didn't expect it to be quite as short notice as it was (one hour) but we went Wednesday along with two of her daughters. That (Wednesday) was I think the fourth time I met her. I got some sailing gear (which unfortunately doesn't fit) and a few small silly bits in Accessorize. I think realistically there isn't much at Bicester Village for me - being fat and restricted in what you can buy because of disability (i.e. shoes are a nightmare and certain clothes types don't mix with a wheelchair well) and also being on a very limited budget but I'd figured that might be the case. I'm told we didn't see more than about a third of the place though so I could be wrong. On the whole I thought it was very accessible although I was disappointed that they don't have a shopmobility there. It was flat, pedestrianised easy wheeling but you really would have thought a place selling stuff that high quality and expensive could afford a few powerchairs for customer use. But then crips are invisible, after all.
Anyway one of the things which came up a few times - when we were chatting over a drink on Tuesday morning and again when shopping Wednesday - was about the "insight" my new friend said she was getting into my life with a disability. I found that quite interesting too. In fact in some ways I was surprised by some of the things she was surprised by
There are things about my life that make it different to other peoples - both other people who are nondisabled and other disabled people too. But the same is true for everyone in this world. I am not a tick in a box on the census form (oh that was fun to fill out last week!) but then I don't know anyone who is. And if you find someone who says they are then they are probably lying - either to you, or worse, to themselves.
Thinking about it, there probably are a few times when I don't make it clear what my abilities actually are, just what I can't do and what I struggle with, how I manage things, what I do etc. In a way that's probably denial. But realistically it's because I live in a totally accessible flat where everything is on wheelchair height, set where I need it and basically perfect for me. And I'm right by the station so going places on the train isn't a drag (although I do still need to book 24 hours in advance which is why I wasn't able to go to Oxford today). The town I live in is relatively accessible. I've got a really good manual which is supportive and has reduced my pain a lot. And I've got a powerchair.
All of that allows me to be as independent and outgoing and "get on a do it" as I am. Which seriously removes a lot of the disabling barriers in my life. But if you take those away, like when my powerchair broke down (which was something my friend and I had talked about) or when I visit a town that doesn't have access as good (which also happened when we tried to go into Bicester itself for some dinner) and then I realise just how much of a difference those things make. I've always known that... but seeing it can be a bit of a hit and make it difficult. Almost as if just how disabled I am hits me in those moments.
But still my friends comment about the insight she was getting into my life surprised me. Because not being able to go into a possible choice for dinner because of access - disability normal. Wheelchair parts taking forever to come in - disability normal. Repairs being as expensive or possibly more expensive than those for a car - disability normal. Needing to plan train journeys a day in advance - disability normal. Taking what many people describe as a lot of medication - disability normal.
Disability normal. The sort of thing you accept and you might occasionally have a moan about but you hardly notice because it's just, well, normal. But also the sort of thing that shocks others and makes you realise just what your life is like