My friend Ruth Murran posted this text on her Facebook page. I offered to make it more widely available here, and she kindly agreed. Ruth is a teacher in the south of England.
Am I glad that the Paralympics are happening? I think I might be but I absolutely have to hesitate a bit.
Because for me they kind of feel like what some people do to make themselves feel better about a ‘problem’; they are like buying The Big Issue from the quite clean and smart homeless person (the one who is making a real effort to change their life).
Because I don’t think that I will want to watch until I know that I can catch a bus to my workplace and won’t risk lateness because there was a pushchair and, to be honest, a working wheelchair-user is a bit of a novelty.
I don’t want to watch until advertised ‘accessibility’ is pretty much always what it claims to be; until, in fact, somebody has actually tried it out with a wheelchair, until I am not ‘too disabled’ for more places than I care to mention but ‘not disabled enough’ for a viewing platform in Hyde Park because I choose not to claim benefits and I might be ‘pretending’ to get a better seat.
I don’t want to watch until the toilet into which I might manage to fit is as clean as all the others and I don’t have to share it with toddlers and the nappy bin.
Because, the reality is, that I can watch performances in which I would not be able to participate in my chair, that passers-by often look at me in surprise if I happen to be cheerful and laughing and this surprise tends to increase if, on the pavement, I don’t ‘give way’ to every ‘walker’.
In the past few years, I have met with huge amounts of kindness and consideration, with many lovely individuals but, to be honest, it is very often ‘ the kindness of strangers’ on which I have to rely because infrastructure tells me on most days that I really ought to be grateful for what has been provided and, if it is a little ‘hit or miss’, then ‘at least we tried’.
I can’t shake off the uncomfortable feeling that young, fit, often mostly whole (or at least used to be) striving Paralympians are ‘normal enough’ to be acceptable.
So I think that I will be kind of relieved when they are over and I can stop feeling ever so slightly less happy and lucky than usual.