by Louise Jensen
A few months ago I had a rare evening out with my partner at the theatre. We managed to park directly outside the door and as I knew our seats were not far away I decided to be brave and leave my crutches in the car to save cluttering up the aisle. Holding onto his arm for support we made it to our seats and for 45 minutes I completely immersed myself in the ballet and pushed my pain to the back of my mind. During the interval I decided I needed the toilet.
My partner helped me to the disabled toilet on our floor as all other toilets were down two flights of stairs. When I came out however, there were two elderly women with walking sticks who took one look at me, jumped to completely the wrong conclusion and severely reprimanded me for having the gall to use the disabled toilets when there was obviously nothing wrong with me. Assuming these ladies were not super-grannies with x-ray vision to see my bones, or psychic powers to sense my pain levels how could they possibly know what is or isn’t wrong with me?
Now I admit I am a rather funky looking (if I do say so myself) mum with nothing noticeably wrong with me. I have all limbs, no disfigurements and am young, oh ok, youngish. If I am not in my wheelchair or using crutches no-one would guess I have any health problems. However it both astonishes and dismays me that people can be so judgmental towards those with ‘hidden’ disabilities.
Situations like the one above are sadly all too common, (I have frequently been shouted at using my blue badge) and the quandary is always how to react to it. I actually do not know any language foul enough to rival the women at the theatre (who said old ladies were sweet?) and it is not in my nature to do so. I always find education the best form of defense but sometimes you do not feel like justifying yourself to total strangers and nor should it be necessary to do so.
I did consider getting copies of my MRI scans and a brief medical history printed on flyers I could hand out when challenged but then thought this may be a tad extreme!
There are approximately 11 million disabled adults in the UK. Out of this number less than 8% of disabled people use a wheelchair. As not all disabilities relate to discernible mobility problems, it can be incredibly hard to judge whether someone has the ‘right’ to class themselves as disabled and neither should anyone try to do so.
So to all those narrow minded, intolerant individuals, I would say walk a mile in my shoes, but considering I can’t walk a mile in my shoes, (or any shoes for that matter), try to be more forbearing, failing that, please don’t be judgmental.
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Louise Jensen is an award winning holistic therapist. A regular writer, Louise has overcome living with a disability and has 12 years of experience helping others to heal. Louise recently co-created The Happy Starfish, an online community dedicated to celebrating health, happiness and peaceful living.