I’m actually a little surprised with the traffic that’s been coming here. The Disability Diaries hasn’t been running very long in real terms but I’ve been in and out of the Blogosphere since my early-teens if memory serves. That said, it was only recently with the establishment of The Disability Diaries that I have felt a true, lasting relationship begin to form.
If I’m honest, one of the earliest things I remember on the subject was just wanting a space to write. Writing short stories and things like that never really interested me though. I’m not that type of person. I don’t think that I’m particularly imaginative when it comes to cooking up a story, expanding on it, and maintaining it over time. I’m far better with non-fiction writing. ‘The Blog’ seemed like a good idea at the time as it was a space that could be my own but, at the same time, not so private that I felt no one would read it.
While I blogging has been something I’d periodically get into and drop out of, it feels different with The Disability Diaries. Somehow it feels like it better portrays me as a person. This is most probably due to the fact that I am coming more into my own as a writer and becoming more confident in writing. There is no doubt that I find myself being far more confident in my writing ability in the last couple of years or so but I think knowing people are willing to read it inspires me to continue.
I’ve had quite an interesting experience happen to me today that I want to share with you.
As you’ll know if you’ve been ‘Keeping Up with the Diaries’, UCT and I go through an ‘on again, off again’ relationship on the Disability Front. Nothing bad happened to me today but today’s interaction reminded me that accessibility, sadly, is not something I can take for granted.
It’s the third week of the Second Semester and all tutorials are due to start this week and it’s time to start mobilizing in general: assignment deadlines are around the corner, lectures are in full-swing, and the beginning-of-semester administration is dead and gone. When I checked my timetable in Week 1 to double-check whether all my venues were indeed accessible, I found myself having to e-mail a couple of lecturers to have a couple of tutorials due to inaccessible venues. Simple right? Wrong.
Of the four courses I’m doing this Semester, two of them have resulted in tutorial problems that I can’t seem to get resolved just yet for some reason. The first course, I signed up for online like everyone else because it suited my schedule and it was in a building that I know to be accessible. The second was in a room I knew to be a problem so I requested it to be moved, as I’d done for the three semesters before. I thought that’d be the end of it for my ‘venue problems’.
Tutorial 1 for Course The First comes around on Thursday last week and I go to the building and start hunting for a room which, according to the signage and general layout of the building should be easy enough to find, after spending literally half-an-hour marching up and down the building, exploring all four floors I discovered that the specific room I was meant to be in is the one inaccessible room in a building that is otherwise largely accessible. I’m in communication with the department now to try and fix the problem and, hopefully, the fact that I missed the tutorial (of which there are only three this semester for this course). As Adrian Mole would put it: “just my luck.”
Sorry for the late posting guys (although it’s still technically Saturday). So, as you probably know, last week I released a poll on Twitter asking you guys what today’s post should be about. When I checked the results this morning there was a 2/3 majority wanting me to outline my plans (as they currently are) are after I graduate at the end of next year.
Currently, I’m half-way through my Undergraduate at UCT with majors in English and History. While I’m currently in Cape Town, my end-goal is to live and work in London. Immediately, however, my plan is to finish the undergrad and then leave for England as soon as possible afterward.
The Great Migration
My family and I have been planning, in varying degrees of seriousness, to move to England following a Family Reunion in mid-2015. More recently, though, we made the final decision that we’re sticking to come hell or high water: we’re leaving.
My sister and her husband have been living in London since January and loved every minute. My parents and I are set to leave South Africa once I’ve graduated. One of the main reasons for our delay, aside from my studies, was so that we could get the house sold to provide us with the capital to purchase property in England.
Maybe it’s just me but I like to think that people are not intentionally vindictive beings who set out to make other people’s lives more difficult but, the reality is, that it happens far more than we’d like to admit. From a wheelchair-user’s perspective, one of the ways I see this happening a lot is in disregard for Disabled Parking Bays.
I don’t know how many times I’ve come across Disabled Bays being used illegally. To be honest, it is difficult to understand exactly why this is so common giving how aware a lot of societies are on other issues. Is it that people don’t understand why they exist? Don’t they care? Yes, something like “he’s in my spot” is trivial but I still think it is worth condemning the action as it speaks to the larger issue that is Ableism.
While it is a requirement in several countries that parking areas have allocated Disabled Parking, I don’t think the reasoning behind their existence is adequately explained if at all. In my opinion, there are 2 main reasons for their existence: Safety and Access.
Reasons for a Disabled Bay’s Existence
I’m sure it goes without saying that, in most cases, wheelchair-users are lower than the average, ambulatory person by the very fact that they are seated. The height difference, in a parking scenario, can lead to potential dangers. To put it frankly, it is harder for drivers to see us.
With news of Jerry Lewis’s death flying around on Social Media, I became aware of his statement, “[If] you don’t want to be pitied as a cripple in a wheelchair, stay in ya home” through a tweet from Emma Ladau. Regardless of context, this kind of thinking makes me sadder than I can express.
I was born with a physical disability and have spent several years of my life in a wheelchair. Does that make me deserving of pity? Yes, disability has been a part of my life and will be forever. There’s nothing I can do to change that. While disability is part of my identity, it is not the only thing that makes me who I am.
When I think of what defines me, the first things that pop into my head is that I value friends and family above everything, I’m a Literature fan, and that I’m doing what I love. Only after all those things do ‘disabled’ or ‘wheelchair-user’ make an appearance. Yes, being a wheelchair-user comes with some challenges but life is full of them. Should one be pitied because they have challenges when, if we’re honest, everyone has challenges of their own? I think not.
Because of the fact that I was born with a disability, my disability and my wheelchair by extension, cannot be removed from my identity. That said, it is true that some people do see disability (particularly physical ones as they are often the most visible) as ‘pitiful.’ Does that mean that my identity, either in part or as a whole, is pitiful?
To those South African friends: I’m not due to leave until the end of Undergrad so we’ve still got time together. That said, there are several reasons why I’m going to leave. This post focuses purely on one small aspect of why England is better on the Disability Front (which in and of itself is only one factor in the Emigration Decision).
My mother just got back from a trip through England for the last month earlier today. Yes, she spent some of the time with family and looking around but the primary motivation for the trip is house-hunting.
As a family, we’ve decided that we have to move to England after I’ve finished my Undergraduate for various reasons. While there, my mother decided to have a look around areas more generally as well as at specific properties. Hearing some of the stories of her trip in the hours since she’s been back, I’m amazed at the accessibility and general awareness of disability differences between England and South Africa.
The brief period of time that I spent in London a couple of years ago really opened my eyes to how accessible Public Transport could be for disabled people. Not once was there a bus, train, or taxi that I couldn’t use. Although I did not spend my time exclusively in London, London was the place where I used Public Transport the most.
Cape Town, in contrast with London, is largely unaware of its disabled population on the Public Transport Front. While one could argue South Africa’s awareness is somewhat justified given its past, it was refreshing to be in a place where accessing the city was possible (not to mention easy and affordable).