The Elephant in the Room

The killer heels have been redd oot. Leather polished; box dusted. And there they are, on that internet auction site. Looking for an appreciative, new owner. In complete honesty, I’ve stated they have not been worn this century. No, such wee beauties shouldn’t be languishing behind the big sweaters, down in the darkest recess of my wardrobe. They should be sasheying around a dance floor, accompanying their wearer on a Guid Nicht Oot. Probably in a part of the country where such a phrase is unlikely to be understood.

There’s an extremely fine line between the puir, depressed sowel who has allowed a disability to completely dominate their life and the eejit who, by continuing to ignore it, has become, at best, a liaibility, at worst, a danger. The elephant blundering around the room has to be acknowledged eventually. Especially when wearing three inch stilettos!

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I listen. When out on a mission to acquire a pound of rump steak, others can enjoy the scenery, note who’s changed their curtains or their car. Instead, I note conversations. Almost acceptable compensation,especially as so many folk seem to believe that a person with a Guide Dog is stone deaf and in their dotage. It’s worrying, how often I hear someone assert that they never drive at night, or outwith the town. What happens on a dull, winter’s afternoon when they’ve been held up at the hairdresser’s? It’s not only Boy Racers who clip the corners of our town’s narrow streets. So, although I still have my driving licence and despite the development of reversing beepers and the Satnav, I don’t drive. Not even with Mr. Dog sitting beside me. This means frequent soakings and expeditions are seldom spur of the moment. Travel is difficult, but not impossible.

It’s all a matter of lateral thinking, substitution and, occasionally, rejection. And this also applies to more mundane activities. I no longer ice cakes and the world’s the better for this. I never liked royal icing anyway; mine was either hard enough to shatter teeth or so fluid it slipped off the cake to cover a remarkable amount of kitchen floor. Where, of course, it set hard.

However, it’s frustrating when an activity becomes impossible because of attitude or expense. I don’t know which is the more frustrating. Attempting something in an atmosphere of disapproval or discovering a gadget ideal for a task now exists, but costs several months’ housekeeping. On balance, facing those blighted by blinkered attitudes is worse. A gadget, even an expensive one, is making someone’s life easier, somewhere and gadgets, eventually, become affordable. No, attitudes present the greater barrier. Ranging from those who have just never realised where problems can exist to those who seem to feel real resentment that a Drain on Society has dared enter the Normal World.

I’ll really upset folk now, but, sorry, I’m not apologising. I’ve had enough of outings spoiled, activities stymied because of eedjits too lazy to attempt basic lateral thinking which would have accommodated Mr. Dog and myself. And presumably, if I’ve encountered problems, so will others. Maybe I can’t pick up body language but there’s a plethora of other signals.

Arriving at a lecture recently, the initial assumption was that all the information leaflets would be of interest to my companion only. I hadn’t expected anything in braille, but even I can thole having material read to me. Afterwards, whilst those around slurped coffee and munched on biscuits, Mr. Dog and I were left alone. Arrangements were being made regarding future meetings, dates and venues. All apparently assuming car ownership and ability to access any building. We stood in splendid isolation, except when a giggling fool of a female attempted to feed biscuits to Mr. Dog. The more I protested, the more she giggled.

Didn’t I then jump about, wave bus timetables and quote the DDA? Certainly not! Since we were there as guests of a friend, it would have been churlish to have launched into a tirravee; no matter the thoughtless behaviour and ignorance shown by others present. Am I the only person who always ends up feeling awkward whenever I try to defend my rights? What a predicament, either I make a fuss and risk alienating people or I return home, blood pressure simmering and temper on the boil.

Surely, in this 21st century, it is easy to emphasise such inequality? No, it isn’t. The last time I contacted a national organisation for the disabled, one which advertises itself as concerned with the rights of the disabled in all aspects of life, the person at the other end of the phone was more interested in my age and ethnic origin than the problem behind my call. I was left with the distinct impression that my situation was too provincial, too far from the centre of life, the universe and everything, to be of any interest to such an august behemoth. And as added insult, the scraps of information which were eventually given applied only to England. Contacting the so-called great and the good of the politically correct achieves nothing. . . except a hike in the phone bill!

© Charlotte Bennie 2009