The TARDOW: Another Short Story.

Matt steered his wheelchair into the rickety lift that looked as if it couldn’t take the weight of a child in a pram, let alone a fully grown man in a powered wheelchair who was soaked to the skin due to the torrential rain outside. As the lift door jerked closed behind him, he pressed the button for the 3rd floor, and was relieved to feel the lift start to move upwards despite the button failing to light up. The walls of the lift scraped and screeched against the walls of the lift shaft as it made its painfully slow ascent.

Even from inside the lift Matt could hear the thunder storm rumbling away outside, the eye of the storm almost directly overhead. He tried not to think about the fact that he was riding a metal contraption inside a metal box inside a metal lift shaft, telling himself that he was being ridiculous. However, as the lift finally stopped at the third floor, and the doors began to open, lightning struck the building. Matt was aware of a blinding flash of light and a searing heat, and then nothing more.

The Lightning Strike from The TARDOW

***

“Oh my God, this is awful.”

“As if he doesn’t have enough to deal with.”

“Poor man.”

“Shhh, he’s coming to.”

Matt was aware of whispering voices coming from all around him. He opened his eyes, but it seemed as if lightning had been burned across his eyeballs, for all he could see was an intense, bright light. He turned his head from side to side, trying to gain some idea of where he was as his vision gradually returned. He was lying flat on his back on thin, hard carpet tiles, and was surrounded by smartly dressed men and women.

“Coming through, give us room to see the patient please,” a stern voice came from the stairwell as the doors opened to reveal two paramedics in their dark green uniforms, lugging huge and heavy-looking bags towards Matt. They quickly made their way over to Matt, crouching down beside him and placing their bags alongside his wheelchair, which seemed to be steaming gently.

“Now then Mr, can you tell us your name?” one of the paramedics said as she took a finger-prick blood sample.

“Matt, Matt Mills,” he replied hoarsely.

“And can you tell us what happened?” the other paramedic was recording his blood pressure readings.

“Well, I was in the lift and then I think, maybe, it must have got hit by lightning because there was a bright flash and intense heat, but that’s all I remember,” Matt struggled to make sense of his jumbled thoughts, and fully expected to be laughed at for his unlikely theory.

“He still has his wits about him then,” one paramedic said to the other.

“You mean, that’s really what happened?” Matt asked.

“Apparently so,” the paramedic replied.

“You seem to be OK, but I’d be happier if we could take you to the hospital and have you checked out by a doctor,” the other paramedic said, lifting supplies back into the bulky bags.

“Sure, my wheelchair-“

“We can’t take it in the ambulance I’m afraid,” one paramedic said as she helped Matt to slowly sit up, “but given that it’s just around the corner we’d be happy to walk with you to the A&E department if you want to keep your wheelchair with you.”

“OK, sounds good,” Matt allowed the paramedics to gently manoeuvre him into his wheelchair, which had stopped steaming.

“We’ll have to attend to our business another time,” Matt caught the eye of the person he had been supposed to meet.

“That’s perfectly understandable. I hope you feel better soon.”

Matt switched on his wheelchair, and was somewhat surprised to see that it appeared to be working correctly. Still feeling shaky he decided that his best bet would be to lower the speed and drive carefully, but as soon as he pressed the relevant button, the world around him disappeared. Once again he was surrounded by a bright light, where all dimensions in space and time were meaningless. Almost as soon as the light had sprung up, it disappeared again, and Matt found himself perched on the foothills of a mountain, surrounded by dense forest.

Matt gazed around him in amazement. The trees were so dense that almost no light penetrated through the canopy above him, and the only thing he could see beyond the woodland was the steep mountain-side soaring upwards, illuminated by the suns’ light. What could be seen of the sky was clear, with no signs of a storm in the vicinity, and the air was cleaner and fresher than Matt had ever imagined it could be.

Suddenly, a giant feline emerged from the woods to his left, running at full pelt on strong, muscular legs. It looked like some kind of prehistoric tiger. The giant fangs protruding from its mouth seemed to suggest that this was, in fact, a sabre-tooth tiger.

Matt froze in fear as the beast stared back at him, equally bemused. Then, behind the creature came the sound of running footsteps disturbing the ground, and without a second glance in Matts’ direction, the tiger bounded away again.

Seconds later, a group of dirty, hairy men burst out from the undergrowth. They halted their progress almost immediately in surprise, and stared with intense curiosity at the spectacle before them. Matt returned the compliment, gazing at the rough spears they clutched in their grubby hands, and the way they could not quite stand upright. Their unkempt hair was as wild as the look in their eyes. Save for the carefully placed loincloths in the picture books, these men looked almost exactly like the cavemen he had read about as a child.

“Where am I?” all Matt could think was that he must somehow have stumbled across a historical re-enactment group, and a very realistic one at that.

“Huh?” one of the men, who seemed to be the leader, grunted.

“Where am I?” Matt repeated, “this façade is very good, but I’ve had a difficult day and I simply wish to find my way home.”

“Man,” the leader said.

“Yes, I’m a man,” Matt tried not to sound too exasperated as he considered playing along with their game, “Now can someone please help me out here?”

“Men,” the leader pointed to himself and his companions.

“I know,” Matt said between gritted teeth.

One of the men from the back of the group pushed forward, and knelt down in the dirt by Matt’s wheelchair. He seemed completely entranced by the wheels.

“Ah yes, the invention of the wheel, perhaps the most significant invention of mankind ever,” Matt smiled encouragingly.

“Eel,” the man tried to repeat what Matt said.

“Look, you don’t have to keep acting. Wheels or not, I’m not stupid,” Matt began to grow impatient. Slowly, he started to move his wheelchair towards the men. They all leapt backwards suspiciously, except the one knelt by the wheels.

“Eel!” the man proclaimed more excitedly.

A flicker of doubt crossed Matts’ mind.

“Erm, you really don’t know what this is, do you? I don’t think you even understand most of what I’m saying,” Matt said. He was met with blank stares.

“Although I think I just helped invent the wheel,” he muttered to himself.

He looked around him to find a suitable path, desperate to try and find a way home. Finally, he picked out a gap between the trees just wide enough to accommodate him, and slowly he made his way towards it. Bored with his slow pace, and wanting nothing more than to get home, Matt decided to increase his speed setting. Almost immediately, he was once again surrounded by the bright light that he had experienced before.

This time, when the light faded, Matt found himself in the middle of a busy street, bustling with activity. On each side of him were market stalls laden with products, with vendors all shouting over one another amidst the clamour to attract customers. The women wore heavy skirts and dresses in plain, dull colours, with only the skin on their faces and hands showing, their hair wrapped beneath small, lace headdresses and caps. The men behind the market stalls were grubby and unkempt, and no men other than vendors could be seen at all. Children ran screeching up and down the street with iron hoops and wooden toys, clattering and yelling all the while. Many were barefoot.

A horse and cart turned onto the street and clattered forwards through the crowd, people stepping out of the way at the very last second. Matt tried to move backwards likewise, but found that his wheels were trapped on the uneven cobbles. The driver of the coach fixed him with an impatient glare as he drew the carriage to a halt, and shouted down to him.

“Make way!” he yelled.

“I’m stuck,” Matt called back, “I’m sorry, but I think I need some help.”

“Just get out of whatever it is you are in,” the man returned, “and move out of my way.”

“I can’t,” Matt replied, “I can’t walk. I’m an, an- invalid.”

Everyone around him stopped what they were doing immediately, and gawped at the scene before them. Matt was aware of a red flush creeping across his face.

“An invalid? Out of bed? Why does your wife or mother not take care of you?”

Thinking quickly on his feet, or wheels as may be more appropriate, Matt said, “I have no wife, and my mother died giving birth to me. I am alone and must care for myself.”

“I think you’ll find that’s what workhouses are for,” the man in the carriage uttered with deep contempt, “now stop interrupting everybody’s business, we have more important things to do than interact with an invalid.”

Matt could feel his blood boiling in his veins.

“I cannot help being an invalid with no wife or mother,” Matt retorted.

“Clearly the Lord has cursed you for some terrible sin, now move!” the man roared.

Matt pulled backwards on the joy stick, feeling the wheels slipping against the damp, muddy cobbles as he desperately tried to move backwards. He twisted around to look over his shoulder, and discovered a particularly uneven slab that seemed to be impeding his movement. Given that no one around him was about to help, Matt did the only thing he could think to do. He increased the speed up to full, and this time anticipated the white light that surrounded him.

This time when the light cleared, Matt found himself on another wide street, with tall buildings of glass and concrete rising up on either side of him, seemingly touching the sky. Along one side of the street, maybe three metres off the ground, was a metal rail, and their seemed to be some sort of bus stop half way along the pavement. As he watched, a long, metal cabin with no apparent driver glided around the corner rapidly, hanging from the metal rail. It slowed to a halt by the bus stop, and some people clambered off before others got on, and then it moved off again. It was only then that Matt noticed the absence of any other vehicles on the ground, although there was something akin to an aeroplane trail drawn across the sky.

The pavement of the street was smooth and even much to Matts’ delight, and men and women scurried back and forth across the street carrying important-looking briefcases. Their clothes were brightly coloured, and it appeared that both men and women paid equal attention to their appearances, with many men sporting overt make-up and glamourous hairstyles alongside their female compatriots. Few children were visible, but Matt suspected that, as it appeared to be the middle of the day, most would be at school.

Many of the adults appeared to be talking to themselves until Matt spotted a small device tucked into the left ear of every person that passed him, a glowing image of an apple just visible. The ear pieces were seemingly linked to the watches they wore on their wrists, and almost no one appeared to be carrying a phone at all.

Most people completely ignored Matt as they passed him, so wrapped up in their personal business that they seemed almost unaware of the world around them. However, one by one, more and more people noticed his presence. Everyone who looked at him seemed perplexed, judging by the double takes, sideways glances, and raised eyebrows that Matt could see. Some avoided going near him at all, while others simply walked past without a word.

It took Matt longer than he cared to admit before the idea occurred to him that he was no longer in a past that he had failed to learn of in history, but was in fact, in the future. How far in the future was virtually impossible to tell, there being no signs of newspaper stands in the vicinity.

After much gazing around him, trying to take in and understand his surroundings, a little girl ran up to him and tapped him on the knee.

“Why do you use a wheelchair?” she asked, “My mummy’s a doctor and she says that no one uses wheelchairs any more now that there are medi-frames.”

“Medi-frames?” Matt asked, confused.

The little girl opened her mouth to reply, but a woman who appeared to be her mother came running towards her.

“Marissa!” she said loudly, “You know not to run off like that.” She was all set to continue reprimanding the child until she noticed my presence.

“God, I’ve not seen a wheelchair since I finished my training ten years ago!” she exclaimed.

“Your daughter was telling me that no one uses them anymore, they use something called a medi-frame?” Matt asked.

“Yes, yes,” she replied, “we can treat most diseases nowadays, replace some damaged sections of the nervous system even. But for the few things we cannot treat, we make medi-frames. They are specially designed robotic exoskeletons, built exactly to an individual’s parameters, that integrates with their nervous system. Have you not come across them before? I didn’t realise anyone lived like this still.”

Matt decided not to tell the truth, certain that even in this futuristic society, the idea of time travel would seem preposterous.

“I’m not from round here,” he said meekly.

“Well, what is it you suffer from?” she asked.

“Cerebal palsy,” Matt replied.

“Goodness, we’ve all but eradicated the condition by taking extra measures to prevent it occurring in the first place. The few who do suffer from the condition are treated soon after birth, most never experiencing symptoms for their whole life. I’m afraid for the few whose condition still persists, a medi-frame is all we can offer.”

Before Matt could stop himself, he said, “Well, it sounds as if great progress has been made since my time.”

“Your time?” the doctor asked.

Once again Matt was forced to improvise, “Oh, this isn’t a wheelchair, it’s a TARDOW. A Time and Relativity Device on Wheels.”

“There was time travel in the past? There is no record of this,” the doctor frowned.

“Ah, this was a bit of a one-off accident,” Matt explained.

“Oh,” she said.

“Yeah, when this baby hits 8 mph, you’re gonna see some serious sh-,” just in time, Matt remembered the presence of Marissa.

The doctor frowned slightly, and then broke into a grin.

“Considered a great work of cinematic literature nowadays, they study it in school,” she said.

“What year is it?” Matt asked.

“2123,” she replied, “and what year are you from?”

“2018,” Matt returned.

“Ah, the Trumpian era. A troubled time for society if I remember correctly,” she said. Matt couldn’t help but laugh.

“Just a bit. And lovely as this world is, I think it’s high time for me to return to the Trumpian era, where I belong,” Matt lined up his wheelchair for a run down the street, unable to resist the temptation to re-enact great cinematic literature for his compatriot. He set off at full speed down the pavement, and just as he was about to return the speed to the middle setting, he yelled “8 mph” as loudly as he could. What he couldn’t have known was that his wheels left two trails of fire blazing in his wake.

As Matt had anticipated, when he returned his speed to the middle setting, he was surrounded by the white light. He was relieved to see that, as the light faded, he was sat in the office he had left his own time in, having predicted that since slow speeds sent him to the past, and fast speeds to the future, the middle would return him to his own time. The paramedics were collecting their materials and making their way over to the lift, clearly unaware that Matt had ever been away. Everyone else in the office seemed to be losing interest. Aware that nobody would ever believe him if he tried to divulge his ventures, putting it down to some undocumented side effect of being struck by lightning, or just putting it down to his disability altogether, he kept his story to himself. The only sign of his adventure was the small grin that was just visible in the upturned corners of his mouth, assumed by those around him to be a muscular spasm.

 

Make Your Voice Heard!

If ever you needed proof that I care about all disabilities and not just wheelchairs, then here it is:

The company I work for helps to develop and implement digital health technology in the NHS, making healthcare easier to reach and more accessible for everyone. One of our current projects is concerned with the accessibility of GP’s surgeries to those who are hard of hearing, or partially sighted/blind. As part of this project, we will be running a workshop on Monday 14th May in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire (more details below), and I am one of the members of staff who will be present on the day. I can personally assure you that the the entire team is going to great lengths to ensure that everyone’s needs are met.

Our project is 1 of 20 across the country being sponsored by NHS Digital, and is jointly run with the Good Things Foundation. As well as supporting the hard of hearing and partially sighted/blind to have a better GP experience, we also aim to work with GP staff and anyone else who wishes to be a ‘Digital Champion’, sharing our combined knowledge to improve pathways through health services wherever we can.

At the workshop you can explore accessibility technology and have an opportunity to tell us what needs to change to make it easier for you to visit your GP, as well as getting to see the strange, wheelchair-shaped person behind Diary of a Disabled Person in action.

And if that’s not enough to interest you, then this should do the trick: FREE FOOD.

14.05 Workshop Details.

 

Off the Rails.

Trains; the sworn enemy of wheelchair users. They’re one of the biggest obstacles disabled people face on a daily basis, and what is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this, is that there is no need for them to be this way.

I’m not one with the money or time to travel around the UK on a regular basis, and my commute to the office where I have my “proper” job is so short that it takes me longer to wash my hair than travel to work. Still, I’ve had a few experiences of using the trains, and have used three significant, large train stations; York, Leeds, and King’s Cross in London (think Harry Potter).

The first train station I visited was York. I had been on a weekend away on the North York moors with a group of friends from University, and had travelled up to the destination on a mini-bus provided by another local university. On the Sunday, we travelled to the centre of York because Christmas in York is what dreams are made of, but the bus had to return early, meaning we had to use the trains.

The train station was one of the most accessible buildings I had ever seen, with smooth floors, a complete lack of steps, and space to manoeuvre. I was escorted to the correct platform, where a ramp was already waiting for me in the doorway of the train, and a wheelchair space had been reserved for me in the carriage. The doors of the train were a little tight to squeeze through, but that was my only criticism. Having heard horror stories about the treatment of wheelchair users on trains, I was surprised, but welcomed the unexpected consideration of disability.

After 40 minutes, the train pulled in the station in Leeds city centre. The doors opened, and I was expected to levitate onto the platform, despite prior warning that someone disabled would dare to use their facilities. My friends ran off to get a porter and a ramp while I sulked in the doorway, and eventually a ramp was provided by a very grumpy porter. The station itself was also highly accessible, despite being quite an old building. It seemed mad that the building would cater so well for accessibility, but the trains themselves didn’t.

A few months later, I went to London for the very first time. Leeds failed to provide a ramp and porter, as did King’s Cross, despite warnings in advance of needing the support. Again, King’s Cross itself was so accessible I could have cried, but the return journey was the same, despite even more prompting to provide the resources I needed. I ended up hopping on and off the train while Jarred lifted my wheelchair on behind me, as thankfully we had chosen to use my manual, foldable wheelchair.

Whilst actually in London, we used the tube to get around. Only half of the stations themselves were accessible, and even less provided access all the way to getting on an off the tube, meaning that many tourist attractions required Jarred to push the wheelchair for a long time to get there. There was still a significant gap between the train and the platform, even on the “accessible” carriages. A couple of times, my wheels even got stuck in the gap, and total strangers would have to help us out.

Recently, I booked some more train tickets to London. The website was virtually impossible to navigate, and it took a significant search to find the form describing what sort of seat/space I would need, and what times I would need a porter and ramp at both ends of the journey. Eventually, the tickets were booked, and then something happened that hadn’t the year before. I received an email with my “care plan” listed out explicitly, with what times I would need support, and what seat I would have in the accessible carriage. All I had to do was print this out and show the piece of paper to the porters to prove that I had booked support, and it would be provided. Amazingly, the system was very effective, and it worked perfectly.

You could argue that someone disabled shouldn’t have to book a train 24 hours in advance to gain access to a ramp and porter, and that you should be able to turn up, ask for help, and receive said help. We can’t be spontaneous, while others can, and it is frustrating. However, being able to get on the trains at all without a fight was something special, and is a welcome improvement upon the old system.

They could, of course, negate the problem entirely by having a little common sense; trains that line up exactly with a standardised platform height with a minimal gap, like they modified train stations to do in Japan…

The Lovely Blog Award.

The Lovely Blog Award is given by bloggers to other bloggers whose content is well-written and insightful, often inspiring others to put pen to paper (or in my case finger to keyboard) themselves. In order to accept this award, the nominee must thank the blogger who nominated them, give seven facts about themselves, and nominate seven other bloggers for the award.

Accepting the Award:

After unexpectedly receiving a nomination for the Leibster Award (see acceptance post here: https://diaryofadisabledperson.blog/2018/01/21/the-leibster-award/), I was perhaps even more surprised to be nominated for the Lovely Blog Award. I would like to thank Chamomile Midnight Rambles for their nomination, and would recommend that you give their blog a visit here: https://chamomilemidnightrambles.wordpress.com/.

Seven Facts About Me:

  1. My favourite style of drumming, despite my tendency to listen to rock and metal music, was actually samba music. Although fast and complex, it was also extremely good fun, particularly as the drums take centre stage for this style of music. Beat it
  2. I have a (semi-secret) soft spot for music by Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry.
  3. As a teenager I once had black-coloured braces, which actually looked far better than that sounds.
  4. I have never had driving lessons, and cannot drive at all.
  5. I currently work in NHS administration, in a small department that works on digital health and technology in healthcare.
  6. Our office has a dog called Bi-Bi!
  7. I am getting married at the end of December 2018.

My Nominees:

The Disability Diaries: https://disabilitydiaries.com/

Seeing M.E in Reality: https://seeingmeinreality.com/

Wheelescapades: https://wheelescapades.com/

KimiBlack: https://kimiblack.wordpress.com/

A Backpack, A Chair, and A Beard: https://waywardwheeler.wordpress.com/

Roxy Moto: https://roxymoto.wordpress.com/

HeyIt’sLeaa: https://heyitsleaa.co.uk/

Underestimated: Another Short Story.

It was a cold day in the middle of October, and the rain battering the window was loud enough to wake Steve up early. He lay on his back in bed, staring at the ceiling, and finally came to the conclusion that he wouldn’t be able to fall back to sleep before his alarm rang at 4 pm.

He sat upright, and stared at his new uniform that hung on the door of the wardrobe. He wasn’t looking forward to spending the whole night outside a club in thin, scratchy trousers, a polo shirt, and an over-sized, cheaply-made anorak. However, this was his first shift, and he needed to make the right impression on the owner of the club, who was extremely dubious about his capabilities as a bouncer. Steve scoffed at this thought; how could the owner of the club possibly know what wheelchair-users were like when they couldn’t even get to the bar?

An hour later he was dressed and waiting inside the reception of his block of flats for the taxi he had booked the day before. He was glad that he had the option of waiting inside somewhere warm and dry as he watched people hurry past, laden down with shopping bags, trying to shelter themselves from the foul weather. 15 minutes after his taxi was due to arrive he called the taxi company; if he waited much longer he would be late to work.

“Hi, this is the Fordon Taxi Company, how may we help you?” a receptionist chirruped in a forced, cheerful tone.

“Hi, I booked a disabled taxi yesterday to collect me at 5 pm, but I’m still waiting,” Steve replied.

“Who is this, please?”

“Steve Baker.”

“Ah yes, well, we have no disabled taxi’s available at the moment, but we will get one out to you as soon as we can,” the receptionist said after a short pause.

“But I booked this in yesterday!” Steve exclaimed.

“All the disabled taxis were already out on jobs. The next one that becomes available will be sent to you,” the receptionist sounded a little less cheerful.

“I’m going to be late for work,” Steve said angrily, “just because it’s a Saturday doesn’t mean everyone is here for a pleasure trip.”

“I’m sorry sir, but as I said all the disabled taxis are currently in use.”

“This is my first shift! If I’m late, I doubt it will set a good impression for future shifts,” Steve pleaded.

“If you’re worried about punctuality, you ought to book your taxi to arrive well in advance, sir,” the receptionist had lost all of her false cheeriness.

“I have!” Steve growled, “Why should I have to wake myself up especially early just because you can’t get a pre-booked taxi to me on time?”

“We only have a limited fleet able to accommodate wheelchairs, sir,” the receptionist said.

“Yes, and I’ve seen you using them to transport people without wheelchairs on more than one occasion. Anyway, if you frequently run out of disabled taxis, perhaps you ought to have more adapted vehicles,” Steve returned sharply.

“That isn’t my decision to make, sir,” for the first time, the receptionist sounded remotely sympathetic.

“Well, when will my taxi be here?” Steve asked a little more calmly.

“We have just sent one to you now, it should be there in about 10 minutes. Bye,” and with that, the phone went dead.

A little over 20 minutes later Steve was finally seated in the back of a disabled taxi, heading towards work. He had texted his new boss to warn him that he would be a little late due to issues regarding the lack of disabled taxis available. Within minutes, he had received a reply telling him to book the taxi in advance the next time. Steve didn’t have the resolve to argue.

He clocked onto his shift in the staff room, which was the only accessible room in the club, about 10 minutes late, and went to join his new colleagues outside in the cold rain. His boss was stood outside with them, a damp cigarette hanging out of his mouth, drooping slightly in the rain.

“I’m sorry I’m late sir,” Steve said.

“Don’t let it happen again,” the boss reported sternly, “Rupal, this is your new colleague, Steve.”

Rupal was a tall, well-built man of Indian decent, who was the typical physically imposing bouncer that clubs regularly placed outside their establishments on a Saturday night. His muscular arms were folded across his chest, and his face was unmoving and impassive, until he saw the wheelchair.

“You’re the new bouncer?” he raised one eye brow.

“Yep,” Steve replied.

“But-“

“I’m in a wheelchair,” Steve raised his eyebrows back, daring Rupal to continue questioning his ability to do the job.

“I take it I’m in charge of any physical stuff then,” Rupal tried to change the subject of the conversation. The boss wordlessly threw his cigarette to the ground and let the rain snuff it out, before retreating into the warmth of the club.

“Not necessarily,” Steve replied calmly, trying desperately not to roll his eyes, “I’ve had training in kick-boxing and judo, among other things.”

Rupal silently raised his other eyebrow, then turned to face the first group of tipsy students who were swaying their way over to the club.

“Tickets, please,” he said. He waited patiently while one of the girls fumbled around in her tiny handbag, finally pulling out a sheath of damp, crumpled paper that vaguely resembled some tickets.

“Can we search your bags please,” Steve interjected before Rupal could take over the whole job.

“Are you a bouncer?” one of the girls asked.

“Yes,” Steve did not want to pander to their assumptions.

“Oh my god, can you, like, beat people up then?” she exclaimed.

“Yes,” Steve said again.

“Not very chatty, are you?” one of the boys in the group observed.

“That’s not part of my job. You can go in,” Steve nodded towards the door, wishing that they would just go inside and quit questioning him as if he were the subject of an interrogation. He was relieved to see the boy shrug nonchalantly and start to move towards the door when one of the girls grabbed his arm.

“Wait a sec, I gotta get a selfie with this guy, no one on Instagram will believe me if not,” she said. Before Steve had the time to react, she was leaning awkwardly over him, telling him to smile. Steve gave the smallest, fakest smile he possibly could, and then practically pushed them into the club. Rupal said nothing.

“Rupal, if that happens again, and I’m certain it will, please can you reinforce my instructions?” Steve asked politely.

“So you do need my help after all,” Rupal retorted sharply, “Would’ve been easier if you just let me do the talking in the first place.”

“And what would be the point of me being here if I didn’t do my job?”

“What’s the point of you being here in the first place if you didn’t want people to treat you differently?” Rupal returned quickly.

“People ought to get used to seeing disabled people doing normal jobs like everyone else,” Steve said, “More and more of us are doing just that.”

Rupal shrugged, and said no more.

As the night progressed, both bouncers getting steadily wetter and colder with the passing time, more and more people arrived at the club. The later into the night it was, the drunker these people were, and Steve lost count of the number of selfies he had been unwillingly subjected to. He was beginning to wonder whether Rupal had been right all along when a scuffle began to break out between two boys in the queue.

“Cool it, lads,” Steve raised his voice. Both of them turned around, and it took them a second before they realised that they would have to look downwards to be able to make eye-contact with him.

“What the hell? I don’t have to listen to you,” one of them said as soon as he clocked the wheelchair.

“I’m a bouncer for this club, so yeah, you do have to listen to me,” Steve said.

“Like you’re a bouncer, mate, I’m not gonna fall for it,” the other replied.

Steve internally screamed at Rupal for a little back-up, but Rupal remained resolutely by the door of the club, seemingly uninterested in the latest turn of events.

“Lads, if you want to get into the club, and not a police car, just wait patiently like everybody else,” Steve turned back towards Rupal.

“And what exactly are you gonna do if we continue our little disagreement?”

“Well, you seem to be in agreement in underestimating my ability to do my job,” Steve replied firmly, turning back around.

One of the other boys in the queue quietly asked his companions to calm down, clearly not wanting to spend longer outside in the cold than was absolutely necessary. The larger of the two fighters immediately turned on the boy who said this, delivering a sloppy uppercut to his jaw, and causing blood to spurt from his nose. The girls shrieked and tottered away on their ridiculous stilettos as Rupal finally decided to make his way towards the fight.

Steve sighed and made a quick decision. He was going to have to prove his ability to be a bouncer to prove to customers and colleagues alike that the wheelchair was just a wheelchair, and nothing more. He kicked out his right leg firmly, and spun the wheelchair round on the spot, and the resulting leg sweep knocked the aggressor to the ground, where mud and blood mingled on his shirt. Everyone around them, Rupal included, froze in surprise. The boy leapt back on his feet and swung a clumsy punch at Steve, who easily blocked it, before countering by grabbing the boys right arm and pinning it behind his back, gently kicking the back of his knees to force him to kneel so that he was at the right height for Steve. Two police officers who were patrolling the local streets were making their way over the road to diffuse the situation.

A Single Kick from Underestimated.

Steve looked around at Rupal and the other customers, plus several bystanders who had stopped to watch the scene playing out before them.

“Do I have to convince any more of you that I’m a capable bouncer?” Steve practically shouted as the police escorted the troublemaker away. He was met with a stunned silence, with a few people even managing to look sorry, “Just as I thought.”

Steve returned to his post next to Rupal, admitting people to the club in a steady flow without any trouble. About half an hour later the boss wandered out of the club and lit another cigarette before looking down at Steve.

“Could you please explain to me why I have the local newspaper on the phone asking me relentless questions about my newest recruit?” he asked sarcastically.

“Err..what?” Steve said, as they moved off to one side, leaving Rupal in charge.

“It appears that your little stunt was filmed and uploaded to social media, and now the internet is going crazy over the worlds’ most unusual bouncer,” the boss said, “So the newspaper wants to know everything there is to know about you, including how I came to the decision to employ you. I must say, the public relations benefits would be remarkable if only I could step away from the phone for 5 minutes.”

“You didn’t employ me,” Steve raised one eyebrow, “an agency did, and assigned me here.”

“There’s no point splitting hairs at this point,” the boss replied, tapping the ash off of his cigarette which landed on Steve’s lap. Steve impatiently brushed it off.

“But, I’ll give you a significant underhand bonus if you keep quiet about that fact,” the boss said quietly, “because this club is getting some serious marketing thanks to you.”

“I’m not sure-“ Steve began.

“You can end your shift early tonight, and I won’t reprimand you about your punctuality this time,” the boss added, “and if you want, I’ll give you someone nicer to work with.”

“Tempting as that offer is, I was only doing what I’m employed to do. It is nothing to do with me that people underestimate me,” Steve returned.

“I wholeheartedly disagree,” the boss said.

“Boss!” Rupal called from his position by the club door, “There’s a film crew setting up to film us.”

“Ah, no leaving early then, we need this to be filmed for everyone to see. I’ll double that bonus instead,” the boss didn’t wait for an answer as he wandered across to the news team to introduce himself.

Steve returned to Rupals’ side.

“Sorry I doubted you bud, but you gotta admit that the wheelchair gives the wrong impression,” he said.

“Because you assumed things about me before I even opened my mouth,” Steve replied, admitting another clan into the club.

Before they could continue their conversation, Steve saw a taxi pulling up outside the club that was adapted for wheelchair users. He silently prayed that this was just another group of drunken students following their social media religiously, but he was horrified to see a wheelchair user make her way out of the taxi. Her outfit was garish and skimpy enough to make it clear what she was doing that night; she would be going clubbing. She flashed a lipstick-stained smile at Steve before joining the back of the queue. Steve started off towards her before Rupal had a chance to say a word.

“Hey,” he said in as polite a tone as possible when he was in ear shot. He was aware of the news cameras turning towards him.

“Hey,” she grinned, “Can’t believe I’ve found another accessible club to visit, all thanks to you!”

“Ah, about that,” Steve began.

“Oh my god, perfect selfie opportunity,” she interrupted him, and Steve begrudgingly subjected himself to the procedure once more.

“Listen, the club isn’t accessible,” Steve blurted out as she put her phone back in her bag. To his surprise she laughed merrily.

“Quite the joker, I see,” she said.

“No, I’m serious,” Steve interjected, “the club itself isn’t accessible, only the staff room is.”

“You’re not kidding, are you?” she sounded disappointed.

“I’m sorry,” Steve replied, “I was assigned here by an agency and had no say in the matter.”

Whilst in conversation, Steve hadn’t realised that the news cameras had moved closer towards him. His last sentence had just been broadcast live on the news channel. The boss’s face was slowly turning red, half out of embarrassment, and half out of rage. He fixed Steve with a furious glance but kept his mouth tightly shut.

“What was that? This man didn’t employ you? And the club isn’t even accessible?” a journalist barged in with her microphone, followed by a camera-man doing his best to keep the rain from disrupting the footage.

“Oh, no the club isn’t accessible. But the staff room is,” Steve could see the look on the boss’s face. The reporter turned back to the camera to relay the latest development in the saga as the young woman in the wheelchair turned away. She paused, and then turned back around to face Steve.

“Steve, Steve Baker, right?” she asked.

“Yes,” Steve frowned, perplexed.

“It’s not my fault I couldn’t get a disabled taxi to you on time,” she said.

“What?” Steve was completely baffled.

“I work for the Fordon taxi company,” she explained, before rolling away towards a bank of taxis around the corner.

Steve was left staring after her, flabbergasted, and jumped when his boss tapped him forcefully on the shoulder.

“A word please, in the staff room,” he said firmly.

Steve knew that he was in trouble just from the tone of voice, let alone the infuriated expression etched across his face. Once they were in the staff room the torrent of abuse began.

“I told you to keep that information under wraps, let alone to blurt it out in front of all those cameras! Have you seen the news now? I’m being portrayed as an ableist, closed-minded miser who saw you as an opportunity for free publicity! The news lots are standing outside humiliating me, and bad-mouthing my club. You’ve damaged my reputation; you could put me out of business!” the boss yelled.

All Steve had to say in reply was “Good.”

“YOU’RE FIRED!” the boss roared as Steve turned away.

“I figured,” Steve didn’t bother to turn back to face the boss, “I’ll just be assigned to another club and give them some free publicity instead.” With that, he left the room.

As Steve left the club a throng of journalists ran over to him, asking him a myriad of questions.

“I no longer work here; the agency will be assigning me elsewhere,” Steve said in reply to them, “But in all of this I must admit, I actually have a question for you?”

The clammering group fell silent.

“Is it a slow news night?” he was met by a sea of blinking, dumb-founded faces.

“Why do you ask that?” one of the reporters ventured.

“Because I don’t see why a wheelchair-bound bouncer is newsworthy. After all, ableism in the work place is illegal; no employer should fail to select someone disabled if they are right for the job simply because they are disabled,” had Steve been holding a microphone, he would have dropped it. Steve rolled away from the group of journalists who were shouting questions at his back.

He rounded the corner and was relieved to get away from the bright lights and loud noise. He was finally alone for 30 seconds. Across the street he could see an adapted taxi, with its sign lit to indicate that it was available. He looked both ways before crossing the quiet street, and was just about to tap on the taxi drivers’ window when the light was switched off and it pulled away, despite the fact that Steve had most certainly been spotted and there was no one but the driver inside. Clearly, the taxi driver didn’t fancy getting wet.

Announcement.

Dear all,

Those of you who follow me on social media (Facebook: @diaryofadisabledperson, Twitter: @WheelsofSteer), or who know me in person, will know that this week I was offered more hours at work. With the current dismal financial state of affairs, and a forecast even worse, the increased wage was too good to turn down, and so I quickly accepted. The only downside of the additional hours, and one that I can no longer ignore, is that I can expect a decline in my health.

The decrease in the time I can spend on my writing, and the increased need to rest and recouporate will naturally impact my ability to run Diary of a Disabled Person. The undeniable truth of the matter is that writing, editing, recording, illustrating, and publishing my content, alongside managing two social media accounts, takes a lot of time and energy. This is time and energy I will no longer have.

Therefore I have come to the decision to end this blog. The content will remain available, and I will maintain my social media accounts and continue advocating for disabled rights, but new content will no longer be published.

I am terribly sorry to have to end this so suddenly, and I want to thank you all for your continued support.

It is with regret, then, that I write these final words for you to read.

Wishing you all the best,

Emma Steer.

Judgement Day.

People with disabilities face discrimination and prejudice in a variety of forms, be it the obstruction of an access route, the misuse of special facilities, or even just being stared at because we look weird. However, what many don’t realise is that there is actually a lot of judgemental behaviour displayed by people with different disabilities towards each other, and it is just as insensitive and intrusive as any other kind of judgement. I am as guilty as any other when it comes to this kind of prejudice, and will freely admit that I frequently compare my disability to others’ conditions in a distinctly negative manner. Despite this, I still think I have a right to say that this sort of behaviour is unhelpful, perhaps even hindering the progression of those with disabilities within society, and the troubling trend needs to stop.

There are two main scenarios in which the type of judgement I speak of arises.

Firstly, the disability benefits that people receive to pay for special equipment and transport are often a cause for jealousy between those with disabilities. I know of people who are far more able-bodied than myself receiving much larger sums of money, and I know people who make me look like an utter wimp receiving far less. I also know that people of roughly the same capabilities as myself can receive drastically different sums of money. Sometimes people may have hidden aspects of their disability that may increase the need for support behind closed doors that the rest of us cannot see. Naturally, this causes some upsets; ideally the amount of money given out should reflect the severity of the disability and the amount of help needed, but since so many people are involved in the process of awarding such benefits, who’s opinions, experiences, and budgets will vary widely, these financial discrepancies occur.

The outcome is that people become jealous and mistrustful of each other, questioning the true impact of someone else’s disability on their life, or even questioning whether the disability exists at all. I have faced such accusations, but I confess that on a few occasions, I’ve been the culprit myself. I now try not to find out what money other people receive, because if I don’t know, I can’t judge them for it.

The second situation is probably the most common; access to appropriate facilities. Many places only have 1 or 2 disabled toilets or changing rooms, which many perfectly able-bodied people choose to misuse. With no way to tell the difference between someone misusing the facilities, and someone with a hidden disability such as the discrete bags to collect human waste following certain surgical procedures walking out of the disabled stall, those with genuine disabilities face the same judgement as the able-bodied people. Again, I’ve been guilty of this myself, as having to wait an additional 10 minutes every time I wish to use the toilet becomes tiresome very, very quickly.

Admittedly, if people didn’t misuse disabled facilities, then you would know that whoever came out was actually disabled, and the judgements wouldn’t arise. Similarly, if the availability of accessible facilities was increased, the competition for them would decrease, reducing the intensity of the problem.

The judgement and mistrust between those with disabilities can have catastrophic effects on someone’s self-confidence and mental health. It can make people not want to leave the house at all, instead choosing to sit at home idling away the time. It also reflects badly on disabled people, giving those who aren’t disabled a reason to treat us with scorn and judgement themselves. Perhaps the time has come to accept that the term disability can mean thousands of different things, effecting people in thousands of different ways. Instead of sticking our noses into other people lives, perhaps we should be more interested in our own, and how to improve our own circumstances, instead of trying to derail the livelihoods of others.