It sounds like a ridiculous question but I am serious. I have needed assistance with my mobility and ‘activities of daily living’ for many years – The Kids were very, very young (L was still in nappies!) but society does not seem to recognise disabled parents.
A really clear sign that society still does not consider disabled people to be able to be parents is the super simple family image/logo.
I was recently playing with the look of this blog and went through the WordPress logo-maker; I added ‘family’ as the topic and a large list of various family images popped up but not a single option showed a wheelchair.
Is my wheelchair something to hide?
You might think I am exaggerating: next time you’re buying tickets for something (anything) have a look at the options to add non-disabled children’s tickets to a booking for a wheelchair user plus companion. It is eye-opening to be on the receiving end of these limitations. They have an option for a disabled adult, disabled child and companion but no consideration for a disabled adult with non-disabled children so we need to contact the company to get the right tickets and ensure seating is together. This may sound simple but all those wonderful special offers for events do not consider us. Don’t even think about accessing those lovely travel offers.
When you are disabled travelling anywhere is a marathon, let alone when you are travelling with children [unless you are driving].
I always need to book assistance when flying anywhere and the airport assistance does not cater at all for a disabled person to have young children. L was less than 2 years old and they would not allow her to sit on my lap. Added to that the attendant then proceeded to walk so fast The Kids could not keep up and fell further and further behind the chair with me craning my neck to keep an eye on The Kids and asking the attendant to please slow down-which was met with blatant annoyance. Most large airports now have those electric buggies which allow you to sit with your children to be transported but those vehicles do not have wheelchair spaces and you are left waiting at the designated points for a very long time so you pray you or the kids won’t need to go to the bathroom- don’t even think of browsing through the stores.
As The Kids are older now [and most airports allow me to use my own electric wheelchair until the aircraft door] that aspect of travel has become easier for us but I am always aware of the other families having the same difficulties.
Train travel brings its own struggle because when you are stuck [on the platform] on a wheelchair with a toddler on your lap and a slightly older child standing next to you but the train company forgot that you booked assistance [so you are stuck on the platform for hours] it becomes very harrowing. I’m not sure if it is any better when you’re on the train with the kids and the train company forgot about the assistance at the destination station so you are then having to wrangle 2 small children plus call the assistance line and hope that someone can arrange the help, then figure out what station you can get off the train to then get another train back to the destination station. Just remembering those incidences brings back the memory of the distress I felt.
Planning any outing is never straightforward – we need to check the route to get there, the venue access [and many, many places are not accessible] and if they have an accessible bathroom. The places that do have baby changing facilities (usually in the disabled toilet) never, ever, have a baby changing table at wheelchair height and some have an accessible bathroom but the route to get to it involves asking multiple other patrons to move their chairs.
An even simpler example is school accessibility. I am not joking when I say that The Kids’ previous school refused to move the bell at the gate to a reachable position. I tried all avenues even contacting Children’s Services (schools are under their remit) but I was absolutely on the losing end. As for being able to attend class assemblies- despite there being a ground floor hall there were multiple excuses for why it was not possible – to be honest none of the excuses were really viable. They eventually did hold some assemblies on the ground floor but it was made very clear they were not happy about it.
I remember a Governors meeting where we had to renew the Equality Policy and it listed things like focus groups with disabled stakeholders [which sounds very pro-active and lovely] but when questioned about the details the Headteacher chose to remove it from the policy instead of committing to actually doing the research. I was the only Governor to query that discrepancy. I’m sure all schools are not as bad but it leaves me with a fair bit of anxiety.
The world as a whole has progressed in terms of the way disabled people are treated and catered for but there is still a complete lack of recognition that we can also be parents.
If anyone out there fancies drawing a simple logo for me (mum in wheelchair, dad, son, daughter & cockapoo) I would be most grateful! 😉