My Superpower.

Why Harry Potter insists on using a special cloak to become invisible is beyond me, because what he really needs is a wheelchair. I have had such an enormous number of incidents involving people stepping over my legs or walking straight into the wheelchair, as well as having heavy doors shut in my face, that invisibility can be the only logical explanation.

One common occurrence for wheelchair users is something we like to call “flat-head syndrome”. This occurs when a wheelchair user is accompanied by an adult whose legs work and people address questions about the wheelchair user to the functioning human, including “What is wrong with her?” and “Does she want a drink?”. I like to surprise people by answering the question with some unintelligible medical jargon and leave them dumb-founded while I wander away to do something more intelligent. This event isn’t even limited to when I am with a carer, and has been seen by friends, family, and my other half. In particular, my other half receives looks of wonder that he is such a hero for dating a disabled woman. The reality is that I’m blonde and I have big boobs, and actually, we’re quite fond of each other.

Another frequent event happens when people are using their phones, usually while looking down at the screen held out slightly in front of them, but also when using phones for their original purpose. People walk straight into the wheelchair, and then blame me, even when I am travelling down a narrow pavement with the road on one side of me, and steps into shops on the other. Some people become so absorbed by the enchanting box of flickering light that they forget the world around them, and let heavy doors go in front of me, leaving me trying to open them from an angle no door is designed to be opened from.

I do realise that some of you may be reading this on your phones, and of course you’ve probably become completely entranced by the elegant writing style and intricate anecdotes I use.  I take no issue with you doing this, it is quite the complement after all, but please try to take in your surroundings while you walk. The most ironic thing I have ever observed involved someone having to use a wheelchair temporarily after suffering an injury from walking into a wheelchair while using his phone, who then got annoyed at people walking into his wheelchair while using their phones.

If you are out and about and you see someone in a wheelchair, please don’t turn the other way to ignore the blemish on society, or stare gormlessly in their direction which frankly looks terrible and feels incredibly uncomfortable. Instead give them a quick smile, stop to help them if they need it, and then continue on with your day safe in the knowledge that today you made a difference, and you made someone genuinely happy.

All Creatures Great and Small.

Everyone seems to take great pleasure in watching animals react to and mimic a human world, and the way in which they react to disabilities is no less charming. It never ceases to surprise me how unafraid many animals are of the large metal frame full of gliding human, and some of the best reactions have been courtesy of cats and dogs.

In my first year of university, on a warm day towards the end of April, I decided to go to the local park as a short break from my exam revision. Naturally the park was full of dogs of all kinds, but there was one Labrador puppy taken straight from an Andrex advert that stole my heart. He was very interested in what, the owner told me, was his first ever encounter with a wheelchair, so I stopped to let him explore the novelty. The excitement must have been overwhelming, because after approximately a minute or so of examining my wheels, he promptly cocked his leg against the back wheel. I have never seen the colour drain from someone’s face as rapidly as the owner’s face did that day; they were mortified. I, however, thought it was hilarious, and was laughing so hard that my diaphragm ached from the effort. The poor puppy looked so self-satisfied that every time I stopped laughing, I had only to look at his face again to be set into another fit of hysterics. I assured the owner that it wasn’t a problem, and had actually made my day, and we continued our separate ways, with my back wheel leaving a faint trail along the dry path.

About 18 months later, I was returning home after a visit to the pharmacy to find the path obstructed by a huge dog that looked like a cross between a Saint Bernard and a husky. I bent down to fuss the dog, who was tethered to a post while the owner collected his own prescriptions, in an attempt to gently move the dog from my path. What I hadn’t realised was that this dog was still a puppy, and in her excited she jumped up, placing her front paws on my lap, and putting most of her weight on my hips. Within a second of this happening the owner came rushing out of the pharmacy yelling;

“Zara, not the disabled girl, oh god not the disabled girl, down Zara, down!”

I, of course, was thoroughly amused, and after reassuring the owner that I was perfectly alright and that Zara hadn’t hurt me, we managed to move her from my path and I continued home.

On the way home from the pharmacy, I travel down a quiet road set on a hill, which is guarded by a cat called Dom. Dom is a black and white short-haired moggy, who spends most of his time sitting in people’s gardens, and chasing birds. Strangely, he seems to be attracted to the sound of the motors on my powered wheelchair, and whenever I travel down this road, I am soon accompanied by Dom, who trots down the pavement on my right side in a scene that makes even the toughest Bradfordians melt.

dom

I often marvel at the ability of animals to overlook disabilities and see the organism underneath, something which some human beings often struggle with. They don’t appear to view the wheelchair as something to be afraid of, and actually seem to like it, which flies in the face of expectation. Perhaps taking a more animalistic view of the world would allow us to appreciate the really important things; food, shelter, and good company.

Introducing…

I was born and raised in Bradford, England, which contrary to popular opinion, is not a bad place to grow up. The city is full of history and culture, and looking down from the top of the valley towards the city centre is a surprisingly charming view. The intricate architecture at the  base of the valley complements the bleak rows of terraced houses sprawling up the hills, and the parks provide small patches of green at regular intervals.

As an only child, I often missed the company of other children my age, instead spending most of my time in the company of my parents, and the cat. I spent many hours winding up toy cars and releasing them from the back door, watching them rush along the hallway and into the lounge with Bramble, our cat, not far behind. When I wasn’t doing that, I was sat in my room immersed in a book with Bramble sat on my feet, or I was playing outside with Bramble sunbathing on the metre-squared patch of land we called a patio.

My primary school had previously been a middle school, and so had it’s own library, sports field, and science laboratory. It had a happy-go-lucky vibe, and despite being quite the misfit, I enjoyed my time there. My time at secondary school wasn’t quite so cheerful, and the bullying although not much worse than the name-calling and occasional beatings I received at primary school, somehow felt more damaging. I kept my head down and worked hard so that I could leave for university as soon as possible.

As I write this post, I’m in my final year of my degree, BSc Nutrition, and these past 2 and a half years have been some of the best of my life. The bullying stopped, and as I developed my skills as a scientist, I grew happier and more confident. I made friends with an I.T student who lived in the same halls of residence as me, and we spent countless hours playing pool and listening to rock music together during my first year. In my second year, I bumped into Jarred, a social misfit who enjoyed rock music, Marvel comic movies, and wrestling. Over the following 18 months a relationship would flourish that is mostly based on laughter, Star Wars, and My Chemical Romance albums, and strangely seems to work.

By this point I had become a self-confident 20 year old, whose wardrobe resembled a black hole, and who just so happened to use a wheelchair. This blog is the marker of the next stage of my life; actual adulthood, where I have to start acting responsibly and behaving like a civilised human being. I want to provide an insight into life with a disability, and the small and sometimes hilarious consequences of such a disability, because disability has been a taboo subject for too long. So, get ready to step into my shoes…actually that should be wheels…and prepare to witness both how normal and abnormal my life actually is.