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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Disabled Parking and Youth & Disability - a mini rant!

So what is SO difficult for people about disabled parking?

I remember mother and baby (as it was then) parking coming in - I was pregnant when our Tesco first got it ten years ago.
Admittedly, there were teething problems, but within a year or two, it became accepted and normal and now, nobody would dream of encroaching on parent and baby spaces without a damn good reason.

Disabled parking though - a whole other ball game! - We've had it for donkey's years and yet it's still abused and made difficult for people who actually need it continually.

This last few weeks has been SO frustrating driving wise! - Three incidents in particular:

1) There was the instance of the able-bodied woman with no blue badge, who was returning to her car (illegally parked in the only blue badge square on Carrick-on-Shannon High Street) just as I was looking to park, so I did the standard - got her attention, showed my blue badge and indicated I needed to park in the square (yes I know we shouldn't have to but...)
Well! She gave me a look like she'd just scraped me off her shoe and instead of moving off, settled down to read a book!
Fortunately I was able to snap a photo on my 'phone (the final catalyst for her moving) and on the strength of showing that to the Gardai, she's being issued a fixed penalty anyway - the Garda I dealt with incidentally, was incensed (- very impressed by the level of understanding the local Gardai Siochana have over these things - second to none that I know of Globally on disability issues!)

2) I parked in the blue-badge space outside Heatons' store and when I came back, not only had a delivery driver taken the blue-badge space to sit and have his lunch, he'd parked at such an angle that his front end was over into my space and I couldn't have got out without hitting him. - Trouble is, he was quite a big bloke, so I didn't have the confidence to confront him, so instead I ended up doing the cowardly thing and saying to him: "Excuse me, I'm sorry to bother you at lunch, but I'm a learner driver and I wondered if you'd be able to move over a wee bit so I don't damage your vehicle practising my reversing (I'm still disgusted with myself over that one!)

3) Yesterday, coming up Ballinamore High Street, I was hoping to park in the blue badge space near the bank. As I approached, there was a lady half emerged from the side-street so I pulled up with my indicator still on and waited. - It transpired, she was having a chat with some woman who was standing in the road. - Now that I can understand to a point, she could conceivably have thought initially I was turning into the road, BUT a) Our car is covered with stickers the garage insisted on when they adapted our car and they all make it clear the car's a disability vehicle; b) After a few moments, surely it's clear that's not where someone's going.
My feeling was she'd decided I was going to use the blue-badge space illegally and wasn't going to put herself out by moving.
This was borne out when we did cut out round her (into traffic I might add - I have seldom felt less safe but we had to) and park in the space, even though I made a point of letting her see me put my badge out, she still looked C over when he got out (he's able-bod) and looked me up and down to and sneared - until I walked round the edge of the car. When she saw the stick, she at least had the grace to blush and scarper.

So why am I still so ticked off about these things?

Well for one, I'm having a grumpy day about my low mobility, but it doesn't help that again today, I had some able-bod idiot try to turn into the blue-badge square at the same time I was and AGAIN, his behaviour changed only AFTER he saw the stick.

It annoys the heck out of me - well, both things do!

If nothing else ever sinks in about disability issues in the day to day world, then let these three facts be it!

1) Blue-badge squares are there for a reason

- it's not there as an alternative to parking on double yellows (yes, that excuse has been offered)
- and that's not to be convenient for you, even for a "quick dip into..." wherever. Those of us who are lucky enough to be given a blue-badge have it because we NEED that support in able to be anything like normal and independent.
I know a lot of able-bods think that those of us who aren't "lazy" or "scammers" just have too much of a chip on our shoulders about the whole issue, or just like to be loud and objectionable about our rights, but to those I say - they just don't understand the importance of this issue to those of us living on the margins of "normal" society.
For us, it's not just inconvenience - for example, those spaces are wider because we do need a full door's width to get into and out of our vehicle for one thing - even those of us who use walking aids other than a chair. - For example, I like to consider myself fairly fit and sporty for a disabled chick and if I have a bad day, it can take me 17 minutes to get my bad leg into the car - I know, we've timed it! (out of interest and my stubbornness wanting to see if I could do it alone).

2) Our special parking is there because we need it so we don't have to mobilise so much to get somewhere.

- Okay, so this one is a wee bit obvious you'd think? Seemingly not!
Also, the context plays a role with this one. Every reasonably intelligent mind will appreciate that if you as a disabled person go to the supermarket and actually manage to negotiate all the obstacles there and actually manage to get your shopping, you're likely to be pretty tired when you finish - and if you then have to walk (even with an aid) or roll clean across the carpark as some able-bodied idiot without a badge or a reason for being there (obviously it's appropriate to park there if you have granny with you - she's in similar straights, but not solo able-bods popping in for a sandwich on lunch!) - it rankles!
It's not so obvious with social places like theatres and cinemas, but it's just as important.
A lot of us don't get a huge amount of invites to social stuff. - Most of us, if we're really lucky have a very small, tight group of friends who're used to going about with us and whose confidence has grown over time until they're more comfortable to be out and about with us.
If we DO happen to be invited out to a play or a movie lets say, then there's also a fair deal of trepidation on our part too - we don't want to "spoil" the night for our nearest and dearest - okay for most of us, they'd be understanding if something goes wrong, but still, we don't want our loved ones evening disrupted because things go wrong for us.
Okay so it's not an occasion when it's essential for us to be able to have easy access to something, we after all don't HAVE to tire ourselves out going to a play or film, but then it isn't for able-bods either is it? - Again, it's really unfair for us to have to juggle "is it going to be possible to find a badge space near enough to the theatre/cinema?" - especially not after so much time has passed since disabled parking became supposedly "the norm".

3) Not every disabled person is a wheelchair user and not every disabled person is over thirty!

- and those of us who aren't over thirty, or who don't use a chair should not be treated like some weird kind of 'second-class' disabled.

Okay, so human beings make snap judgements based on what they see, it's in our make-up.
Granted, but that's only for the first 9.something so lets call it 10 seconds. - What's the excuse for the rest of the time?
We are fortunate enough to live in a society where MOST prejudices are now getting to be, if not already, a thing of the past. So what's the problem with young disabled people?

We happen to be two things: young and disabled.

We didn't want it, but it either has always been this way or it happened.


We do not need pity or sympathy - we know life's not meant to be like this, we're not stupid! Neither do we need "a bit of a push" to "try a little harder" or any other twee line you care to think of.
We're just doing like any other person and making the best possible life we can and just like anyone else, we have a right to do that in our own way, making the use of the supports that are right for us (if we chose to) and most importantly, we, like anyone else, have the right to do that without obstruction on interference.

So the next time you're pulling up somewhere remember:

* If you don't have a blue-badge you don't park in blue-badge spaces
* If you're near to a blue-badge space then you need to be aware. - Are you blocking someone getting in/out of disabled parking? Are you parked too close to their vehicle to let them get in/out?

Just use your common - please! So many just don't

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 3 and the project gets its own website

Just a quick halloo today. Lots has been happening - not least, Dogs for the Disabled Ireland are officially on board.

Also, the project now has it's own website at:

What do you think? It's still something of a work in progress, but it's not bad for a few hours work.

The project may need a proper name or title. Any suggestions?

Hopefully I'll find a way to get some pics up on there (and here) very soon.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The project has legs! and other real world interactions

Well, half a leg anyhow.

I have my first charity on board!

I'd like to do this in aid half and half of Northwest Hospice, Sligo and Irish Dogs for the Disabled.

I'm still waiting to hear back from Dogs for the Disabled (their Lady was busy today, but hopefully we'll get to speak tomorrow) but I hope they'll like the idea.

In the meantime, I spoke to day with John at Northwest Hospice (John and Anne are the fundraising team there, so I guess there'll be plenty of posts about them in the next six months) and he likes the idea. - He's even going to let me use the Hospice's Logo on related stuff.

The search for an exhibition/auction space is proving a wee bit difficult, but we won't be defeated!

So far, I've drawn a blank, but it's only Day 2 and already, one gallery owner has said that although their space is technically booked, he's going to ask his committee if there's anything they can do to support. - Bless him!

In other news, we're also going to be helping out at a fundraiser this weekend at CG Power Systems in Cavan in aid of the relief efforts in Japan.

I love these occasions. - It's brilliant, as a disabled performer, to get to work in person with children and families in particular.

- I always like real life encounters anyhow - for example I once got stopped in a Pizzahut with the family and asked by a little girl why I have the stick.
The parents were mortified, but I have the attitude that kids will ask what they need to know when they need to know it. Now obviously there's different levels of information you give to different age groups - this little girl for example, I believe the response was "well, you know how Mammy and Daddy say never to play on stairs in case you get hurt? Well, I ended up going down some stairs (note the not using "falling" - obviously wasn't going to tell the kid a bad man threw me down the stairs, but the parents got it I think) and now my back and legs don't work so well and the stick helps me walk.

Another time, just before last Christmas, right after I broke my scafoid and busted the ligaments in my ankle, so wasn't allowed to walk at all, we'd borrowed a chair to do the Tesco run. (See I really love my C so I'd never expose him to a pre-Christmas Tesco alone for anything!)
Well, have you ever tried to keep a self-drive wheelchair with one hand in plaster? - It's hilarious! So-and-so painful, but hilarious!

We'd developed this technique where I did the bits near the middle aisle while C went up and down, which is how I came to be stuck doing loops round the bottom of the fruit and veg gondola on my own. Anyhow, I'm kind of suddenly aware of this small boy stood (thankfully) just outside of running-over range clutching a bunch of bananas.

So I came to a stop and he came up to me and dropped the bananas in my lap saying "I got these for you - I don't think you can get to them. Can I get you anything else?" - I was absolutely gobsmacked - such a nice kid! All I could think of to say to him was "thank you - how did you know that's what I needed" - he just shrugged and hopped off down the aisle on one leg.
Fortunately, we were able to find the kid's mother before we left the store and let her know what a great guy she was raising, so that was okay.

and how exactly does this relate to performing I hear you ask?
Okay, well, how many disabled clowns have you come across? - Come to that, how many disabled people do you see day to day in a working context? (Even including volunteering/therapeutic work context) - it's not many is it?
So it's a really good thing, as a disabled person with permission to be doing therapeutic work, not only accomplishing something by working (and for those of you who aren't crip, believe me, it's such a sanity saver some days!) but also to experience those real life moments - especially with the child with a confidence problem, that's just an amazing level of job satisfaction! - and you know what they say - always do work you love and you'll never work a day in your life. - So yeah, big tick in that box this weekend - the double hit of a gig for a good cause (which we both really enjoy) AND we'll be working hard doing what we love!

I haven't forgotten about those photos incidentally - it's just that cable I found doesn't fit my 'phone so, once I can stand a bit longer again, I'll just have to turf out the "random cables" drawer and try to find it. - Or sweet-talk C into taking some more on his 'phone.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Low mobility, BST, sparks of Ideas, and a new challenge...

So all this wonderful weather is amazingly well timed!

Having been on a period of low mobility for the last few days, the sunlight has made such a difference in keeping a relatively high mood and in sparking creativity at this end. It's even helped to get beyond the normal oddness that follows the clocks changing.

C spent a lot of time in the garden over Friday and Saturday, planting a couple of new shrubs and veggies for the coming growing season, so I've begun piecing together a mosaic of pieces of mirror I was given through (Leitrim) to make a solution for getting more light into the garden. (Pics to follow as soon as I can find the right cable)
It's coming on really well, but we're going to need some more polyfiller to get it done. - Hopefully C will go out for me in the morning.

Meanwhile, a dream last night left a flash of inspiration.

Here in Eire it's the Year of Craft. I've been mulling about ideas for a while on how to commemorate this and it's finally hit me: I'm going to see if I can put on an exhibition of knitted sculptures of local buildings and then see if I can't get them sold/auctioned in aid of some of my favourite charities.

So, I've made a start. Well, actually, I've made a list so that I can babystep into it gently over the next few days (FLYlady would be proud!).

* I've taken some preliminary photos and picked a few local landmarks to begin with.
* I've made a list of places to contact to see about hosting
* I've chosen the charities I want to support and will be contacting them tomorrow to see if it's okay to run with it.
* I've made lots of progress with my last project to finish before I can begin.

So hopefully, whether or not the legs choose to work this week, I should have some exciting news in a day or two!