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Planning A Trip with Disabled Person

After plenty of stressful trips out, I have quickly learnt that my version of spontaneity has to be carefully constructed. This is a list of advice that I wish I had known when my mobility first started declining, and it’s something I would have sent friends to help them understand my needs better. I hope it helps you. A few reminders for people like me before we get into it:

It is ALWAYS okay to ask for help

You are not a burden, you just have needs. Name a human who doesn’t!

Life can still be fun, even if you are disabled/chronically ill

A note to friends/family/partners/colleagues of disabled people:

Holidays or day outs can be infinitely more complicated when one member of your party is ill or has a disability. But this is no reason to exclude them! You should research their condition if they’ve shared it with you, and invite them even if you think they’ll say no. It is so important to make sure you don’t make anyone feel left out! Having fun with a disabled person just means you need to put a little bit more effort into planning, and you will develop skills that will help you be a better human being because of this.

10 Tips for planning a trip with a Disabled Person

  1. Phone a venue ahead to check accessibility
  2. Book accessible tickets for a movie, play, concert, or event
  3. Check how near parking is to where you want to visit, see if there’s disabled parking if you have a blue badge
  4. Research the area you’re visiting to see how flat it is, what the weather is like, how many allergen friendly restaurants there are, etc.
  5. Before you leave, make sure you have a bag packed for everything you might need in case of an emergency. This varies depending on the disability but could include portable ice or heat packs, an epipen, a tens machine a salty or sugary snack, and maybe keep a first aid kit with you!
  6. Ask what plan your disabled friend is most comfortable with (for example, a picnic might be less stress than going out to eat because you have more control over the food)
  7. Show your disabled friend the menu of where you’re going to eat so they can check for allergens or safe food, or make sure you’ve eaten before hand so that food can be avoided
  8. Check for accessibile places using a helpful websites like these  MeIncludedEuan’s GuideAccessAble or the Sociability App!
  9. If you really have your heart set on an activity but know that your friend can’t manage it, why not invite them over afterwards, or plan a more accessible activity on a different day!
  10. Get travel insurance

More advice can be found here!

Perks

There are plenty of perks to going out with a disabled person- Many places offer a concession, allowing one free admission with each disabled person’s ticket, a disabled parking badge gives you free parking, and depending on the situation you can even skip queues!

Access in a lot of places suck, and ableism is everywhere, so even if you’re alone, please advocate for access so that it will be easier for the next person who is disabled!

Don’t forget to send this list to a friend!

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100%

Something I like to think about is how my body has got me through 100% of the painful days so far. 

For all of the resentment I give my body for being broken, for not working properly, for hurting, for betraying me… it deserves credit for surviving. Survival is pretty much the only comfort there is when you’re chronically ill. I can’t tell myself I will recover. I can’t say I will feel better tomorrow, next week, or even next year. It’s another thing that is taken away, the comfort of recovery, the ability to imagine a future where I am ‘better’. In the midst of agony, I can tell myself it is temporary, but I won’t believe it. Because my pain is not temporary, it’s chronic. That means it doesn’t end, it just becomes different. Worse, maybe. Quieter, hopefully. Gone, never. But I have hope. 

I have hope that a painkiller that doesn’t give me side effects and does take away my pain is discovered. I have knowledge that new video games will be created that I can escape into briefly. And I have thoughts that tell me ‘You’ve survived before, and you can do it again. Your attendance record at life is 100%’

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If you’re not Disabled…

Enabled people are actively enabled by a society that is designed for them. 

Disabled people are actively disabled by a society that is designed to exclude them. 

Disabled is a neutral term, because disability is a natural variant within humanity. And yet, becoming disabled is often treated as the worst-case scenario… So, where does disability get its bad reputation from? I think the answer can be found in the attitudes surrounding disabled people, attitudes that are upheld by the language we use. 

The language we use holds power. It changes how we are treated- and how we treat others. Nicknames imply friendliness, Surnames imply formality. Depending on the context of the situation, words are used to patronise, objectify, or insult one another. But they also allow us to compliment, respect, and encourage each other! This is the power of language.

We need a better term to describe people who aren’t disabled because the words we currently use aren’t accurate. ‘able-bodied,’ ‘normal,’ ‘abled,’ and ‘non-disabled’ are out of date terms because they don’t adequately explain the experience of living without a disability.

One problem with using a term like ‘able-bodied’ as the opposite of disabled is that it implies that disabled people do not have able bodies, which is not true for a variety of reasons. Disability is not always physical and those 

 physical disabilities still have able bodies because ‘able’ is a subjective and multi-faceted term! 

Using the term non-disabled to describe people who are not disabled seems to make more sense. The double negative subverts our expectations by implying disabled is the norm which is thought provoking. However, I still prefer not to use this term. For one thing, the opposite of disabled is not non-disabled. It’s not a black and white thing that you are or are not, there is nuance in being disabled, because there is nuance in being human. You can be temporarily disabled, or be impacted by disability if you are a carer, parent, or partner of a disabled person, which deeply impacts how you interact with the world. Therefore, your experience as someone without a disability is not always ‘non-disabled’.

Disabled isn’t something we inherently are. Yet disabled is used as a descriptor, an adjective, when actually ‘disable’ is not an adjective or a descriptor, it is a verb. The experience of being disabled is just that, an experience shaped by the external forces of our current society. In a different society with more acceptance, more accessibility, more funding for healthcare and mobility aids and medications, many of us would not be DISabled. And similarly, if you are not disabled, that does not mean you are able. ??? We are ALL able, you cannot be more or less able, because we all have different abilities. Some people have incredible ability to write, draw, cook, calculate, others don’t. Disabled people are ABLE but they are very much disabled FROM doing certain things, which is why I believe the term we need to use for people who are not disabled is not ‘non-disabled’ or ‘able-bodied’ or ‘normal’… the term should be ‘enabled’. A verb. To enable someone to do something. 

Enabled people are actively enabled by a society that is designed for them. 

Disabled people are actively disabled by a society that is designed to exclude them. 

So let’s change the language we use! Enabled also allows room for the people within the disability community who are enabled to see the world through our eyes, because they love, care for, and know someone who is disabled. Enabled is inclusive language for the parents, friends, partners, and workers who know some of the intricacies of disabled life. 

Enabled also encapsulates the experience of people who are enabled by society to avoid the issues disabled people are forced to struggle with every day. You are not able just because you can climb stairs, or don’t notice the uneven surfaces or the overwhelming bright lights and intense noise. You are enabled to ignore these things that are obstacles for other people because of the way our society is structured. Stairs are the norm, not ramps or lifts, cobblestones and wonky paving are the norm, not smooth surfaces. Shops install bright lighting to make their products look good without a second thought for the seizure, migraine or sensory overload it might trigger. 

The reason I use the term ‘Enabled people’ instead of any other term, is because it includes the experience of people who may not be disabled themselves but whose lives are still impacted by disability. In this sense, there are two categories of enabled people: those who are enabled to empathise and understand the disabled experience and those who are enabled to ignore disabled people and their experiences.

Disabled people are not less able, and we don’t have different or special or extra needs because everybody has different needs! The difference is that enabled people’s needs are already met. Disability is not about the medical, or the personal; it’s about the structure of our society. A society that is designed to either DISable or ENable. 

So please, let’s not use terms like non-disabled, able-bodied, normal, abled… because they aren’t helpful, they are divisive. They contribute to the idea that disabled people are not able, they increase the stigma around disability as an identity, and they add to the stereotype that disabled people are worth less.

If you’re not disabled, you’re enabled.

So let’s use enabled instead! Because it’s the most inclusive and accurate description.