Sometimes in life, we’re diverted onto a path we didn’t expect to be on. That’s my experience of disability. I chose a village to live when I moved up to the North East as a balance to my career, thank goodness! I say “thank goodness” because I’m now adapting gently, with the help of a community I had lived in for 4 years, driving in and out to work but not really engaging.
Sedgefield is a beautiful place. The mixture of old and new buildings give it character, but some throw up challenges for wheelchairs, scooters and rollators (walkers). Staff everywhere are helpful and all my experiences are positive, but there are some points that may interest or surprise you. You might think “Oh I understand that too” if you use a pushchair, so I’m making a few requests on behalf of pedestrians who use wheels to help them get around.
Please consider dropped kerbs when you park. We need them to cross the road and it isn’t helpful if they’re blocked. Walking to the next one may be really difficult or just too much on a bad day.
If you park on the pavement, is there room to pass? When you look at the gap, the question to ask is ‘Can a disabled person get through there?’ not ‘Will a wheelchair fit through?’ My control/strength/co-ordination is not the same as yours.
If you’re a business owner, would you look at your layout with fresh eyes please? There are some that we can get into but not look around because the stands are close together. If we can’t see it, we can’t buy it, and we’re there because we’re shopping. When I’m pushing my rollator I can’t push a shopping trolley or carry a basket, so I may be balancing; I drop things - I’m sorry.
If your premises has a step and a door closer, it’s impossible for me to get in without help. If the door is held open I have a chance, weather permitting of course.
Honey is my assistance dog and is mostly welcome, but I have been told she isn’t allowed in by two staff members who were unsure even when I explained politely. Sometimes staff training is missed or needs delivering again.
One tearoom helps me with a particular table and offers help pouring. Some teapots are heavy, I always appreciate that. Sometimes I order a cup of coffee to avoid spilling tea. If you think it isn’t an issue, imagine going into your favourite pub, and the pint of beer you want is too heavy to hold. To save embarrassment you order a whisky, because a small glass is easier to hold. It’s a drink, right?
Thank you for your help, for parking a few feet along, holding the door or smiling when I delay you because I’m slower than you; for reading this article, for helping to socialise Honey by saying hello and making a fuss. If you do it you will know she loves it! We can’t solve every challenge, especially those in older buildings, but we can see those who are trying and I’m always happy to help too.