Thousands of people in the UK suffer with a disability. The common misconception is that a disabled person is in a wheelchair. So if somebody asks me ‘What is a disability?’ My answer is ‘a condition that makes everyday activities difficult that able bodied people do without a thought.’ Such as walking, talking, eating, washing, dressing yourself etc.
Even though public places are trying to be more disabled friendly, are they doing enough? Some non-disabled people complain about there being too many disabled spaces in car parks. Some might say that there are more than enough facilities to accommodate a disabled person’s needs. From the point of view of a disabled person such as me, more could be done.
I suffer from a medical condition called Myotonic Dystrophy. Never heard of it? It’s a hereditary condition that gets progressively worse the older I get. Some people aren’t even aware they have it. Myotonic Dystrophy is a form of Muscular Dystrophy, a disease that affects all the muscles in the body including the heart. I thought that my muscle spasms were normal. When I couldn’t release my grip or my tongue went stiff whilst reading aloud in class, making my speech unintelligible I thought it happened to everyone. When walking to school one morning my ankle gave way causing me to fall. I used to fall a lot as a child, once when I was ill, the doctor noticed all the cuts and bruises on my legs. He thought I was being physically abused by my parents. I have frequent falls, some of which have been potentially serious. Once in Manchester city centre I fell over backwards and banged my head on the pavement. Two women I’d never met helped me up and took me to a nearby cafe.
Throughout my 39 year life I’ve had these problems. I now walk with a stick. Before that I was walking home from college one evening and I decided instead of the tram to take a taxi home. As I got in the driver said ‘you’ve had a good drink love.’ I was completely sober having had no alcohol that day. Another time I was walking out of a disabled toilet and an old man said ‘you’re not disabled.’
I am very lucky in some ways I have very caring and helpful family and friends. I also have a carer who is also my boyfriend. He accompanies me to medical appointments and takes me out in the car. He works full-time as a Fee Earner at Woodward Solicitors, then comes home and looks after me. He takes care of most household chores leaving me to do the less demanding jobs. Without him I wouldn’t have been able to do a degree at university or visit lots of great places. Carer is definitely the right word for him, he cares not just for me but for people in general. He wants to do everything to the highest standard and is a bit of a perfectionist.
So next time you see a person staggering down the street or somebody seemingly able bodied walk out of a disabled toilet, don’t judge. Spare a thought, that person might be disabled.
Emma Jane Lyons BA (Hons)
Emma graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2013 having completed her creative writing degree after 6 years of part-time study. She was diagnosed as suffering from myotonic dystrophy in 2003 whilst working at Withington Hospital.