Today is the International Day for People with Disabilities.
I think so often when you have a disability you're faced with so many different barriers.
I can't work, go to University, access certain places because it doesn't have the access I need like ramps or the aisles are to narrow, I can't get nearly parking or a space reserved for blue badge holders (and the misuse of these spaces). The list could go on.
I'm also faced with personal barriers in terms of the unpredictable and relentless symptoms that I face each day as well as access to care and support. Today I found out that I can't access the specialist falls clinic because I'm too young; they only take referrals to people over the age of 65. It's like I'm being told I'm young to have falls yet today I've fallen twice and once yesterday. I've also been fighting for funding for a care package (carers) for years and the care agency I employ privately have openly said that if I was older my case would be dealt with differently and many people involved in my care from my care agency to community nurses all say I need more care. There are also barriers to specialist care; I'm currently waiting and asking to be referred to a specialist M.E. team but we don't have one locally; for a while I've wanted and feel I'd benefit from hydrotherapy but again this is not something our local hospital trust has (though hopefully when I attend UCLH's hypermobility team's exercise programme I can get some hydrotherapy sessions but it would require a 6hr drive to get there but I feel lucky to be under their care). I've also been waiting over a year now for specialist funding for a place in neuro rehab in Leeds and I'm in the middle of everyone passing the responsibility onto someone else to get the funding requested.
There are also the financial barriers to having a disability - See Scope's 'Extra costs: The financial penalty of disability'. Yes you get a disability allowance (PIP or Personal Independence Payments) but it doesn't stretch as far as you think. Out of that come things like extra food money because I have to buy specialist free from foods because of allergies and intolerances, I go through extra laundry costs because of my incontinence, I have the cost to pay carers and if I could afford it I'd pay for more care than what I'm currently getting because its not enough and often I have to choose between leaving the house or get a wash and that shouldn't be the case, there's also cost of adaptive equipment that the NHS or social care don't provide and clothing and in winter the higher energy bills because you I need the heating on more because the cold makes my symptoms worse, or there's the cost of taxi's because I can't drive or use public transport. "On average disabled people face extra costs of £570 a month related to their impairment or condition".
There are social barriers. I'm mostly housebound so I don't get out much as I'd like to such as to be able to go to groups or see friends as often as I'd like. Letter writing is my way of connecting with the world outside.
I think a large part of the barriers I face is the invisibleness of my disability/illnesses. When you see me in my wheelchair or with my crutches you can see the wheelchair or the crutches but you don't see what's going on underneath and you don't see the unpredictable nature of my disability. One minute I can be fine; the next I'm unconscious having a seizure or double bent pain. You don't see that I struggle with my cognitive function or washing my hair or the energy it takes to simply get dressed each day.
So what can be done to breakdown these barriers? Make buildings more accessible and for staff to be trained in supporting people with disbailties, produce information in alternative formats easier to obtain, support disabled people to access the care and support they need regardless of where they live or their age and less of the 'postcode lottery' when it comes to health and social care, for the public to be more aware of the barriers faced by people with disabilities, such as by not abusing disabled parking spaces and to see beyond the visibility of a person's disability/illness, for red cords in disable toilets not to be tied up (!) and for laws and legislations to be changed and made. (The list could go on!
Despite the many barriers I and many other people with disability face I will not let it stop me or define me. I must simply fight on. There is more to me than my disability.