So, Why the Wheelchair?

I think it’s time I tell you why I’m in a wheelchair even though, technically, I have the ability to ambulate. While I might be able to physically create the motions which one requires for walking, I have less than zero balance on my feet. To illustrate how little balance I have something I often say to people, and I’m not exaggerating, “A brick would float before I’d be able to stand unaided.”

So, why the wheelchair?

In a word: simplicity. Yes, I can ‘walk’ in a walker but the majority of them are high-risk to use as, although the help with walking, they often do very little in the way of supporting you. Combine the lack of support with non-existent balance and the result is not a pretty one.

Yes, I can ‘walk’ in a walker but the majority of them are high-risk to use as, although the help with walking, they often do very little in the way of supporting you. Combine the lack of support with non-existent balance and the result is not a pretty one.

Continue reading

Assistance Dogs

Nota as a pup sporting the ‘Puppy in Training’ uniform

I’ve had a Golden Retriever Service Dog from Guide Dogs Association of South Africa for a number of years now and cannot stress enough the difference these furry creatures can make. While Service, Guide, and Emotional-Support dogs do so much good for those they work with, it is astonishing to me to see how some people don’t understand them/the support they offer.

While misunderstandings are becoming less frequent, they still occur on occasion – Nota (the aforementioned Golden) and I, too, have had some problems in the past on this issue (the biggest escapade we found ourselves in you can read about below in The Weaponised Pooch).

Rather than harp on the problems that arise from those misunderstandings, I want to focus more on the uses I/others have for Assistance Dogs as well as the South African Training Process.

Nota’s Primary Use:

Carrying stuff I don’t want to/can’t.

Found this Silly Goof getting the wrong idea after school one day

One of the biggest problems for me was carrying things on my back, or at all for that matter. I don’t have as great a bone density in my spine as doctors keep telling me I should so I stopped carrying as much as I used to – at one stage in high school I was carrying about 10kg (22lbs) of stuff around. Fitting within health regulations as laid down from on high (my Vet), Nota took about half of the load off of me.

Nota’s Golden nature meant that while she liked Class, she liked not working a little bit better. So, by the time we got to varsity she was chuffed to discover that the load of stuff reduced even further between the both of us.

Continue reading

Single-Legged Tables in Cafés: A Wheelchair’s New Nemesis.

Undoubtedly other wheelchair users can identify with this: tables in restaurants and cafés increasingly becoming inaccessible.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been to a café or the like wanting one simple thing: to sit at a table, order whatever’s on my mind, and basically be a normal café-going person relatively faceless in the crowd. Nope, no such luck for me. My evil plan fails right at step one.


Example of the ‘Central Column Love Affair’ Table

How often have you been to a café etc. to find that tables – rather than having the four legs allowing tables to stand the exact same way they have pretty much since the first table was invented – they have this ridiculous ‘central column love affair’ going on with four feet and/or a base at the bottom of this column. The table, in this new arrangement, stands by balancing on a single, central column of some kind.



Continue reading

Just How Much Does the Wheelchair Affect My Daily Living?

As I’ve said in a few other posts on this blog, I was born with a physical disability and have spent my entire life having to use some kind of mobility device. At no point in my life have I been entirely ‘normal’ and experienced life from a ‘non-disabled perspective’. Although I’ve peppered details of what my life is like, I don’t think, I have sat down and given you a comprehensive, all-in-one explanation of how  I view this topic. I plan on rectifying that now. To make this a little easier to write and, no doubt easier to read, I’m going to structure it around 3 questions.

Continue reading

The Altitude Group: An Update


Hi Guys,

In November last year, I started working for the Altitude Group as a Researcher. The Altitude Group’s goal is to empower disabled people within the economy and help to increase the numbers of disabled people who are active members of the South African workforce. I blogged about the work Altitude was doing some time ago here on in the Diaries – see the original post here.

I think The Altitude Group are doing a great job of trying to address the disturbingly low number of disabled people in employment in South Africa. I know that there are many, many problems facing South Africa at the moment but I am glad that, in some small way, they are addressing this issue.

Since my last post, I have helped with the administration of a couple of the Learnerships and I have become all the more convinced that the work that the Altitude Group does is fantastic and should be applauded.

In case you want to learn more, you can follow them on FaceBook or find them on Twitter.


Terminologies & Apologies

* Disclaimer: These are my personal views on the topic and they cannot and should not be taken as being universal to everyone in the Disabled Community. * 

Given that I was born with a disability, I’ve never known life any differently. It’s happening a lot less frequently now but I used to get asked by people something a long the lines of “Isn’t there a cure for it?” or “If you could, would you get rid of the disability?”. The answer to the first question is a flat out “no” given current medical science. The answer to the second, however, is a little less clear-cut. Yes, disability comes with its own challenges but, then again, it’s all I’ve known. To change that, then, would be to change everything I know about myself and the world around me and, challenges aside, I’m quite happy with my life.

This same conundrum is brought up when someone hears I’m in a wheelchair and almost reflexively jumps to “I’m sorry” type responses. Yes, I understand why you’d say this in terms of the challenges that I face on a daily basis but, at the same time, those challenges have always been a part of me, it’s all I’ve known. While it would be nice to make some things easier, they’re no harder than they’ve always been, no harder than I’ve expected them to be. Since I’ve grown up with my disability guiding the way I do things in life, my disability is not so much a hindrance that affects me as it is a defining part of my identity as a person.

‘Disabled’ v. ‘Differently-Abled’

While I’m on the topic of Disability and Identity I think it’s time for me to shed some light on the terminology and how I see/use them in case some people may take offense to the way I use certain words or phrases. Given that this is an account of my personal experiences I think it’s only fair that I use terminology, both here and throughout the blog, that reflects my personal views towards terminology etc. in the Disability World. That said, some people disagree with me on some/all of these points (and that’s fine) so please be wary of which terms you use around people. There are only three terms I want to draw your attention to (this far): ‘disabled’, ‘handicapped’, and ‘people with disabilities’.

Continue reading

High School to University: My Experience

downloadSo, as you’d know if you read the About Page, I was born with a disability and have been in a wheelchair for several years now. There’s no escaping it, Disability is a part of my life. Hell, it’s part of my identity as a person. As you’d expect it brings its own set of challenges. As real as these challenges are I am largely unaware of them on a day-to-day basis. That’s due in part to the exact nature of how my disability affects me, the people I surround myself with, and the way that I manage my life. Some environments though, help to exacerbate the harder-to-avoid challenges. University, as fun and exciting as it is, can often become an environment where ‘the differences’ become a little clearer.

High school, for me, was an environment where disability played a part, yes, but was largely unaffected by it since I went to the school where my father was teaching for several decades and the school themselves were willing to be highly adaptable to the various needs required as I got older. University, however, was a different monster for me altogether. At the University of Cape Town, by contrast, I was an unknown in a way that, for the first 18 years of my life I was wholly unaware of.

        If, for some or other reason, I encountered a problem at High School all I had to do was pick up the phone and get ahold of my father who would help to fix the problem that same day or, alternatively, approach any of the academic and/or support staff (a majority of which I had known for most of my life) and they too would help. That in-depth, personal support structure I had grown up with faded away when I moved to UCT. Sure, there were support structures in place but not the same as what I had become accustomed to.

 As daunting as you’d expect this pivotal transition in my life to be, without all the added problems that disability would automatically bring to the party, I’m beyond glad that this happened. Why? It taught me to become that more self-sufficient and to further realise that I am capable of handling my own problems – even in an environment where I am a stranger. That freedom that University grants a person, that undeniable sense of a new beginning, the opportunity to prove that you are becoming more and more the person you want to be is the basis of this entire blog.

Continue reading