Well, who would have thought it! As far as I can make out, I’m magic!
Actually, I’m not sure if it’s me or my wheelchair but it’s definitely one or the other.
It’s not all the time, of course, but it seems to happen, mainly, when I’m out and about. When I’m at home the sorcery is usually absent but when I’m out, well, it’s truly amazing how magic I am.
Firstly there’s the magic that happens when I go into a shop. Judging by the gaps that are left between rails and racks in clothes shops, my wheelchair transforms and its width reduces as we go in through the shop doorway. I start looking at the displays and, within seconds, find myself dragging half a dozen items round behind me after they have got caught on my chair or under my wheels. Shop assistants rush around trying to mitigate the carnage I’m causing but no-one seems to think of making the spaces wider. That would be too simple I guess.
And changing rooms! The medical profession could learn so much from changing rooms in clothes shops. Apparently, if I go into one of these magic chambers I will suddenly be able to stand and undress or dress all on my own. The fact that I can’t do this anywhere else is by the by, in changing rooms, it seems, I can. Unaided. The allotted space is never sufficient for me, my wheelchair and a personal assistant but that’s fine, I don’t need to try clothes on to see if they fit or if the colour or cut suits me, I can just guess. I know there are some disabled people who could get out of their chair, go into the changing room alone, try on the items and then come out without help, leaving their chair in the charge of their companion but surely there should be at least one changing room in each store that can be used by a disabled person who uses a chair and who has a personal assistant. Somewhere with a slightly larger floorspace that two square feet.
Then there are the food shops. The supermarkets. Not so super if you ask me but anyway. The magic here is the way these places seem to know what I want, before I even see it! They then, somehow, manage to beam whatever it is I have my eye on to the top shelf or the bottom shelf where I can’t reach it. It happens every time. Not only that but every shop assistant in the place suddenly becomes invisible. Well, either that or I do. Whichever it is I can sit there, by the shelf, for what seems like forever and the most I ever get is another customer telling me I’m in the way or blocking the aisle. They rarely ask me if they can help or if they can get something for me, just “Excuse me, you’re in my way.” And store staff? None.
The magic doesn’t stop when I come out of the shops. When it comes to pavements, I always thought that most people would be able to see an overweight, middle-aged woman in a large electric wheelchair but apparently not. I seem to be invisible! I have lost count of the number of times people have bumped into me, walked in front of me, looked at me accusingly for being in their way or not seemingly seen me when I am in a queue, waiting for my turn at the cashpoint. It happens all the time. It’s as if I have an amazing cloak of invisibility that I never take off.
Black cabs seen to be bewitched too. They actually have the ability to cure me, according to the drivers. Almost every time I hail a cab, and one finally stops, I am asked, “Do you need the ramp?” Now, I don’t know exactly how many abandoned wheelchairs these drivers have seen littering the pavements around the country but my guess is, not many. Of course I need the ramp! How else do you propose that my chair and I get into your vehicle? It’s not rocket science! I haven’t been able to walk and get into a cab on my own for more than twenty years, what makes you think that today’s the day I’ll get the hang of it once more and how else do you propose getting my chair to my destination? Drag it along behind? I know some people who use chairs can walk a bit and might be able to get into a cab unaided but they will still need their chair to come too. Leaving it unattended, in a busy street, is just not a viable option.
Why is it that people seem to think that disabled people are all conjurors? For those people who were born with their impairments, they are human beings first and foremost and have been from the moment they drew their first breath. When it comes to those of us that have become disabled later in life, before our impairments happened we were just people. We had no special powers, no extraordinary abilities, nothing different at all. Whatever diagnosis any of us have been given it has not transformed us into some type of prestidigitator. We haven’t changed. We are not magic and I wish non-disabled people would stop thinking that we were. I don’t know what it is that gives some folk the idea that we are X-men and women but we’re not. We are people who happen to be disabled, going about our ordinary day-to-day business, just like everyone else. Stop deciding that we are all superhuman, we aen not. Think about how you would like to be treated and the sort of help you might need if we swapped places and try that instead. Stop doing and saying things that are of no assistance whatsoever and try again. It would make your life, my life and the lives of so many other disabled people, a whole lot easier and much more bearable.