Firstly, sorry for not posting so much recently. I guess everyone has been busy with Christmas/Family time etc.
Talking of Christmas, I hope everyone had a good one. If you struggle at this time of year (I know many do, including myself at times) I hope you saw twitter. I was thinking of you. And still am.
I hope Santa was good to you all. I was a very lucky girl. I got a new laptop, which will be wonderful for all the blogging (and hopefully vlogging) I plan to do in 2016!
I thought for the end of the year I’d end on the happy note of discussing things we’ve done (despite having a disability) that we’re proud of. It doesn’t have to be in the last year. Just your proudest moments that you would like to share with us.
I have come up with my top five (in no particular order):
1) Passing my driving test – Yes, I have Cerebral Palsy, but I can drive 🙂 It took me a few attempts to pass, but I got there. I was so so happy (as everyone is when they pass), it gave me the independence that I so desperately longed for. I passed my test in a standard, automatic car. I also have a keypad (with buttons for indicators, lights etc. on) and steering ball attached to the wheel. That’s how I control the car as I can only use my right hand (along with right leg for accelerator and break).
Two years ago, I got a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) on the Motability Scheme. It is a Fiat Qubo and I love it! The back is adapted so it has an electronic ramp that opens and closes using buttons on the key fob, so I can drive in and drive whilst still sat in my wheelchair. Now I can be truly independent and go shopping or visiting friends on my own, without needing somebody to get my chair in and out of the car for me 🙂
2) Going Away to University – I have a psychology degree, it was tough at times, but I managed it. I have letters after my name: Louise Brookes BSc (sounds good, right?!) I achieved my degree at Loughborough university in Leicestershire and I lived away from home for three years during this time. Something that society (and probably even my parents and maybe myself initially) wouldn’t really expect from a girl who uses a wheelchair. I was able to live in Loughborough thanks to the wonderful help I received over the three years from a number of Community Service Volunteers (CSVs). This was a scheme that the university used to find students carers (instead of using a care agency). This meant my carers were my age (likely on a gap year before going to university themselves), wanted to go shopping and to the pub with me, and it was so much fun. Even though we rarely see each other these days, I’m so thankful that we’re still friends and I keep in touch with them even though some of them live in Germany and America! Some of the girls may even read this (the joys of modern technology and social media, eh?!).
So, to all the girls that helped me live away from home during my years at university: Thank you for helping me gain independence. I am forever grateful, and I Love You All!
3) Flying to America – I was invited to one of the CSV’s wedding in 2013 and I was so keen to go. However, I’d never been on a plane before and I knew my wheelchair would make things more difficult. Initially, my parents were completely against the idea and said it wouldn’t be possible. What they (and probably me) didn’t realise was how good my powers of persuasion were. It was a month before the wedding and I was shopping with my Dad. I asked if we could go into the travel agents to ‘hypothetically’ price up the cost of flights to Seattle the following month.
An hour later, I had booked flights for Dad and I, We were going to the wedding!! I had such a wonderful 12 days, it’s a time I will never forget. Thank you to my friends for inviting me to the wedding; my other friend and her family for letting me stay at their house over there, and mostly to my Dad for making the trip possible. I just now need to persuade him that it’s time to visit again soon! 😛
4) Travelling Alone – I’m sure most readers will know this, but for those of you reading that don’t have wheels, using public transport when you have a disability is a pain in the neck! On the buses, you have to hope the bus has a ramp; that the driver is kind enough to put it down for you, and that there are no buggies taking up the designated wheelchair space. It’s not great having to manoeuvre into the space backwards, avoiding a pole, with other passengers watching your every (wrong) move either. Oh, and if you want to travel with a friend who also has wheels, you’ll have to go on separate buses because there’s only room for one wheelchair per bus.
There can be no such thing as a spontaneous train ride, because train companies ask that you call up to book assistance for your journey at least 24 hours in advance so that staff members can get a ramp in order for people in wheelchairs to board and alight the train. Even then, sometimes they forget. It’s a bit of a hairy moment waiting to see if staff turn up with a ramp at the station you wish to get off at, and if they don’t you have to shout an innocent passer-by to find a member of staff for you (all before the doors close, which would cause you to carry on and miss your stop). And yes, I have been left on a train before. I had to get off at the next stop then get the next train going back in the opposite direction.
Despite this, train staff are almost always there and they are very polite and helpful. So, my chair does not stop me travelling the country to visit friends; go back to Loughborough; go to see West End shows in London, or to travel around for work. And, if there’s already somebody in a wheelchair in the space I booked in standard class, I get a free upgrade to first class (free drinks, food and WiFi) so it’s not all bad.
5) This blog. I’ve been wanting to write a blog for years. Friends had them when we were younger and were constantly telling me I should start one, but I never knew what I’d write about.
Initially, I wanted ‘Head Over Wheels’ to be a dating site for wheelchair users. Then I wanted it to be a more general discussion forum for those of us with wheels; but after some discussion with a friend who designs websites, I decided to start with a blog as this will be easier to moderate and will hopefully be a good starting point to gain readers/contributors. Maybe this time next year I’ll be writing this post on a forum where we’ve had lots of disability-related discussions. One day I hope to do video interviews with wheelchair users to share their stories and advice etc. too. Fingers Crossed.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. Feel free to email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share things you’ve done despite having a disability that you’re proud of. Or comment underneath. It would be great to get a discussion going.
Wishing you all a very happy and healthy New Year!