Building Accessible Bridges.

Whenever I have to challenge someone about doing something ableist, such as parking on the pavement or blocking an access route, almost always the culprit tells me it isn’t ableist. Usually this is because they didn’t intend to be ableist, yet it is widely accepted that accidental racism, sexism, or homophobia is still discrimination. Then comes the excuse that they could never be ableist in the first place, because their mother-in-law’s sister’s ex-husband’s cat from 10 years ago once used one of those cute kitty wheelchairs & only had one eye. It is rare that these people apologise, and if we’re being honest, they’re just going to repeat that behaviour over & over again, building up an increased hatred of those self-entitled disabled people who keep challenging them along the way.

During face-to-face interactions it’s impossible for me to hide my anger & frustration that yet another needless obstacle has been placed in my path, both literally & figuratively. However, it’s significantly easier to hide my true emotions behind carefully crafted words, making online interactions somewhat calmer. It is a far more conscious decision to write a sweary insult than it is to blurt one out in the heat of the moment.

With some careful thought, it’s quite easy to pick apart someone’s argument to show them why it’s hypocritical or illogical. Asking someone to specify exactly what they mean by each part of their rapid-fire tweet often brings to light things such as the different interpretations of a particular word or phrase, or where someone has obtained their facts from. With a decent back-and-forth going, & a willingness to have your own statements analysed & questioned in the same way, it is relatively easy to set up a good debate. It is at this point that I realised that marrying a philosophy student may have had an effect on how I win arguments.

That said, some people are never going to listen to you, no matter what evidence & logic you put before them. Here’s the thing – in these scenarios, they feel exactly the same way about you. It can be difficult to remain patient, & I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t given someone the short shrift online for their ignorance, but it is important to remember that they find you as infuriating as you do them.

Humans are argumentative by nature, and even in an ideal world they would almost certainly find something to fight over. However, you’d be surprised how quickly barbed insults can flourish into healthy debate, and another connection is made. Trying to teach others to be tolerant & understanding of disabled people, or any other minority, isn’t about burning bridges. It’s about building them. And now I sound like some wise old wizard who has a white, bushy beard stretching down to their knees.

An Unlikely Wrestler: Yet Another Short Story.

“So, what do you do for a living?” he asked.

Chrissie looked at the man sitting opposite her dressed in a grey suit, white shirt, and black silk tie. Not one hair was out of place, tucked neatly behind the dark frames of his glasses, and he was displaying his perfect smile. She couldn’t fathom why her best friend had set the two of them up on a date; they couldn’t have been more different if they had come from different planets. She sported smokey eyes and dark lipstick beneath a mass of black curls, her green nose stud complimenting her hazel eyes. Her black dress had lace sleeves, and one small, embroidered red rose on the neckline. Underneath she wore fishnet tights and black biker boots.

“I’m a professional wrestler,” Chrissie said. There was a short pause.

“Pardon?” he asked in disbelief.

“A professional wrestler,” she replied in the same manner-of-fact tone.

“But-,” it took a great effort to restrain from rolling her eyes as the inevitable question was raised.

“Wheelchair or not I can still wrestle,” she replied.

“Oh,” was his only response.

“You?” Chrissie asked, trying to smooth over the awkward tension.

“Finance,” he said. Chrissie couldn’t help thinking that her friend had gone completely mad; why did everyone want to her to settle down and be sensible, or as Chrissie thought of it, be boring?

“So… how do you, you know, wrestle?” he continued to probe further.

“Like a Paralympian in any sport, a few small adaptations,” Chrissie explained.

“Oh,” he said again.

“Look, this has been lovely,” Chrissie began.

“No need to explain,” he interrupted her, “I think our mutual friend might have misjudged the situation.”

“To put it mildly,” Chrissie smirked as her date signalled the waiter to bring the bill.

“Who’s paying?” the waiter asked as he approached the table, card-reader in hand.

“Split the bill?” Chrissie raised an eyebrow.

“Err, you don’t have to, you know –“ he stammered.

“It’s cool,” she said, pulling enough cash to pay for her meal from her handbag and passing it to her date. A few minutes later they were leaving the restaurant together and stopped awkwardly on the pavement, not quite knowing what to say to each other.

“Erm, I can give you a lift in my Mercedes?” he pointed his thumb at a gleaming, silver car parked over a kerb drop.

“Oh no, I’ll get the bus thanks,” Chrissie gave a small wave, and then made her way to the bus stop at the end of the street.

***

“We’ve got some new recruits in this morning, so let’s impress them, eh?” the coach raised his voice so that it echoed around the hall as he addressed the group of wrestlers lounging against the ring, while a smaller group of shy looking goths huddled around the doors.

“Where’s Chrissie?” the coach called, looking around.

“Here,” Chrissie rolled into the gym as he spoke, “sorry I’m late, the bus had a pram on board and she wouldn’t move, so I had to wait for the next one.”

“Isn’t that illegal?” Sharon, one of the other female wrestlers, piped up.

“Yep,” Chrissie’s answer was short and sweet. She looked over at the group of goths in the corner who were blatantly staring at her with their mouths wide open. The coach followed her gaze.

“Didn’t your mother teach you it was rude to stare?” the coach barked at the group, who dragged their eyes away. The coach turned to Chrissie, “I think I know how to start the day.”

“Sure,” Chrissie knew exactly what he meant, as did her colleagues.

David and Jason, the current tag team champions, pulled a ramp up to the ring which was only a foot off the floor for easy access. Chrissie removed the grey hoodie from her tracksuit, revealing her Lycra vest beneath, and pulled her hair into a ponytail. Sharon stepped into the ring as Chrissie rolled up the ramp, grabbed the middle rope, and pulled her upper body into the ring between the ropes. She curled up and performed a neat forward roll into the ring, pulling her wheelchair between the stretched ropes, and flipped herself upright neatly. The new recruits were gathered around the ring, mouths once more open in amazement.

“OK, go,” the coach said as Sharon dropped into a fighting stance, stretching out her arms slowly towards her opponent. Chrissie made as if to hold her hands but diverted to grab Sharon’s leg, sending her plummeting to the mat with a loud bump. Sharon rolled over to keep her shoulders off the mat as the coach went in for the three-count, which would declare Chrissie the winner.

Sharon got to her feet and managed to avoid Chrissie’s leg sweep, instead forcing her opponent into a headlock as she spun around. Unable to wriggle free Chrissie wrapped her arm around Sharon’s waist, and overturned her wheelchair, both of them landing flat on their backs, and both rolling away before the three count could be finished. This time there were gasps of amazement as both women righted themselves.

Without hesitation Sharon ran at Chrissie, at the last minute leaping into a drop kick. The kick did not connect; Sharon sailed over Chrissie’s head, who didn’t even have to duck to avoid the impact. Sharon landing heavily on the mat while Chrissie reversed rapidly into the ropes, bouncing off of them. The momentum propelled her into Sharon as she clambered to her feet, knocking her to the mat once more. She aimed a clumsy blow at Chrissie, who deftly avoided it as she made her way to the corner of the ring.

The newcomers watched in stunned silence as Chrissie hauled herself from her wheelchair until she was seated on the top rope before pushing off with what little strength her legs could muster, performing a neat elbow drop. Her elbow connected with Sharon’s chest and winded her; one three-count later saw Chrissie declared the winner.

The new wrestlers clapped and cheered loudly as Sharon helped Chrissie into her wheelchair before they both exited the ring.

“Nice improvisation, ladies,” the coach said, “but some of those landings need to be cleaner.”

For the rest of the day the new wrestlers spent time in the ring practising basic manoeuvres, most of which involved various ways of crashing into the mat.

Chrissie and her colleagues spent their time working out on the gym equipment and discussing their weekends. She enjoyed the company of her colleagues, who were friendly and fun, and certainly didn’t seem to mind the wheelchair. As they laughed and joked together one ridiculous anecdote led to an even more ridiculous bet, and the suggestion was made that Chrissie had a go on the treadmill.

“What?” she asked in disbelief as they all turned to stare at her.

David disappeared, reappearing with the ramp a moment later, as the group began to chant “do it, do it, do it…” Somewhat begrudgingly Chrissie rolled onto the treadmill and pressed start. At low speeds it was relatively easy to propel her wheelchair as the track moved beneath her, but as Sharon increased the speed (whilst grinning from ear to ear), Chrissie found it harder and harder, particularly as she couldn’t help but laugh along with the rest of the group. Eventually the speed was too much and Chrissie was sent flying backwards across the gym, crashing into a rack of weights behind her and sending them to the ground. Everyone was laughing raucously, Chrissie included, despite lying on her back in the middle of the floor, knowing that her back would be covered in bruises by the end of the day.

Upon hearing the commotion the coach marched into the room, slamming the doors open, and bellowing at them to be quiet.

“What the hell happened here?” he barked.

“I tried to use a treadmill,” Chrissie was grinning from ear to ear as Jason helped her upright.

“And what if you’d been injured?” the coach didn’t seem to see the joke.

“I’m fine,” Chrissie shrugged.

“Well, what if you weren’t? Or if you damaged some equipment? This mess is going to take some clearing up as it is!” clearly the coach was not amused.

“You’re supposed to be setting an example!” he continued angrily, shaking his head.

“Look, it was my idea,” Janice, the current women’s champion, offered quietly.

“And all of you were too stupid to do the sensible thing. Get this mess cleaned up and go home. We start practising for Saturday’s show tomorrow,” the coach turned on his heel and stormed out of the room, back towards the group of goths who now looked down-right terrified.

“Sorry,” Janice said.

“Whatever, he’ll come round,” Chrissie shrugged again and started to pick up the weights.

***

Chrissie could hear the crowd laughing and joking from her hiding place behind the screen. The lights made the stage uncomfortably warm and she was already sweating a little in her black Lycra crop top and leggings, covered in small silver studs. Her hair was piled on top of her head in a high ponytail, and her black nail polish was perfect and unchipped. Janice patted her on the back.

“Good luck,” she whispered.

“And now-“ the commentator began. Chrissie could feel the vibrations of the amplified sound travelling from the floor through her wheelchair, “we have a match for the women’s championship! It’s set for-“ the commentator paused as the crowd roared back “ONE FALL” in unison.

“That’s right, it is. And first up the challenger; she defies all odds, she listens to no one, she is the Wheeled Warrior, she’s Venus!” The crowd erupted as Chrissie rolled onto the stage, her entrance music blasting through the wall of speakers on either side of her. The lights momentarily blinded her as she made her way to the ramp leading down from the stage to the ring. She lined herself up and set off downwards, stretching out to high-five the fans as she glided towards the ring and didn’t realise how close the ring was until it was too late, and she slammed into the side of it.

There was a moment of tension as the crowd fell silent until Chrissie threw back her head and roared with laughter, the audience then following suit. She rolled around the ring, high-fiving more fans, before rolling up the ramp and into the ring as before. The music faded out and the lights dimmed.

“And now the current champion. She’s had one of the longest title runs in the history of the company and faced some of the toughest wrestlers in the world. It’s Delilah the Destroyer!”

Janice walked slowly to the top of the ramp, stopping to unhook the championship belt from around her waist to hold it above her head, making sure the crowd got a good look at the prize on offer. She stepped down the ramp glaring at her opponent, whose eyes never left her. She jumped over the top rope, landing neatly on her feet before handing the belt to the referee who put it on a table beside the ring.

“Ring the bell,” the referee yelled, and so the match began.

Without hesitation Janice ran forward, leaping into a low drop kick which missed Chrissie’s face by millimetres. As Chrissie reflexively pulled back her wheelchair toppled over, but before Janice could take advantage of this she had rolled into a handstand, supporting the weight of both herself and her wheelchair on her muscular arms. Chrissie was near the ropes and leant towards them, her wheelchair bouncing off the ropes. The momentum allowed her to flip the right way up again, Janice only just staying out of range of the wheels.

There was a moment’s pause before Janice landed a neat right hook on Chrissie’s face, which Chrissie responded to with a solid uppercut. They exchanged blows for a few seconds before pulling away from one another, breathing heavily.

Chrissie went into a leg sweep which Janice avoided with ease before dropping into a leg sweep of her own. She managed to force her foot behind the front wheels of Chrissie’s wheelchair, overturning Chrissie so she landed on her back. The referee dropped to his knees by her side to begin the three-count, but Chrissie grabbed hold of the nearby ropes.

“Rope break!” the referee called. Janice stomped in the bratty mannerisms of Delilah the Destroyer, and screeched at him to do his job properly, giving Chrissie time to haul herself upright. Creeping up behind Janice she grabbed hold of her right leg, and Janice crashed to the mat face first. Slowly, Chrissie began to twist the ankle gently, expertly making it look as if she were using all her strength to wrench the tendons and ligaments apart while Janice let out an ear-piercing scream. Suddenly, before Chrissie could react, Janice had grasped the bottom rope and pulled herself from her opponents grip, kicking backwards as she did so.

Chrissie moved towards Janice, who performed an expert roundhouse kick that sent Chrissie flying backwards across the ring. Janice sped after her, pulling Chrissie from her wheelchair. The crowd booed and hissed at the villainous Delilah.

Chrissie was now perched on Janice’s shoulders, facing her, and braced herself for the next move. Seemingly without warning, Janice let her legs give out beneath her, dropping until she was sitting on the mat. Chrissie fell with her, landing with immense force on the mat. She felt the wind leave her chest as the referee dropped to his knees and began to three-count, but managed to lift her right shoulder off of the floor just in time.

Janice stood up and leant over Chrissie, putting as much weight on her opponent as she dared, while the referee once again initiated the three-count. At the last second Chrissie lifted her left shoulder off the floor. Janice leapt backwards as if Chrissie had kicked her forcefully, landing against the ropes on the other side of the ring. Wildly Chrissie looked around and began to crawl towards her wheelchair. Just as it was within her grasp Janice dragged her away, once again trying to push Chrissie’s shoulders onto the mat. Chrissie managed to wriggle away and the crowd went wild.

In mock-disbelief Janice stomped around the ring, screaming insults at the crowd and referee alike, giving Chrissie time to clamber back into her wheelchair. While Janice’s back was turned Chrissie wrapped her arms around her waist, and swung backwards in her wheelchair, pulling Janice over her body and landing back-first on the mat in an elegant suplex.

Janice appeared winded, flailing her arms around wildly as she lay on her back in the centre of the ring, seemingly unaware of where her opponent was. Chrissie took the chance to haul herself onto the top rope before leaping into her elbow drop. Her pointed elbow collided with Janice’s sternum and Chrissie pinned Janice’s shoulders to the floor. The referee skidded onto his knees next to them, getting the best view of Janice’s shoulders as he could. His hand collided with the mat as the crowd chanted “ONE, TWO, THREE!”

Confetti exploded downwards from above, covering the ring and all those within it.  The announcer could barely be heard over the incessant racket of the crowd.

“We have a new champion,” Chrissie strained to hear, “Venus!”

Her entrance music blared out of the speakers and lights flashed wildly as the referee handed Chrissie her championship. Chrissie looked around the room and a face near the back caught her eye. She squinted her eyes for a better look and could barely believe it when she realised that her date was at the back of the crowd. He nodded his acknowledgement and looked as if he had genuinely appreciated the show. Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all.

The Mystery Blogger Award.

Mystery Blogger Award Logo. Mauve all-capitals text in the centre of a turquoise circle, with an ocean background.

I’d like to thank blogger Unwanted Life, who has kindly nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award. This award was designed by Okoto Enigma to give bloggers the recognition they deserve, & for the community to show their appreciation of each other’s work, motivating them to keep writing.

Like many blogger awards, to accept the award after being nominated there are a few rules you need to follow:

  1. Display the logo (check).
  2. List the rules (ongoing check).
  3. Thank whoever nominated you (check).
  4. Mention Okoto Enigma as the creator of the award (check).
  5. Answer the questions given by the person who nominated you (uh oh).
  6. Tell readers 3 things about yourself (definitely uh oh).
  7. Share a link to your best posts (how to choose!).
  8. Nominate some others for the award (recommended 10 – 20).
  9. Ask your nominees 5 questions with at least 1 question being funny (evil laugh).

Let’s get this very introverted party started!

Questions from Unwanted Life:

  1. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

This may seem mundane, but one of the best pieces of advice ever given to me was to apply for the position of Data Management Assistant at a clinical trials unit. Having read the job description & requirements I felt that I was unqualified for the role, & I wouldn’t have even applied without the encouragement of my husband (then fiancé). It goes without saying that I got the job, & almost a year later I’m definitely one of the few people who is lucky enough not to hate their job. Also, the pay is good.

  1. What’s the most out-of-character thing you’ve ever done?

I once had a very heated row with a woman using the one disabled changing room available as she was taking an exceptionally long time. I had just climbed out of the swimming pool & was dripping wet, getting colder & colder, & conscious that time was marching on. As she eventually came out of the changing room I accused her of being a fake, when in reality she had an invisible condition. There was definitely no need to take as long as she did, especially with the other disabled cubicle out of order, but I shouldn’t have judged whether she should be using a disabled changing room in the first place. I definitely regret how I handled that situation, & wish that I’d realised how horrible I’d been in time to say sorry.

  1. What one historical event would you love to be there to witness?

I would almost certainly have wanted to be a part in the suffragist movement, possibly even the suffragette movement. Every single woman that participated in that movement is a hero in my opinion.

  1. What one thing would you love to become an expert in, if you could wake up tomorrow & suddenly be an expert in it?

Kung Fu, purely so I could sit up & go “whoa, I know Kung Fu”, like Neo in The Matrix.

  1. Would you rather be rich or famous, & why?

Definitely famous. I’m like a cat in that I’ll pretend not to like the attention, but in reality I’m basking in it.

This isn’t because I belong to the “money can’t buy happiness” school-of-thought either; at the end of the day, you’re never going to be happy if you can’t afford a roof over your head, food, & other basic necessities.

Some Facts About Me:

  1. I’m terrified of spiders, but I like spider-man.
  2. The 5 ladybirds on my latest tattoo have names; Asuka, Becky, Charlotte, Lita, & Mae, after 5 iconic women in WWE.
  3. The skull also has a name, Fred, courtesy of my colleague.

My Favourite Blog Posts:

All Creatures Great & Small: how animals react to disabled people.

More Than Ramps & Lifts: how accessibility is more than physical requirements.

Wheels Ahoy: a short story about a wheelchair-using pirate.

My Nominees:

The Disability Diaries.

Seeing M.E in Reality.

Wheelescapades.

KimiBlack.

A Backpack, A Chair, and A Beard.

Roxy Moto.

HeyIt’sLeaa.

Cane Adventures.

The Life Quadraplegic.

Being Aunt Debbie.

My Questions for Nominees:

  1. What’s the most bizarre piece of advice, wanted or otherwise, that you’ve ever been given?
  2. What’s the weirdest instance of Deja Vu you’ve ever experienced?
  3. How did you get into blogging?
  4. What is the strangest thing you’ve ever been asked & how did you answer it?
  5. What’s for tea?

Once again, I’d like to thank Unwanted Life for their very kind nomination, & congratulations to all my nominees!

YouTube Channel.

Some of you might have noticed that some videos have disappeared from my blog; I’m currently in the process of moving them across to my blog, where you can now view them on my new YouTube channel. This should mean my website runs faster & smoother, improving your experience!

Make sure you like & subscribe on YouTube for those videos & for future content!

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