When you have to be the birthday party mum.

It’s our eldest daughter’s 7th birthday tomorrow. 7 seems really quite grown up, doesn’t it? Like she’s not a teeny little girl any more, and is getting scarily close to 10. Which means she’ll almost be in secondary school and then she’ll be moving out. My baby is about to move out! *hysterical weeping*

She’s not so much having a party, more a gathering amongst her friends at our house where they’ll watch a movie, have pizza, throw popcorn at each other and spill nail varnish on my coffee table.

So not too much of the pressures of throwing a full-on party style party with games and screaming children (except her little brother maybe), so why am I dreading it?

I guess I’m sort of looking forward to it, but I have this big lumpy stressy thing lurking in the pit of my stomach. We’re not really like any other family, are we? Her friends all know I’m in a wheelchair, although how much she gets asked about that at school I don’t know. I am completely comfortable around my own children, and to them anything I do physically which is, let’s face it – a bit odd, goes unnoticed because to them it is normal for me. But with other children in the house, most of whom I haven’t really spent much time with, I feel like I’m going to be stared at by little girls from school and it’s quite a familiar feeling. They’ll gawp at my floppy hands and my picking up a mug of tea with both of said floppy hands… And they’ll notice they were staring and feel awkward, and they’ll think to themselves “why does Amélie’s mummy sound different?” I’ll come over to the sofa and say (after psyching myself up) “right girls, can you go and wash your hands before food please?”, and they’ll look at me like I’ve just thrown up on myself.

Maybe they won’t think that at all. There’s a big chance I’m being completely pathetic at stressing about being ‘the mum’ at my daughter’s pizza party. How ridiculous is that. Amélie won’t care at all. All she cares about is the fact that she gets to have school friends over ON A SCHOOL NIGHT, and they’ll all be really giggly and excited. I don’t want her to ever feel embarrassed by having me as her mum.

I really hope she has a good time. I hope it’s everything she wants it to be and next year mummy will be a bit more organised several months in advance and book her a swimming party. Better start mentally preparing for that about…now.

To my tiniest 5lb 10oz of first babyness… Happy birthday for tomorrow. Love you baby.

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Half-term stress no more

We’ve only just had the Christmas holidays with the kids off school but next week they’re at it again, being at home and not in the hands of their teachers for a week. A whole week.

I think I’m a bit of a stressy person and being a wheelchair user I find there are a lot of things I can’t do with the kids that I wish I could, and would certainly do if I was more able. Our kids don’t go without exciting adventurous activities, but when it comes to half-term I try and think of simple things that we can do at home, or cheaply out and about which will keep them entertained and my sanity intact.

1. Cook things. Cakes, biscuits, the evening meal, anything really. Get the kids involved in chopping food, measuring and pouring. Cooking with kids can indeed be very stress inducing but if you resign yourself to the fact that it may all go wrong, you’ll get very messy and they will undoubtedly lick their fingers and then touch the food again, anything good that comes from it is a bonus! You are not obligated to eat the food that they have helped make.

2. Go out for a colour walk. Get outside either to a park or the woods or even just into town and get the kids to collect things of every colour. A green leaf. A brown stick. A pink shell. A read leaflet. You get the idea. Make a collage at home. Channel your inner Blue Peter goddess.

3. Write a story. Each day of the week write a paragraph to a story. Have a character each that you can name and draw. Even do one story each but don’t read anything aloud until the end of the week. I think my almost 7 year old will love this. You could even type them up or scan them in if you can work a piece of technology. Scanners never work though do they.

4. Have a charity toy sort out. This is really decluttering sugar-coated as a fun activity. But your kids will probably know better which toys they still play with and which they don’t. You can even explain to them that some children don’t have money to buy toys and so we can give up some of the things we no longer need so that they can be loved by someone else. Take the children with you to the charity shop, or a local hospital to donate the toys. They’re more likely to want to help people if they can understand why it’s needed, by seeing for themselves how it is appreciated by others.

5. Make mosaics. Cut up bits of magazine, newspapers or junk mail and make beautiful coloured pictures. You could even buy some blank cards that they can make into birthday or greetings cards for their family, friends and teachers.

6. Make sock puppets. There are ALWAYS odd socks at the back of the drawer that you’ve put there in the hope that one day they will be reunited with their twins but let’s face it. It’s not happened for 6 months. It’s not going to happen. Get out the sharpie pens, glue, scissors and coloured paper and make sock monsters.

7. Make smoothies. Grab the fruit that’s going a bit brown, chuck it in the blender with some milk or yoghurt and get the kids to press the button (they always want to press the bloody button). Snack sorted.

8. Go to the beach. If you live by the coast, that is. Throw pebbles into the sea. Build rock towers. Bury your feet. By a box of 4 supermarket own-brand Cornettos for £1 and act like you’re the best parent ever for getting the kids ice cream at the beach even though it’s February. (And not been robbed of over £10 on 4 ice creams from the counter). Discreetly steal some pebbles and take them home to draw on or paint. They have now made a paperweight for Nanny’s birthday.

9. Get the kids dusting and polishing. Seriously they love it. My kids squeal with excitement if they get to ‘do the spray’. Of course, this needs to be supervised so they don’t end up spraying Mr Muscle in their eyes or drinking Dettol, but kids enjoying cleaning can only be a good thing. Just remember to keep the products out of reach of very little ones, but they can certainly use a cloth to do some questionable wiping. My parents used to let me and my brother tie dusters to our feet and slide around the French parquet flooring in our hallway. Great fun.

10. Read books! It’s the simplest thing ever but I remember being at my Gran’s for half term as my mum had to work still, and we’d walk to the local library and pick up a few books and I’d lay back fully reclined in my Granddad’s La-Z-Boy arm chair and reading entire Babysitters Club books in one day (I was very proud of myself). But there was no Sky TV or Netflix or apps to play on. There were real books and my brother and I loved it, despite trying to claim we were bored. Having said that…

“But Mummy I’m booored”

11. Let them be bored. Like I’ve just said, I remember being bored as a child. But in hindsight this was definitely not a bad thing. I think kids need to be bored from time to time. They don’t need constant entertainment and amusement all day every day. I do most of my best thinking and mental planning when I’m bored in the car on long journeys (if Rafe is asleep and the girls aren’t arguing). But I think a bit of ‘boredom time’ is good for their brains. It gets them thinking. It gets them inspiring and motivating themselves to do something else and use their imagination. Kids have fabulous ideas of their own. If you let them get a little bored every now and then, they’ll access those little sparks of ingenuity.

12. Put a movie on. There is absolutely nothing wrong with putting trashy TV or a cheesy film on for the kids whilst you get the proper housework done or if you need to sit and chill for a bit or feed the little one. Children won’t turn into vegetables just because they’ve had a bit more screen time than in their usual week. If they are really into a funny game on the ipad then let them indulge themselves. There are also loads of apps available that look like games but are actually teaching little ones basic maths, phonics and music skills. My daughter uses Times Tables Rock Stars at school and also at home on the iPad and it is very game-like whilst also getting her maths up to speed, and more.

13. Open a home beauty salon. This is where you cover the house in newspapers and allow the children to paint your nails. Or let them loose with the hair-stuff box and attack you with 3000 hair clips, which you’ll still be pulling out of your own hair at 9pm. Look how pretty…

I think those are most of the things I’ll be doing with the kids in half term. Of course there will also be the inevitable food shop with children that I can’t avoid, and because of the stress that might cause, we will probably also go for brunch in Wetherspoons on one of the days. Who would’ve thought pancakes and maple syrup in a gastro-pub would be such a good bribe for good behaviour.

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What happened in 2017

First of all, where the hell has this year gone? I know everyone goes on about year flying by and years going by faster when you’ve had children especially.

But I’m quite seriously a little worried that physically, time is actually going faster. I mean literally… Literally literally.

I don’t feel like enough has happened to fill up 12 months, but I guess a lot has happened.

Just after the new year in January my partner’s family went through a really scary time with an immediate member of the family. They are my family too. We were expecting the worst, and although the worst didn’t happen, we almost lost somebody fundamental to my partner’s life and a lot was lost. I spent a long time being petrified of every phonecall whilst my partner was away, and above all terrified at how this would affect him. Knowing that I couldn’t fix it for him was awful.

I can’t quite believe that it is almost a year since it happened.

What else happened in 2017?

Well, Rafe turned into a proper baby-toddler person and not just a vegetable. He started walking at 10 months. Then he started climbing shortly after. He has not yet stopped climbing. Our favourite phase became “get down”, much like when you have a dog. Except unlike a dog, bribery with food items was short lived and now he just laughs in our faces. He is so much more mischievous than the girls were. It’s a good job he’s cute.

I started making YouTube videos. Well, I say start – I started a few years ago and only uploaded videos sporadically but I love the satisfaction and buzz you get from filming and editing your own little movies and with my trusty Tom by my side teaching me how to do a lot of it, I’ve started making videos much more often. Hopefully 2018 will see another increase in the amount and quality of videos Tom and I can make. Mostly to do with our life with three kids and me being a disabled mum but with the odd Poundland/Primark Haul thrown in. Just because I am a woman I guess.

In 2017 I had a bit of a first in that I spoke at the WOW Women of the World Festival in Exeter, where I was part of two separate panels talking to audiences about childbirth experiences and about the Women’s Rights Movement marginalising disabled women. It was scary, nerve-wracking but apart from all that I am so glad I did it. I hate speaking in front of groups of people and I think I always will. Yet for some reason I want to be involved again and do more things like that. I’m hoping to be involved in the CMT (the neurological disease I have) Festival in some way in April.

I won a long-standing annual family tournament which might not sound like much to those outside the family, but it’s quite the event and I love seeing everyone get involved each year.

Amélie, our eldest was the bravest of brave girls having double eye surgery and took it all in her stride. She also got moved up into one of the gymnastics squad groups and I have loved seeing her finally get that fire in her belly to do better. She is doing marvellous work in school and has grown in confidence so much.

Geneviève is in her last year of nursery before starting proper school in September. Bizarrely the prospect of Geneviève starting school feels more scary than when Amélie started. I’m looking forward to seeing her joyous little face as she learns to write her own name properly. We’re getting there but the poor child has quite the mountain to climb there with all the Es under the sun. At least she’ll be almost 5 when September comes.

So here’s to another year of all that comes with having three kids and hopefully making more time to be creative and productive.

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When you’re 6, tired and hungry

We went out to watch the local fireworks last night and while we were there we bumped into one of Amélie’s best friends from school. She was desperate to try and see her friends but when she saw one of them she was very quiet, and although this little girl was so excited to see Amélie and was walking right by her, chatting away to her, Amélie ignored everything she said and just kept facing the other way.

I kept saying to her how she shouldn’t ignore her friend as she is talking to her, but Amélie remained silent and non-responsive to her friend. I felt awful for her and eventually she kind of gave up trying to chat to Amélie. It was about 5.30pm, and Amélie was both hungry and tired as her little brother had been crying in the night before. I am sure this was why Amélie wasn’t feeling very sociable when she saw her friend, but even so we explained to her that even though she was tired and hungry, she should still speak to her friends when they talk to her. Amélie has this trait where she just shuts down and won’t respond when she finds something difficult or when she’s anxious. I really don’t want this to mean that people think badly of her, or feel that she’s rude (which is exactly how I would’ve read last night’s situation).

Today, she was writing Christmas cards for her school friends and I said maybe she could write a note to say sorry in the card for her friend from last night. The picture here is some of what she wrote in the card. She went on to draw a picture of,the two of them and the words “best friends forever”.

It’s hard being 6, isn’t it?

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Baby product reviews – nappies, wipes, cups and potties.

I’m three kids in so I feel like now might be an acceptable time to review a few baby, toddler and children’s products and even a few parents’ products. I’m a disabled mum of three, ages 6.5, 4 and 1 years old.

I’ll start with nappies as I’m pretty sure most mums and dads will have come across one every now and then with having a baby. My favourite nappies by far are Aldi Mamia nappies. At the moment my 13-month-old son is in size 5 (although he can also fit in a 4+), and you can currently get a pack of 40 nappies for £2.99. For the equivalent of a leading brand, you should expect to pay more than double. You might think ‘well lower cost = lower quality’, but no. I find Mamia nappies are perfectly soft and comfortable, hold their structure well with minimal sagging after 1 wee. They have good coverage to hold in most normal poo episodes (poopisodes) – I say ‘normal’ because there are some poo explosions that just won’t be contained by a nappy. Never underestimate the force with which a small child can fire their own poo up their back whilst sat down. Mamia nappies are pleasantly decorated, with an array of jungle animals. To be honest none of my three children have ever paid much attention to pictures on nappies, but maybe that’s just them. They last a good 12 or more hours of night-time weeing, without leaking and don’t create a strong chemical smell when they’re very wet. According to Aldi, they are extra soft, breathable, hypo-allergenic and dermatologically tested, and are regularly tested for effectiveness against the leading brand. They are comfy, work really well and don’t cost much. Therefore they’re winners in my book. A book which doesn’t physically exist.

Mamia Ultra Dry Nappies Size 5

Wipes – I probably think about wipes a bit more than is necessary even for a mum with three kids, but I feel it tug right at my heartstrings when they start putting FEWER WIPES PER PACK! Why? A while ago, pretty much all supermarket wipes had 80 per pack, and cost just under £1 for a pack, or £3 something for a pack of 4 – stay with me folks – leading brand wipes had less, either 72 or 64, and then some had 56. That is 24 less wipes than what I would call a normal amount of wipes per pack. I really think too much about this. Anyway, now most supermarket brands have 64 wipes per pack, and then Asda’s Little Angels range started producing an ‘extra large’ pack, with 80 wipes, like it was a new thing to sell 80 wipes per pack. I wish they would just pick a number closer to 100 and stick with it, then we wouldn’t have to keep opening new plastic wipes packing every few days, and maybe each pack would last longer.

Favourite wipes – again the prize for my favourite wipes currently goes to Aldi Mamia wipes. Granted they have only 64 wipes per pack, but they are a good price, currently only 55p per pack, or £2.09 for a 4 pack. They are a nice soft texture, don’t rip when you take them out of the pack which is convenient although as far as I know, a wipe that rips means it’s probably made from renewable/recycled natural fibres like tissues are, and therefore better for the environment than a woven ‘cloth-like’ wipe. But I’m only a mum guessing, I may be wrong! They have a closing plastic lid, meaning the wipes shouldn’t dry out, although personally as my hands don’t work very well, I find these more difficult. The sensitive unfragranced wipes are what we usually get but the fragranced packs are also good for when it comes to cleaning hands, or wiping sick off your top in desperation as it masks the aroma a little!

Mamia Sensitive Baby Wipes 64 Pack

Drinking cups – I think over the last few years we may have bought almost every cup going – valved, free-flow, non-spill, straw, 360… my partner thinks I’m slightly crazy as I can’t resist a new cup. They are so pretty! But at the moment I am liking the Nuby 360 cup as it’s pretty much non-spill, and encourages drinking from the edge of the cup. So it makes for a good transition to drinking out of an open cup.

360 Mini No Spill Cup 240ml (4-12m) RED/ROCKET

I have also always been a fan of the standard Tommee Tippee free-flow cup which is great for all ages even young babies of 4-6 months. It’s free-flow so babies might get a bit of a shock when the water flows quite freely into their mouth but it teaches them to moderate the flow themselves. This is a good cup for babies who might struggle to suck out of a valved cup. It’s also a very good value cup, generally found for less than £2 in a choice of colours. #parenton

First sippee cup blue 1 count

Potties – when it comes to toilet training, nothing is more exciting than choosing your first potty. For the child I mean, for the child, not me, I don’t find it exciting at all. Much. We have had a few over the years but the one I’ve preferred and which has worked best for our middle child (when we got it) was a potty like this – ours was unbranded from Tesco  and is just plain pink, but has the same ‘steady’ design and looks comfier than the others we have had. It has grippy feet so won’t slide out of the way as your child goes to squat down on it (disastrous), has a broad seat so it doesn’t dig into the backs of their little legs and a high back so they are a bit more supported as they sit. I’m sure our boy will use it even though it is pink and that will mean he will turn gay, but nevermind.* This potty only cost around £5 and does a perfectly good job of being a potty. It doesn’t sing songs or have a heated seat but our daughter seemed to survive the ordeal of sitting on it.

In my next reviews I will be focusing on clothes and shoes for children!

*Please be assured I am joking.

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Has anxiety become fashionable?

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I appreciate this might be a risky article to write. Many millions of people suffer with varying degrees of anxiety, either for a short specific episode or a prolonged ongoing time. These people cannot help feeling anxious about certain things, it gets into the very grain of their being, day-in, day-out, and often therapy or medication is needed to learn to cope and manage the feelings and symptoms they exprience.

But lately, I seem to be hearing more and more people saying that they suffer or have suffered with some form or anxiety, for at least one stage in their lives. Maybe it is that these days, it is easier to ‘come-out’ as having anxiety, where it wasn’t before. It is widely known that people suffer from anxiety, depression and other brain-health disorders in silence, perhaps not even telling a doctor or family member through fear of not being believed, or being told to just “pull yourself together”. I say ‘brain-health’ as I truely believe and want others to recognise that mental health diagnoses are as much of a health issue as asthma or coeliac disease for instance. It’s just that although you can’t necessarily ‘see’ the problem, it is physically just as present as many other diagnoses. The problem is that if someone hasn’t suffered themselves, or there isn’t a blood test to cofirm the issue, then people struggle to believe it is most definitely happening, without the choice of the person it is affecting.

I might be one of the many who chose not to let-on about the anxiety I was experiencing after having a baby. I have three children and each time, I have treated the anxiety in different ways. With baby #1, it came as quite a shock. It was, I guess, part of post-natal depression to have anxiety like this. After having my daughter I’d feel so incredibly tense and frustrated by my lack of physical ablities due to my CMT neuropathy, that even though I knew exactly what my hands/arms could and could not do, I became severely affected by the thoughts of other peoples’ perceptions of my parenting and also about having to ask other people to do so much for my own baby. After all, nobody would do things exactly like I would if I could. I focused and obsessed over tiny things that were ‘wrong’ and everything seemed to make me want to lock myself in the bathroom and not have to ‘parent’ in front of others, especially those who knew me. With baby #2, I suffered simillarly for a few months before finally going to the doctor 4 months postbirth. With baby #3 I had the foresight to think ‘well this is probably gong to happen again isn’t it’, and even though I was absolutely rubbish at just sayong “hey, this is how crap and anxious I’m feeling”, people were aware a lot earlier and I was slightly better at normalising it, for myself and for others.

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So has it become less taboo to talk of your own serious anxieties, and by that I don’t mean being afraid of cliff-edges or big spiders – I mean things that are completely irrational, unexpected perhaps, and most of all uncontrollable to an extent? Or has claiming to have a severe case of anxiety become a get-out clause, an excuse maybe, to get out of things you’d rather not have to do? After all, people aren’t supposed to deny your anxiety, are they?

Are some teenage girls who would rather not play netball in school and have an excusing note from their mum, undermining the true experiences of the 15 year-old with crippling body dysmorphia who would rather jump off a bridge than have to show their legs off to fellow students and teachers? Is she going to be told “sorry, everyone has to join in”? Shouldn’t we be more lenient about what they can wear, or is it one-rule-fits-all?

I have always hated having to speak in front of groups of people. I remember even as a 7-year-old in Brownies, the moment when you’ve not long joined the club and you have to say the ‘Brownie-Guide Law’, I stood there and started crying and my mum had to say the words for me. Suddenly the idea of all-eyes-on-me was horrific. Since then I’ve detested it, it makes me feel physicallt sick and I will go out of my way not to do it even if it means being the only one who doesn’t play a part in a presentation. I get red-faced, my eyes start watering and I lose the ability to make the right amount of eye contact. However I also know that other people have it way worse than me, and cannot even speak to a cashier in the supermarket for example. So should college lecturers and workplace managers stop asking people to speak up in a group, because many people might be ‘too shy’, when really it might be only one or two who are suffering some form of actual anxiety?

It is difficult really, because whilst more needs to be done to help support those of us who are genuinely anxious and distressed about things that we really would prefer to experience, should we really label more and more kids as having anxiety because they haven’t got many friends or don’t want to say lines in tbe school play, and should we make physical education less integral to the curriculum incase school-aged adolescents feel embarrassed wearing a sports’ kit?

There is certainly a fine line between knowing whether to help somebody through anxiety by allowing them not to do something which might mentally distress them, and just saying “you’ll be okay, come on, let’s do this”. I worry that it’s becoming ‘cool’ to say you have anxiety, similar to when people say “oh I’m so OCD”, when they admit to not wanting people to get crumbs on their sofa.

What do you think? Have you had true anxiety? How have you treated it, and who did you tell?

Yours anxiously,

@shopgirlygm

Access to life

Yesterday I wrote an article about Accessibility for DisabledGo, you can read the article below or click here to view it on their website.

Access to life….

For as long as I can remember, the word ‘accessible’ has been such a frequent word in my vocabulary. It’s not the most exciting or tantalising word, but it is a word that I can imagine most people only associate with a primary-school spelling test; ‘is it one S or two?’ Or noticing a sign on a shop door allowing ‘guide dogs only’, regardless of the shop staff’s own awareness of impairments.

The definition of accessible is that something can be reached or attained. How accessible is our society for the majority of people? I’d say pretty accessible – I’m not for a moment suggesting life is easy, but you finish school and go to the same college as your friends, you skip lectures to go to Burger King for lunch instead, and then you catch a bus home and watch MTV all afternoon while your parents think you’re at lectures. Then if you’re lucky, you’ll get good enough grades to go to uni pretty much anywhere in the country, and that means you could pick any course that you qualify for, knowing that the only test of your limitations will be whether you’re too hungover to sit an exam on a Monday morning.
But for someone with a severe physical disability, this isn’t how the stereotype goes. If you’re able to study what you want to in school (see my post about how this might not happen) you might go to college and study what you’re interested in, albeit with tedious roadblocks along the way, like whether the carer that college has provided for you will let you use the iron in textiles class, even though you’re 17 and know that you’re quite capable of not scalding yourself whilst ironing a piece of material. The attitudes aren’t always accessible, and stereotypes mixed with ignorance compliment this. Whilst the other students in your English Language class sit in groups of quickly-made friends, you sit at the edge because it’s the most ‘accessible’ table, as far as positioning a wheelchair goes. As far as feeling equal to your peers and always having someone to chat to about the coursework, sitting nearest the door in every classroom was not the most accessible place. Kids like to huddle in the corner together and laugh about what they’ve drawn on their maths book, they don’t like to be in the place where everyone can see what you’re up to. Uni isn’t always accessible either. Before I started uni, we had to argue with several of the accommodation team that the room wasn’t big enough for me to move my wheelchair around in, and as they had extended a room for another student in a wheelchair, we argued that they could do the same for me. Then at the end of my first year of uni, the porters tried to fine all 6 of us in the apartment for damage to the kitchen involving the fire extinguisher being taken off the wall, and one of the flat-mates climbing in and out of the window for convenience. Didn’t he realise there was a handy door at the front of the building? I of course denied any wrong-doing as far as kitchen windows and extinguishers were concerned, but I secretly quite liked that the uni had the audacity to try and charge me for it. Ironically that was quite inclusive of them. Either that or they just didn’t think and automatically charged us all. I’d like to think it was the former.

Like all teenagers, when uni finishes you have to think about growing up, which involves finding a job. Finding an accessible job is almost impossible for someone like me however, and despite having A-Levels, a degree and a post-grad qualification meaning I can teach early-years, I will always need a lot of help in any job I do. This can include someone to help me go to the toilet – even a so-called accessible toilet isn’t accessible when you can’t do your own jeans button up, and I don’t want to live in tracksuit bottoms when I have no intention of running a half-marathon in the same day. I recognise that this is a specific need that can’t easily be met without someone helping me, but to be asked to schedule your own toilet-trips when the local care-trust are working out how much personal-care you need for *toileting* (one of the most impersonal and ugly words in the world – at what stage of adolescence and disability does going for a wee become ‘toileting’?) is particularly inhumane and soul-destroying. I can’t describe the feeling of being thirsty and wondering if you should have a glass of water or cup of tea or if it’ll make you need to go again too soon, before your PA is scheduled to come back to you again. This is not an accessible way to live.

Neither is wanting desperately to go somewhere with other people who are able-bodied, and knowing that you cannot because the physical structure of the location won’t allow for it. I’ve been to newly built places and wondered how on Earth their accessibility-surveyors signed-off their facilities as meeting criteria. For instance late last year I was shopping with my friend and my newborn baby, and we went to the baby change/feeding room to change his nappy. They had a lovely comfortable and quiet area for breastfeeding mums, and out of curiosity I wheeled myself towards the door to look inside, only to find I could not get into the room. The doorway was unnecessarily narrow and there was no way it was regulation for either the modern or old-school requirement of doorway width. I then got in contact with the store, which is an internationally known brand, and then later met with somebody who tries to ensure their stores are inclusive of people with disabilities – even he couldn’t understand why the doorway was so narrow. This just proved that although the intention might be there from some areas of our world, the promises of being accessible don’t always stretch to something as simple as a breastfeeding room or a changing table that you can reach from a wheelchair. I expect the numbers of breastfeeding mums who also happen to be essential wheelchair users and who shop in that store, are so low it didn’t even enter the consciousness of the people who built the facilities to make them accessible from a wheelchair. However, the store has excelled in their idea of accessibility in other areas. Their accessible toilets are not only more spacious than I’ve usually found, but where possible there’s a choice of two rooms – one with a toilet on the left and one with a toilet on the right. Because guess what, people’s physical capabilities and needs are never the same as the next person with a colostomy bag or a wheelchair. Even something as simple as offering two layouts of toilet facility can make access to normal life, so much more attainable.

I could go on for days and days about accessibility, because it is not just about ramps or extended tap handles or braille on café menus (imagine that) it goes so much deeper, it is so vast and it affects just about everything. I’m lucky that the man I choose to share my life with is pretty strong and when we are faced with somewhere than I can’t easily access in my wheelchair, he will lift me out of my chair and into the restaurant for example, or he’ll lift my chair up so a few steps won’t stop us enjoying being somewhere. But it can’t always work that way and of course he’s not there for everyone else needing his muscular help!

So in order to make our beautiful world open to everyone who needs and wants to experience it, we need to look at what ‘accessible’ really means and who it affects. And then start the small task of making it right.

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