Here is my latest piece for Limitless Travel.
We as a society often consider disability to be disadvantageous. Many disabled people themselves hold this viewpoint. Of course there are various challenges and downsides to living with a disability. But having lived with muscular dystrophy all my life, I have come to realise that there are also many positives.
It’s all too easy to succumb to self pity; adopting a pessimistic attitude towards your impairment and complaining about all the things it prevents you from doing.
I won’t deny I fall victim to this school of thought from time to time. I’m only human after all. But at the end of the day, I’m stuck with me. There’s no cure for muscular dystrophy and so there’s really no point in wasting valuable energy complaining about something I cannot control.
To counteract the common perception that to be disabled is to be disadvantaged, I have decided to list some of the ways my life has been enhanced by my condition.
This is not a universal guide and is applicable to my personal experiences as wheelchair user. So, in no particular order…
- Being able to skip to the front of the queue has brightened my day on many occasions.
- Concessions: Many leisure facilities and tourist attractions offer some sort of concession for those with a disability.
- In most cases a carer can accompany you for free. If you don’t have a carer, take a friend instead.
- Parking: I hold a blue badge which allows me to park in, of course, disabled bays as well as on single and double yellow lines for up to 3 hours. The blue badge scheme is recognised by all European countries.
- Thanks to the Motability scheme I have a wheelchair accessible vehicle in which I travel as a passenger. Essentially a free car, all I have to fund is the fuel.
- I can’t drive. Admittedly I wish I could, but the upside is that I have the freedom to drink when I’m out as I’m never the designated driver. Being chauffeured around means I can relax and enjoy the journey rather than stress over traffic and navigation.
- Shoes never wear out and so last forever. Furthermore, if I don’t feel like wearing shoes, even to go out, I don’t have to since my feet never touch the ground.
- I always have a comfy seat. I never have to stand around acquiring aching limbs.
- Kids are fascinated by my wheelchair with all its buttons and mechanisms. They love to sit on my lap or climb on the back and go for a ride. I’m always happy to oblige!
- Being unable to weight bear, I never have to worry about falling over (a common problem for me as a child). Frosty weather and black ice is no concern.
- Being faced by an oncoming electric wheelchair causes people to instinctively move out of the way. Move or be mown down!
- I can run into idiots and get away with it by blaming my wheelchair. Disclaimer: I accept no responsibility if you decide to follow my lead. But by all means do!
- Similarly, if someone is getting on my nerves I can ‘accidentally’ run over their foot.
- It’s pretty frustrating finding yourself stranded on the top floor because the only lift has malfunctioned. But there’s always a silver lining: being carried down stairs by a strapping young man is a small price to pay for such an inconvenience.
- Determination: I believe my perseverance (some would say stubbornness) is a result of living with my disability. I have in many circumstances had to fight harder, work harder and prove myself more than I would have had I been able-bodied.
- I’ve been introduced to many people from all walks of life (pun intended) who I would never have otherwise. Consequently I feel I have developed a broader perspective on life and a greater awareness of social diversity.
- My limitations force me to think outside the box. As a wheelchair user there are many struggles; some small and some great. In order to overcome these challenges, I have had to continually think creatively and imaginatively. This may be through adaptive technology, home modifications or inventive DIY solutions.
Do you agree that there are not only disadvantages, but also advantages of living with a disability?
If so, what are some of the benefits and positive aspects of your disability?