I started this whole blogging thing with a bunch of ideas and the best intentions. Unfortunately life gets in the way and work gets busier so I need to apologise for not updating as often as I should and apologise to myself for not fulfilling the quota that I had imagined. One good thing about all this though is that it has shown me that although I don’t have much time to actually sit down and write the damn thing I am thinking about them all the time. So as soon as someone invents a way of extracting my thoughts directly into this blog we’ll be onto a winner!
Now I’ve got the apologies out of the way let’s get to the point, preparation. I am considered by many to be an organised person, if we are going for dinner it’s me who has booked the table, if there is an event I’ve probably had a hand in organizing it. I just can’t help myself! My job as a Talent Coordinator means I am organising and planning day in day out so it stands to reason that I’m good at this kind of thing but is that due to nature or nurture? Was I born organised or did I learn to be so due to my circumstances?
Having a disability, certainly a disability like my own which means I have a lot of independence and don’t need to rely on too many people that much, means I have to arrange and ensure that the world around me is going to work how I need it to. The world isn’t built for three foot seven inch Sam who can walk short distances but uses an electric wheelchair most of the time. Managing situations I find myself in and arranging them to meet my needs is often a job in itself but actually one that has become second nature. I almost do it without knowing I’m doing it now.
If I asked you to sit there and think about the list of things I might be talking about I’m sure you would be able to come up with a few of the obvious. Check a venue is accessible before booking a table or agreeing to meet there, is there an accessible toilet, how are we getting there and is the transport accessible. These are kind of key and although not things you would necessarily think about if you weren’t a wheelchair user, if you were with someone who used a wheelchair they might be the first things you’d consider.
As I said though, those are the obvious ones and the list for me is more extensive. Is the venue accessible? No. Is there a way we might be able to make it work for me? Maybe there are bouncers on the door who might lift my chair in for me. Or maybe we are going out with some of my friends’ lovely husbands and boyfriends who might help a girl out. Is there an accessible toilet? No. Are the toilets on the same floor so I can walk in and leave my chair outside? If they are upstairs, am I feeling OK that day to manage walking up the stairs? Will I even need the loo?!! How are we getting there? Can I drive or will I want to drink? Will it just be easier to get a taxi and will I need to pre book? If I’m getting a train there I’ll need to book assistance for ramps more than 24 hours in advance.
All of these and many more questions and answers happen in the flick of switch now with an instant plan sorted and arranged without me having to so much as make a decision but what if that wasn’t the case? Could I be inefficient, indecisive and shy to assert myself? Personally, no I don’t think so or at least I wouldn’t get what I wanted quite so often or have it done how I wanted it doing in any case. **that probably says a lot more about me than disability so let’s gloss over that one!!
This is all well and good and leads to me being in control of whatever I’m doing in the knowledge that I am able to do or go wherever I am planning to with most risks and problems pre planned for and averted but what happens when it all falls apart? This is where the idea came from for this blog. A few weeks ago (sorry, I did say I’ve been busy so this blog has been stewing up in my head for a little while now!) there was an occasion of crossed wires at work. A big meeting in London was planned that I wasn’t aware I needed to attend but my boss thought I knew she wanted me there. Skip to an early morning text and me jumping out of bed saying I’ll be there as soon as I can. Me getting to London means driving to the station, parking up outside, either having my assistance with ramps onto the train pre booked in advance or me sweet talking the station staff to do me a favour, train to London, get off train at the other end and get a taxi from the station to wherever I am heading to. It’s a process I do regularly and have got it down to a fine art so doing it at very last minute when I hadn’t planned on doing so isn’t outside of my capabilities or comfort zone. Fast forward to two minutes later when I realise that due to an unusually busy weekend my electric wheelchair’s battery had been run right down to the ground and as I hadn’t got home til late had decided to leave it in the car for me to bring into the house to charge the next day as I thought I wouldn’t need it.
Stressful. Times. Cue huge apologies and no way of making it to the meeting even if I had managed to sweet talk assistance at the station etc etc because my chair had literally zero battery. Ignoring the fact that I felt truly awful and the least reliable employee to have existed it made me appreciate a few things. One; that this doesn’t happen very often so maybe I should give myself a break. Two; the number of extra things that are on my check list of things to consider do make it that bit longer so it stands to reason that sometimes I’ll make the wrong choice. And three; I really am not lying whenever I say in a job interview that one of my strengths is my disability and how that has made me a very organised person both in my personal and professional life.
I’m not the only one I’m sure of it, there must be hundreds if not thousands of other people with various disabilities that have honed skills relating to their disability which can easily be translated into the work environment. And yet disabled people are still one of the largest group of people in this country that remain unemployed. It’s absolutely galling.
That’s a blog for another day though… xx