On The One Show on Thursday 20/2/2014 night was an article on discrimination against wheelchair users who wanted to use taxis. Having been a wheelchair user for many months following my massive stroke of 2008 I am very keen on this continuing problem in the UK.   The following chapter is adapted from my book:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bloke-Stroke-David-Allen-ebook/dp/B00B4YM1BC.  Half of the proceeds from this book will be split between Southampton and Poole Hospital. The first saved my life and the second gave me back my quality of life. If you live in the south hopefully you won’t need them, but chances are you will have family and friends that will.

 Disability

I used to be Chairman of the Broadstone Chamber of Trade and Commerce:   www.broadstonetrade.org.uk

Whilst in this post I was involved with a local group, ProDisability; Poole Rights Organisation on Disability.  They were established in December 2002 to promote the rights of disabled people.  The Disability Discrimination Act 1995, DDA, is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which makes it unlawful to discriminate against people in respect of their disabilities in relation to employment, the provision of goods and services, education and transport.  It is a piece of legislation that promotes civil rights for disabled people and protects disabled people from discrimination.

When ProDisability first started up they had a special launch at Bournemouth University, inviting many local dignitaries, including Annette Brooke, our local MP.  This provided an interesting exposure to the world of the disabled.  Wheelchair users account for only 8% of the registered disabled community.  It is only because they are so visible that everyone tends to place an unfounded prominence on their part.  There are many other disabled people who are not so visible who have conditions that make life difficult eg speech & hearing conditions and learning disabilities.

This was graphically displayed when at the launch of ProDisability I was introduced to a young chap who was profoundly deaf.  He had with him a “signer”, who acted as a translator for the conversation that we engaged in.  When the conversation was finished the girl just disappeared; like a ninja.  Her job was finished and she just left.  During the conversation it was very difficult not to address the signer as opposed to the young man.

The main speaker at the event was an epileptic who had a very dark sense of humour.  In the audience, about one third were disabled, the rest not.  He told various stories that were testing the reaction of the able-bodied people.  He started by saying that we were not too bad in the UK, providing goods and services for the disabled population.  But this had come about only through hard campaigning by the disabled community.  To see what the UK was like in the 1980s he said go to France.  He and his partner, a wheelchair user, had just returned from a trip to Paris.  The only place they could find a disabled toilet was half way up the Eiffel Tower!

He then told a very funny story that you were not sure if it was politically correct to laugh at, (but you will).  In the 1980s the disabled community was trying very hard to improve the awareness of their needs.  To do this, they would often try civil unrest as a means of getting public attention, similar to the ideas of passive resistance employed by Ghandi in India preceding the country’s break with the British Empire.  They were once having a demonstration in London, in Parliament Square.  They would lie in the road at zebra crossings, to block the traffic to highlight their cause and the need for lowered kerbs and access at the crossings.  One particularly large lady had  wiggled herself out of her chair and was lying in the road.  The disability group had done their homework and had invited the press and TV along to cover the event and raise the public profile of the disabled community.

There were two young police officers present who were not sure of the best way to deal with the situation; Parliament Square was rapidly grinding to a halt. They decided that the lady had to be moved as she was successfully blocking the traffic.  So, one officer took hold of her arms, the other officer took hold of her legs, the idea being simply to lift her and move her onto the pavement.  Except that no one had told the officers that she was a double below knee amputee.  The officer at the bottom end was left holding a pair of legs!!  This was a very amusing story that painted a great picture, but was it OK to laugh out loud?  I have tried unsuccessfully to find this on YouTube.  If anyone has a link to it please pass it on.