Saturday, 21 January 2017

Disability equality isn't always equal

This country (or in most cases, the world), is pathetic about disabilities and those who have them. I can only speak from my own experiences but I'm a mere drop in the ocean of those who basically get kicked in the teeth, even from services that are actually meant to help.

Case in point, my most recent experience which was the cause to write this post.

The parking on my street is a nightmare. It's so hit and miss, and no one cares. I've lived here for a year and a half and maybe half the time, I get parked on my own side of the street, and if I'm lucky (or it's well timed) I can park outside my own door. All the other times, I'm parked anywhere from on the other side of the road, to round the corner and down the hill. A lot of this is due to the fact my neighbours managed to all miss the parking portion of their driving lessons and forget any parking etiquette; they'll usually park as close to outside their own door as possible, ignoring where the other cars are parked. They sometimes block me in too. I should point out theres no markings on this road, which is probably one of the main causes for the shitty parking. But this bad parking means that people will often take up two spaces. And this isn't just a bad assumption of where others may park, they directly ignore where the cars are, refuse to line up and park bang slap in the middle of where two cars would comfortably fit. They're like those dickheads who park over two spaces in supermarkets cos they don't want their car dinged.

It might not seem much to you, but to me, when I'm tired, when I've been to the gym (which is considered essential exercise and physio, before you launch on me) or if there's anything in the car that needs bringing in, its a nightmare. It's just as bad if I'm leaving the house to go to the car. Especially in winter or any cold weather. If I'm going from a warm house to a freezing cold outside, it makes me cough so much I often can't start driving for several minutes. This obviously gets a lot worse when its added with trampling up and down hills to get to the car. I've sometimes actually been parked closer to John's parents house than my own, and they live a 5 minute walk away. I've often left my disabled badge on the dash to hopefully demo that I need the space, I figured it was easier than knocking on everyones door like some sort of Jehovahs Witness, and giving then a lengthy explanation on why I need to park there.

So I decided to apply for a disabled space marker. These aren't enforced; they're more like a polite request to say I need this space more than you. But I figured it was my best chance of actually being able to park near the door. This process takes 3 months and the form is fairly pathetic. They don't ask for any reasoning why parking is difficult or even ask to show proof of your blue badge (they do when you're approved, but I imagine asking to see it first may avoid any people trying to chance it?)

The process involves having someone from the council evaluate the road and see if you're too close to a junction or roundabout (this means an automatic no if its not safe, the road also has to be wide enough. These last two points meant I was refused a space outside the flat we previously had). If these are approved, then they will ask your neighbours permission. I am not kidding. They actually ask people who don't know whats wrong with you if they mind having a disabled space painted on the road.

I'm not sure how many it takes, maybe its a majority vote, maybe it only takes one person, but I was refused my space. All I was told that one of the consultees objected to it. I don't even know if they were told who was applying for it, because if so, surely that would sway their decision if they had a personal dislike for that person? I get on with my neighbours, that I'm aware of. While I hate their parking tactics, I've never banged on their door and told them to move. I've argued with someone on another street who had bonfires monthly to burn garden waste, which resulted in reporting him to the council as I couldn't leave the house when he did this. Luckily he hasn't had any fires since. I say lucky, I mean for him, as he could be fined up to 5 grand. Another neighbour asked me to stop coughing so loudly, and stared at me with a blank face before continuing to tell me, but the coughing is very loud and our houses are terraced, when I told him I had a lung condition so it couldn't be helped.

I have emailed the lady who I'd previously emailed asking for an eta on the result of the application, asking if the result can be appealed. I also gave some points to why parking is so difficult and how my neighbours have so little disregard, including someone 2 doors down asking me to move my car so a van could park outside this morning. I said yes before I thought - I can be far too polite on the spot would you believe! - but afterwards I thought of how I should have said no, and told him to move his small van and his wife's massive estate car, for once.

(I'm currently parked across the road and on another street. Go figure).

Obviously when this letter came through my letter box, I vented my frustration on social media. No one else seems to understand why the neighbours get the final say, and I think thats a very logical reaction. Why am I made to park further and further from my home because someone thought it would get in the way of them having a space? Why do people who don't know my health problems get to decide if I'm able to park close to the door or not?

It's not just parking that's hard. People stare at you for having a badge if you don't have some sort of obvious physical defect or aid, they glare at you for coughing, they argue at you for sitting somewhere they were about to sit, even though your back is hurting so much you're in tears and literally couldn't move any longer. They get annoyed at you for being deaf, they make things difficult when you mishear them, they think you're rude or being annoying when you ask them to speak clearer.

You get denied benefits because you 'look healthy', and without knowing your medical history, declare you fit to work, and you get denied a space on the bus because moving a buggy for your wheelchair is too inconvenient, or if you don't openly look disabled, they think you're just lazy (same goes if you don't get up out of a disabled persons seat for another).

In the past, I've been in a wheelchair and people speak over me, to the person with me, to ask a question I could answer. They grumble or stare in disbelief when I get out of the wheelchair. When people have found out I'm deaf, they stop speaking to me and speak to whomever is with me, and if they don't know I'm deaf but speak in a way I can't hear them (turned away, mumbling etc) they assume I'm rude. I've been spat at for parking in a disabled space and, yelled at while someone demanded to know if I'm actually disabled while they stared at my legs. I've also been told to move out of spaces for another person with a badge.

I'm so fed up. I'm this close to knocking on all the doors and asking. I have a suspicion on who could have said no, some are so lovely and they're literally the perfect neighbour.

However, people surprise you.

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