Pain, frustration and positivity. It’s ok to have dark days with a disability

The aim of this post is not to garner sympathy at all. This is just a rambling post about the impact a visual impairment can have on one’s mental health, specifically my own as I can never begin to imagine what other people go through or their thought processes regarding their own sight and personal journey.

This is in no way a post that describes every single experience that every single person with a visual impairment has. It’s simply a portrayal of one way in which one individual has been shaped. My life is in no way meaningless just because of my own journey or experiences. It does not mean I don’t aim to have a fulfilling, positive and meaningful life. If anything the life experiences that I’ve had is one of the main reasons why I want to work with people and make a change in the lives of others who may be travelling the same path as myself

I was born with Oculocutanious Albinism, a stable condition that means I am legally blind. Do I consider myself to be ‘blind’? No, as I have a lot of useful vision compared to a lot of people who I know in the visually impaired community. However, the more important question is do I even consider myself fully visually impaired? … No.

I try and blag my way through life as much as possible because I don’t want to seem vulnerable or weak in any way. It’s almost like I don’t want to accept that I need help. I don’t want people thinking I can’t do something because of my sight.

However, doing so puts me in a worse situation than if I held my hands up fully to the fact that there are times that I actually need a little extra support.

To give an example, I don’t use a long cane nearly as much as I should do. I don’t want to look ‘blinder’ than I think I am. I also don’t think I need a mobility aid as much as someone who has less sight than I do so I feel like a bit of a fraud whenever I use it.

Generally speaking, my dear sweet loving family are extremely supportive and want the best for me and want me to access help where appropriate. However, my long cane has always been a bit of a funny situation. My parents have always discouraged me to use my cane around where I live. On numerous occasions, I have been told in no uncertain terms that my cane would put less trust in me because it would be a physical sign of my visual impairment primarily in terms of the previous types of jobs that I’ve had or when applying for jobs. I have also struggled a lot when it comes to disclosing my visual impairment when applying for a job and I have always been advised not to because it might harm my ability to be shortlisted for an interview. Of course, when mummy dearest gives you advice you tend to want to listen because … well, she’s mum and you always tend to believe that parents have more life experience and know what’s what.

Now, I’m not saying that my parents are bad people. Of course their not, quite the opposite in fact. However, I think it can be very difficult for parents of children with any form of disability, especially an invisible disability that is both severe but not severe at the same time. There is no manual on how to best deal with any and all situations that can and do crop up.

Having the condition that I have means you live in a bit of a grey scale world. You don’t fit into the sighted world but, this is just how I feel, you don’t fully fit into the blind world either. It’s almost like you’re a bit of a nomad just stumbling from point to point. You have enough sight to be able to pass as sighted but you need certain aids to help but some aids are specifically designed for people with little to no sight that you don’t feel you actually need or want them.

This perpetual cycle of thinking you’re more sighted than you actually are can be very dangerous, physically, mentally and emotionally. Due to the fact that I don’t use a cane people don’t know that my sight isn’t good enough to move out of the way and can be a rather stupid risk to take when in busy urban areas where there are lots of bikes, cars, buses etc. Emotionally you never feel you fit into one specific place and don’t know how to describe what you can and can’t see because there isn’t specific vocabulary that isn’t medical jargon.

Mentally it can almost be a daily battle to either explain to people that yes you are disabled and no you’re not faking it, decided if it’s the right decision to declare you’re disability for job applications, fighting for the correct support which can sometimes be hard because not even you know the wide variety of support that is out there (because it would be way to easy to make help fully accessible and fully at the forefront of peoples awareness) and how it can help, feeling like you can’t do jobs that you want because of your disability and feeling like you’re stuck in a place where you’ll never get a good career that’ll fulfil you because people don’t want the hasstle of a visually impaired employee or don’t think you are capable of performing tasks simply based upon your disability.

Emotionally it’s tiring feeling stuck in one place because out of pure and utter lazy habit it’s become a safe little bubble where you can run and hide perpetuating the cycle of self-doubt, never trying new things, never pushing yourself because you constantly tell yourself that you’ll never amount to much in a sighted world. You feel trapped by your environment and the little bubble that you don’t feel safe to leave.

I am at a crossroads in my life at the moment. I am applying for Universal Credit (part of the UK’s benefits system) which I must say has a very regimented way of doing things and seemingly has very little understanding or regard for people with a wide variety of disabilities and that being disabled is not just a black or white situation. However, I digress. Until I am receiving money I don’t feel like I am able to move forward because I don’t have the financial aid to fund things like invaluable voluntary work that could be very useful to me gaining a job that I could be good at and that I’d actually want to do. Volunteering would also mean having to travel further afield than St Albans, which luckily is so close to London that I’m quite comfortable travelling to London seeing as I’ve done it so many times. However, the fact that my whole working life so far has revolved around St. Albans the prospect of travelling somewhere different, meeting a wider variety of people and so on is rather daunting and something that my mental attitude has thrown a bit of a hissy fit about recently.

I know I have to travel outside my comfort zone or I’ll never grow as a person but my mind and emotions are like, ‘fuck it Ellie do you really want to put yourself out there and just get turned down immediately? coz that’s just a very real possibility you know?’.

So the long and the short of it is. That is where I am in my life so far. One part of me wants to run and hide from everything and another little jiminy cricket part of me is screaming at me to jump into the deep end and flail about until I learn how to tread water and look like a swan, kicking my feet but cool, calm and relaxed on the surface.

Life isn’t easy when you’ve got an invisible disability. We all have our own journeys, emotions, mentality and outward influencers that we have to deal with and it’s ok to feel lost, angry and upset. There is no timeframe or specific way to deal with these feelings and issues. However, if you are someone you know is feeling like this then just know that it’s ok and you’re not the only one who feels these feels.

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I’m not disabled, society makes me so

Do able-bodied children instinctively know how to cook a roast dinner? NO!!!

Do able-bodied children instinctively know how to make their bed? NO!!!

Do able-bodied children instinctively know how to cross the road safely? NO!!!

Do able-bodied children instinctively know how to read/write, tell the time or count money? NO!!!

Do able-bodied children instinctively know how to ride a bike, swim or play any sports? NO!!!

These are just a few examples of things that children and young people need to be taught. Every able-bodied child has their own personal techniques, preferences and time frames for being able to learn things that are useful to develop their independence or allow them to enjoy themselves and have fun.

A child with a visual impairment is EXACTLY the same. Of course, we will have a different set of techniques to overcome the fact that we cannot see as well as our able-bodied peers. However, we are able to achieve all the same goals and expectations as those with ‘normal’ vision. We are perfectly capable of wanting to and actually living independently. Just because it’s not your way of living independently doesn’t make it wrong. It just means we are living in a way that suits our level of vision and living to our true individual selves based on our personality, education and personal experiences.

Given the right support, set of techniques that are tailored to our own vision and personalities and an appropriate time frame there is nothing that we can’t achieve that our able-bodied counterparts can. Of course, there will be things that we can never do. We’ll never be able to pilot a fighter jet, perform complex neurosurgery or read small print but that doesn’t mean are not an asset to society who needs to be shut up and kept out of sight.

But just because we can’t do certain things such as the examples I gave above, that doesn’t give anyone the right to use our visual impairment as an excuse as to why we supposedly can’t do something. Given the right, correct and tailored support and education, we can be and are an asset to society.

What logical reason can you give me why I can’t cook and eat my own meal independently or pour a glass or cup of any sort of drink?

What logical reason do you have why I can’t clean my own bathroom?

What logical reason do you have why I can’t use a phone, computer or tablet?

What logical reason do you have why I can’t make my bed?

What logical reason do you have why I can’t catch a bus or go into town independently?

What logical reason do you have to believe that the only way that I can access any reading materials is via braille?

What logical reason do you have to believe that my sight is exactly the same as the next person who has exactly the same condition as me?

What logical right do you have to think you know what’s best for me when you know nothing about my personal preferences, personality or previous experiences?

What logical right do you have to instantly come in and do something for me when I’m either capable of doing it myself or learning to do it in my own way?

What logical reason do you have to think that I can’t enjoy tv shows or going to the cinema?

What logical reason do you have to instantly change the language that you would usually use around your able-bodied friends just because of my ‘disability’?

What logical reason do you have to think that I want to be prayed for?

What logical reason do you have to believe I deserve to be treated as my disability before being treated as a regular human being?

What logical reason do you have to believe that I don’t care about the way I look or about my personal health and hygiene at all?

What logical reason do you have to believe or think that I wouldn’t want to partake in any form of sports at all?

I’m more than the total worth of your assumptions about a disability. First and foremost I’m a human being who is the culmination of my likes, dislikes, choices, experiences, beliefs and opinions. I just happen to be visually impaired, I’m not disabled I’m visually impaired. It is societies overarching views and beliefs on disability and uneducated assumptions and the physical inaccessibility that society has created that makes me disabled.

My disability is not a life sentence

My visual impairment doesn’t mean I’m imprisoned in a god-awful life that sucks ass. It’s not a life sentence either. Of course, there are challenges of having a visual impairment. I can’t drive a car for instance.

My life, however, it’s far from saddening, meaningless or pitiful. I love Taekwondo and train regularly throughout the week at a mainstream club. I am taught everything, every technique every aspect of taekwondo just like everyone else who attends the classes and I’m already half way to black belt. My visual impairment does not stop me from wanting to achieve a goal, stay fit and be able to defend myself whilst having fun along the way.

I have Occularcutanious Albinism which means my eyes skin and hair are much lighter than those without the condition because of a lack of melanin which gives colour to all these parts of the body.

Yes, there is a higher risk that I may get melanoma of the skin or eye because my skin and eyes don’t have the natural defences against UV rays. That’s easily remedied though simply through the application of suncream and sunglasses. It’s what everyone has to do to protect themselves from harmful rays it’s no different or inconvenience.

In regards to my hair colour? Well, I don’t ever have to worry about adversely damaging my hair with constant bleaching to achieve this look and yes, my hair may get slightly lighter as I get older but I’ll never go grey. So all in all? money well saved and no damaged hair for me BAM!!!

My visual impairment doesn’t stop me from enjoying the tv show, music, books or sport that I enjoy. It doesn’t stop me from having my own opinions and preferences in terms of politics, clothing and work and career aspirations.

I’m not someone who wants or needs pitying. It is unwelcome and unneeded. I will admit that having a visual impairment does impact on how well I can access certain area’s of life but that is due to social inadequacies rather than my own. My eyesight doesn’t mean I can’t read it just means I can’t read the tiny writing that society still places everywhere. It doesn’t mean I can’t travel independently I just need to be a bit better prepared in terms of knowing exactly where I’m going and familiarising myself with new places.

My life isn’t restricted because of my ‘disability’ it’s restricted because of societies lack of appropriate accessibility that would allow me to fully incorporate myself into the wider community with total ease.

I’m not someone to be mollycoddled. I deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and the same equal human rights as my able-bodied counterparts. My visual impairment isn’t the thing that holds me back in life it’s the sweeping, misguided and stereotypical views of society as a whole that holds me back. I don’t have special needs I just have different needs that need to be overcome in a different way.

Who gives anyone else the right to judge the quality of my life or my abilities based on an overarching and archaic view that people with a disability need constant help and can’t live a fulfilling life? Not everyone with a disability faces the same challenges, uses the same techniques to overcome any hurdles or have the same personality. We should never be placed into one box or viewed as a degenerate who deserves to be dictated to because other people seem to think they know what I’m going through or whats best for me.

Working with an individual, instead of working or talking about them, giving them space to voice their opinions, thoughts and needs and to be properly listened to, is the most liberating thing someone can do for another human being. Treating that individual as a human person with a voice who knows what they want and helping them achieve what they need in an appropriate time frame gives them back their independence, dignity and helps them take back the appropriate rains in their own lives. Never suffocate someone by treating them the way you think they need to be helped. Ask how when and where you can help them with a listening ear and mindfulness that their needs and challenges will constantly be changing and evolving.

I’m not here to make you feel better or reinforce your misconceptions.

I’m not here to make you feel better about yourself, your life or your circumstances. I’m here to live the life that I want, the way that I feel comfortable and achieve great things.

Yes, my eyesight is shitty because I’m medically blind and I burn a lot easier than you and can’t use digital devices without some sort of accessible software, yes I can’t read the maps on the underground or bus timetables or the menus at restaurants as easily as you, yes I find it more difficult to navigate steps and new environments than you, yes bright lights can be a real eye ache and my eyes get more tired more quickly than yours.

However, my life doesn’t suck balls. I have my own set of challenges that I have to constantly work around. Nonetheless, there will be things that I may be better at than you. I may be better at taekwondo or horse riding or playing the violin than you.

Just because I have a visual impairment doesn’t mean my life is devoid of all meaning, hope, joy, passions, goals and aspirations. My life is just different from yours just like the other 7 billion peoples lives.

The worst thing about being ‘disabled’ is peoples perceptions that we can’t do anything, can’t achieve anything of any real importance or that we constantly need help or pity from able-bodied peers. We do need help to figure out ways of coping with our unique challenges but that does not mean we are completely dependant on others all of the time.

Constant intervention from others, rather than being helpful can be very limiting, frustrating and debilitating. It doesn’t help to build our resilience, independence or ability to create and work with useful strategies that aid us in our lives.

How would you like it if someone constantly wrapped you up in bubble wrap because they thought of you as lesser than themselves and less able to thrive and strive in the wider community? Frustrated right?

We need to work in partnership to develop constructive methods of growing as individuals rather than simply receiving unwanted and unwarranted sympathy from people who think it is such an awful thing to be disabled or misguided help from those who don’t or won’t talk to us about why might actually be useful in achieving and maintaining independence but simply try and palm us off with help that isn’t in any way useful.

The real test of living with a disability is living in a world that isn’t really geared to help or accommodate people with disabilities. We still live in very much a sighted, hearing and mobile world that makes those of us with a lifelong condition feel disabled because we can’t access what able-bodied people can with the same ease if at all.
We may have a medically diagnosed condition but we are socially disabled.

Perceptions about people with a disability or long-term health condition are imposed and impounded by a world that doesn’t seem to have the ability to accept that we have different needs and requirements to access the wider community. These perceptions and stereotypes and misconceptions are only deepened by misrepresentation in the media.

The majority of representation in mainstream commercial media seems to be made up of two different types of people with disabilities. The first seems to be the type of person who can’t do anything, can’t access anything, can’t live a happy, healthy, independent, productive and meaningful life. The second seems to be someone who has achieved something extraordinary or done something that seems amazing because they have a disability.

Just because I have a visual impairment and love taekwondo doesn’t make me extraordinary people. It just means I’m an individual who loves keeping fit in a way that involves me learning how to defend myself in a disciplined manner. I’m not extraordinary because I have a disability and have won medals at dressage events in the past. I’m not extraordinary because I’m disabled and managed to pass my degree with a 2:1 no, that’s extraordinary because I got a 2:1 in my degree and that’s it. I’m not extraordinary because I have a disability and have worked, no it’s extraordinary because I’m one of many young people in the midst of a financial crisis who was able to get a job in the first place.

Yes, my sight has presented me with challenges throughout my life and that will never stop but it doesn’t mean I’m not able to do the things that able-bodied people do at all. I just do them slightly differently. Does that make me an inspiration? No. Does that give you the right to look up to or down on me? Hell to the no, I ain’t got time for that bullshit. Does that mean you have a limited or skewed perception of people with a disability? Most likely. Does that mean you have had very limited contact or actual real-life interactions with living breathing individuals who have a disability? I would say that that is a big screaming yes.

The way you treat someone with a disability can be a real deal breaker for people who live with a disability. Treating us simply based on your own beliefs, thoughts and misconceptions are massively detrimental. Talk to the person like you would anyone else, get to know them for who they are before you start treating them as their disability. Ask appropriate questions instead of just living in your own sheltered world.

Lastly, even if it’s a subconscious thought that you’re not aware of don’t think that you’ve got it so much better than just because you don’t happen to have a disability.

Education for children with SEN or disabilities is taking a nose dive into the toilet.

Well well well. I can’t say that I’m surprised but it doesn’t mean that I’m not enraged by the topic of this article that I read. The Independent recently reported that SEN students in schools lose out as funding cuts mean schools are reaching a breaking point.

Many a time I have spoken or mentioned how difficult I found going through mainstream education during my secondary school years because of the lack of understanding around disability and specifically because I can only speak from my own personal experiences, visual impairments. Mainstream educators don’t appreciate that visual impairment is a spectrum condition just like ASD (Autism spectrum disorder). Not every child/young person will have exactly the same level of sight and not every individual will have the exact same style of learning. I should also mention that NO CHILD WITH A DISABILITY OF ANY SORTS likes to be told what is best for them because an adult thinks it might work.

Anyway back to the article. Members of the National Education Union have suggested that children with social and/or emotional issues are at risk of receiving little to no education, also that children with disabilities or specific Special educational needs are most likely not getting the support that they need.

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?

Now I left mainstream education back in the summer of 2007 once I had finished my GCSE’s. I can tell you, that I personally found the whole experience very lacklustre. I was never given the right materials in the right format in an appropriate time frame. I was always made to feel odd and out of place because of my disability and I never felt that I was particularly well listened to at all during the 7 years I was in mainstream schooling. This made me a bit bullyshy at times and, in my case, made me even less inclined to want to learn.

According to a survey in which 900 teachers took part, a whopping 54% said that they ‘have seen a reduction in teaching assistant support – affecting SEND provision at their school.’ This is an astonishing percentage and one that I find horrific because even in my day I found that I was often left without a teaching assistant to support me in lessons because another child needed them more or there was not enough staff in on a particular day.

This is truly terrifying because it means that a. pupils cannot build a proper working relationship with one particular TA where both parties know how each other work best and can get the best possible outcomes and b. the child is left in a really shitty situation because they are not able to access their learning environment or materials effectively and so their overall learning and the overall outcome is diminished even more greatly then it possibly was before.

This is one of the most disgusting things that were reported, in my opinion anyway. According to a poll of parents, nearly a quarter of children with disabilities or SEND are not even in school at all. All this is because of the general funding cuts that the education system is suffering from. However, if people with SEND or long-term disabilities didn’t already have enough to deal with the fact that so many children aren’t in school full time or at all is astounding. A good solid education is one thing that can see a child succeed and reach their full potential as they grow older. The fact that this group of children is so badly affected boils my blood. It’s just adding another straw to the camels back of what can easily be a somewhat bumpy ride for anyone who has a disability.

Mary Bousted who is joint secretary of NEU (National Education Union) stated, ‘If the true measure of a country is how it treats it’s most vulnerable, then this government is failing big time. Children with special needs are being let down.’

I have to say I very much agree with her on this one. Vulnerable children, whether they be from poor social backgrounds or children with a disability or SEN do need extra support throughout their school career and it’s truly shoddy how much they are being let down.

Obviously, it’s safe to say that this wasn’t the government’s true purpose of trying to save money in the difficult economic time we find ourselves in but why do vulnerable children who have the potential to offer so much to society inevitably have to be the ones to suffer from their tight pockets? Each and every child deserves the right to the best possible education out their regardless of their background or disability but it is them that are getting the shitty end of the stick.

Yes, these groups of children do need extra provisions that cost both money and time but that doesn’t mean that anyone has the right to take that right away. Children all need and deserve to learn in a manner that best facilitates their learning methods and by investing that time and money now will benefit not only the children but society as a whole in the future.

In a society where our disabilities already hold us back simply because of the stigma around our inability to carry out even the simplest of tasks in the workplace why run the risk of making things worse by making this new generation of children lacking in a well rounded and thorough education? It’s totally barbaric and inhuman in my opinion.

I would even go as far to say that it’s taking a million steps backwards into the dark ages and almost treating children with disabilities as nothing more than their disability. We have moved on from the time when children with disabilities were abandoned or sent to the poor house or locked in asylums just because they are seen as different or nothing more than a waste of space and a drain on society.

No just NO!!! With the right provisions and education every child can thrive, succeed and even exceed expectations so why deny that possibility?

We still have a way to go in seeing someone as far more than their disability. We are not just one thing that can be labelled and put into a box for your own sense of security and ease of understanding people. We are all individuals who have something positive to contribute to the world in whatever way. With the correct provision that is suitable to our own individual needs, we can do great things that push us to become even better people. Education is one of the most defining things in anyone’s life and that should never be to any lesser standard than would be expected for the ‘average’ child just because we are labelled as special needs.

Equality doesn’t work. Equity is the way forward.

Why should we, as a community, suffer because society deems us as incapable, inadequate or unable to perform even the simplest of tasks? Our ‘disability’ does not make us any of these things. Yes, it means we face different challenges in life but many of them are created by living in a world and society that does not accept and accommodate the needs of all individuals.

Society is still so caught up on this very narrow bracket of what is considered ‘normal’ and if you don’t fit into that then you’re screwed.

Simple, easy to use and find accessibility features such as wide doorways, ramps or lifts for people with mobility issues, hearing loops for those with a hearing impairment, larger and easier to read print for those who have a visual impairment should be common practice but are woefully lacking in today’s society.

All these and a myriad of other issues make accessing the general community a bitch for anyone who has a ‘disability’. Why should we have to suffer, not be able to access things fully and feel like we can’t exceed and succeed because the wider community can’t pull their fingers out of their arses and realize that not every individual is the same and not every person with a ‘disability’ has the same issues.

It’s all well and good saying that a building or website or whatever else is accessible but it’s not always accessible to every individual. Every individual with a ‘disability’ is different and has different requirements for what will help them be successful in life.

It’s time we stopped talking about equality and focused more on equity. I have a visual impairment and therefore can only talk about and come from my own personal experiences. Not every person with a visual impairment or is blind has the same level of sight or sight loss. So why should we be lumped into one box and treated the same?

My sight may be drastically different from the next person who has exactly the same condition as me. It’s unfair and rather debilitating to be treated equally to someone has the same ‘disability’ as me. My needs and requirements that will see me succeed and live the most independent life possible won’t be the same as the next person with a visual impairment so why do people still think that a one size fits all approach is appropriate? No that is what can hold many people back.

We don’t all find the same techniques or aids appropriate or helpful. We all have our own way of moving forward in an appropriate manner that suits us. It’s about working with the individual to find out what is the most appropriate and comfortable way to help them.

Storytime begins here … yay:
When I was in mainstream secondary school I was given a whole host of help that was completely inappropriate to my needs. For example, I was always made to sit at the front of the class and was constantly asked what coloured pen I could read on the whiteboard. This was completely inappropriate because even sitting at the front of the class I could not see the whiteboard.
The number of times the school thought it appropriate to just blow up a page from a textbook on the photocopier was ridiculous. This made trying to read the grainy, often fuzzy page really difficult. It was more of a hindrance than a help because more often then not half the page would be eligible because of the grayscale that covered up half the words. It also meant that I was lugging around massive amounts of paper and had difficulty trying to order them sometimes.
I was also given a note taker for classes. Helpful you might ask? not really more often than not I couldn’t even read their handwriting so what was the actual point in that? All these accommodations were the school’s idea of giving me an equal opportunity to succeed in my academic life. However, I think it did the exact opposite more often than not.

As someone with a visual impairment, it is massively important to get work in a format that is appropriate and EASILY readable. I never got that in mainstream schooling. They may have treated me with their idea of equality but it was not appropriate. They often tried to tell me what would work for me and bearly ever took into consideration what I wanted or needed so they did not treat me with true equity. As a result, I became very disillusioned with education and didn’t do as well as I could have done in my GCSE years. I mean I’m not gonna lie I managed to pass all the GCSE’s that I did do I even managed to get a double B in my English GCSE but that’s not the point. If I had been listened to instead of dictated to by adults who thought they knew what was best for me I could have done a hell of a lot better.

This all comes down to a horrible lack of education about the diverse differences in disability even within each different type of disability. I can’t strain enough how important it is to work with the individual person to figure out what works and doesn’t work for them. No one likes being told what they can and must use to help aid them in life. So why is it acceptable to say that something is accessible or falls under equality laws when it is ultimately detrimental to more people then it is supposedly helping?

There needs to be a massive change in the way society perceives disability in order to become more accessible and accepting of all people and one way in which this can begin is creating a positive and diverse outlook on disability within the media as a whole.

As we all know media has a massive influence on peoples thoughts and opinions so why not do everything in its power to spin disability in a positive light? Now I’m not talking about calling us all inspirational for being able to leave our front doors because that is complete and utter bullshit. No, I’m talking about making people aware that we are normal people living normal lives that deserve to be treated like normal people. Yes, we need certain accommodations to help succeed and reach our full potential but that should become a normal part of everyday life for everyone disabled or not.

It shouldn’t be a scary, invasive or difficult thing to achieve. It’s societies lack of understanding, willingness to change and horrible misconceptions and miseducation that leads to so much red tape and difficulties for those of us who don’t fit into a perfect, neat little box of normality.

Well, all I can say to that is we are all normal as societies idealogical and stupid thought process of what is normal doesn’t actually exist. We are all our own normal and shouldn’t have to be something different to fit into a horribly narrow ideal. We deserve respect and the proper aid that we need to be our true authentic selves.

Stand up to discrimination!

I recently read an article about the struggles disabled fans have, accessing live music events. According to the article a whopping 82% of disabled live music goers, according to a report carried out by Attitude is Everything, have difficulty booking tickets to see their favourite artists live.

This does not surprise me in the least. Limited accessibility tickets and long and convoluted booking systems, whether it is by phone or online means many people with a disability may miss out on an unmissable experience.

Not only this but, untrained staff and poor understanding of the wide spectrum of disabilities means many people don’t have the exact experience they may have expected when booking expensive tickets.

Back in January of this year a friend and I travelled to Glasgow to see Paramore at the SSE Hydro. We both have severe visual impairments and had luckily managed to get two accessible seating tickets. However, Accessible seating means sitting very far back in spaces that could have been better used by others with mobility issues.

Therefore it was a loose loose situation. We were so far back that we couldn’t actually see the band properly and two people potentially couldn’t go and see the band because we had those tickets.

All in all, every aspect of accessibility and the whole booking process needs to be revamped.

It’s unfair for people with a sensory impairment to be lumped into the same category as those with a mobility issue. Those of us with a sensory impairment need to be closer to the stage to fully see or have a better chance of actually hearing the band and accessible seating needs to be saved for those with a disability that affects mobility.

Now, this may sound a bit discriminatory but in all fairness, it’s the truth. Equality can only go so far. The term Equity is a much better word that needs to be thrown into the mix. So what do they mean and what’s the difference?

Equality means treating everyone the same and equity, in this instance means giving each individual what they need to succeed. Not everyone with a disability has the exact same needs. Therefore it stands to reason that we shouldn’t be aiming for equality but aiming for equity.

Take my experience of seeing Paramore. My friend and I were treated with equality because we had accessible seating but that was to our disadvantage because we did not get a good view of the band. If we had managed to get standing tickets and been shown to the front by standards we would have been treated with Equity because we would have been given the specific help that met our specific needs.

So when you hear arena’s or festivals talking about accessibility they are coming from an Equality standpoint because it is easier to set things up in this respect. I can understand that in short amounts of time with all the organisation that goes on in setting up a big live music event it can be easier to come from this standpoint.

However, it is to the detriment of many many people who have a disability and want to attend a live event. Equality for the disabled community is nothing more than society trying to show that it is being considerate of the needs of others ‘less fortunate than themselves’.

Why should we settle for second best when we should be striving for gold? We each have individual needs that cannot be pigeonholed. Why should we be dictated to by others who have little to no understanding or regard for our respective needs and issues?

If it were them in the same situation they would surely be kicking up a fuss about how unfairly they are treated so why should we sit back and take it? Equity is about understanding ourselves as individuals and respecting what we need to be able to succeed and enjoy every aspect of life to the fullest. We, as a community, should never be lumped into one box for the convenience of others but stand up and gain what we need and deserve in order to strive.