Daleks first petrified Doctor Who fans in the early 1960’s and quickly took on pop culture status with their inhuman features and grating speech, mostly gaining notoriety for the simple tactic used to defeat them; climbing stairs. Of course when they gained the ability to levitate in the 1980’s, people watched horrified as the Doctor and his companion realised that they could no longer rely on their usual trick of running up the stairs. I remember watching the tense episode in 2005 when the Daleks once again demonstrated their gravity-defying abilities, and 9-year-old-me wondered just how many hair driers were needed to enable to Daleks to do this.
Unfortunately it appears that some people cannot comprehend the fact that Doctor Who, including the Daleks, is entirely fictitious. I say this because it seems to me that I am often equated to Daleks as a wheelchair user or so the look of fear on people’s faces when the disabled person talks to them suggests, and they assume that wheelchair users also have the ability to levitate. Therefore they see no problem when a lift or ramp is obstructed, or when there is simply no lift or ramp available, and they wonder why I am frustrated or upset.
When I’m out and about,I often find cars parked over the area of the pavement sloped to the level of the road. While prams, bikes, and even a small manual wheelchair might be able to cope with a small drop of a few centimetres, a powered wheelchair is just too heavy to risk such a manoeuvre, not to mention the fact that it’s actually quite painful. If the driver is in the vehicle the usual response to my predicament is to be told that the car will only be there a minute, but of course when I round the corner and find another vehicle doing the same thing for the same reasons, it could end up taking half an hour to travel what is only a five minute amble. I deal with this by setting off ridiculously early for every appointment I have to make, so that if I face an obstruction I can find a route around it, but I still sometimes end up late.
I also have to be very careful when trying out new venues for the first time; I’ve been told to meet someone in a pub who knew I was in a wheelchair, only to find a 5 cm stone step in the doorway and no ramp available. The solution suggested to me was to drive up to it a bit faster, have someone push the wheelchair from behind, or to climb out the wheelchair and have someone carry it inside for me. Any of these could have damaged the wheelchair, which costs the price of a small, second-hand car, and I knew that my insurance policy would not cover any damage inflicted by these tactics. I chose to vote with my wheels, feet would be the wrong word, and went to other pubs that didn’t require you to complete a Paralympic event just to get a pint.
I understand perfectly why the pre-levitation era Daleks had a somewhat grumpy temperament, as I only wished to complete a degree and get a job, never mind world domination (that will come later). Now, having gained the ability to levitate, I have a little less sympathy for them. Admittedly dealing with ignorance on a daily basis is highly irritating, and I guess wouldn’t blame them for bearing a grudge.
It has been suggested to me that I should dress up as a Dalek for Halloween, but unfortunately while I have a creative imagination, my abilities to physically produce my creations are the equivalent of a drunk elephant squaring up to a mouse. I also don’t own a whisk or sink plunger, which is rather the set-back. Instead I will have to rely on the simple phrase “I’m not a Dalek”, and spend my money in the places that have had the wherewithal to spend their money on providing wheelchair access to enable me to spend my money there.