Feminism and disability

Intersectionality is a big trend in feminism at the moment.  It is a sociological concept which recognises that people can experience multi-faceted oppression.  For example a black, bisexual woman experiences oppression differently to a white, straight woman.  There are different levels of privilege in the world.  You can have two women who both experience gender oppression but one may feel that more intensely or differently because of their race, sexuality, class, disability etc.

The earliest academic work that I’m aware of around feminism and disability was about community care in the 1980s.  The main argument was that women (non-disabled) were getting a raw deal out of the community care acts.  The move from institutionalisation to living in the community was a major change and feminism didn’t seem on board.  In a nutshell, their concern was that non-disabled women were shouldering the burden of this.  The care they were required to give to disabled and elderly relatives meant that they couldn’t work.  They were demanding economical equality.  Which sounds fair enough.

However, this research and campaigning focused purely on care givers and at no stage included the disabled people themselves.  Arguments were made that perhaps disabled people should be returned to institutions and/or that disabled people’s benefits should go straight to care givers because disabled people weren’t responsible or able to handle this.  The movement towards carers rights (which I’m all for, when done right) relied heavily on the image of the dependent, burdensome disabled person.  In advocating for the rights of women and carers, the feminist movement further oppressed disabled people.

It also failed to acknowledge the complexities, many women who are disabled and receive ‘care’ (in whatever form), are also ‘caring’ for family members.  Think of a disabled mother – she is both carer and caree and therefore is completely disregarded by the model that feminists were using.

They also failed to look at the wider picture.  The narrative of disability and feminism focussed heavily on care, ignoring many issues which are more uniting than divisive such as improved public transport on the dark evenings, pressures to conform to a certain model of femininity etc.

“Repeatedly, feminist issues that are intricately entangled with disability – such as reproductive technology, the place of bodily differences, the particularities of oppression, the ethics of care, the construction of the subject – are discussed without any reference to disability.”

Rosemarie Garland Thomson

It’s not just issues of research and policy and ideology.  There are other issues which arise when discussing feminism and disability.  All the practical barriers which prevent disabled people from having the same daily experiences as non-disabled people still exist.

If I want to attend a feminist meeting I have to ensure that the venue is accessible (for me this means wheelchair access, for someone else it might mean a quiet venue due to hearing issues), if it’s in the evening I would have to attend in my pjs because of when my carers come.  There are barriers to information – if you can’t read well or if you can’t read heavy academic books, you are at a disadvantage.  If you can’t cope in crowds, you probably won’t be able to attend a march… and so on and so on.

And feminists, as people who live in our society, often have their own prejudices and assumptions about disabled people which are evident in use of ableist language and ignoring disabled people, their voices and their needs.

There has been progress and there are some great examples of inclusive feminism however I worry that there is also a hang up about calling out lack of intersectionality rather than addressing the issue of inclusively.  Not being an intersectional feminist is often used as an insult from one feminist to another.  And it’s great that we are noticing when feminism isn’t being inclusive but name calling doesn’t progress the movement.  And some people are so hung up on calling out none inclusive feminism that they fail to do anything about making the movement more inclusive.

How using an electric wheelchair can be exhausting (but I still love mine)

Having a disability can mean that simply going outside your home is more taxing than for non disabled people.

There are different things which take their toll for visible and invisible disabilities but for this blog post I am going to focus on my experience as an electric wheelchair user.

I don’t want this post to put anyone off using a wheelchair, they are great for enabling freedom and independence.  Rather I just want people to think about how they treat friends, family and strangers they pass in the street.

It starts before you even leave the house…

There is the planning required before you leave.  You have to ensure your chair is charged.  I can’t unplug my charger so I have to make sure that it’s unplugged when a carer is here.

You have to think about how you are getting to wherever you’re going.  If you want to go by taxi or train you have to book that in advance.  You can’t be a spontaneous wheelchair user unless you have a car…

You have to check access in advance and often this isn’t information available online which means you have to contact the venue which can take it’s own toll.

You have to get into your chair and in my case, most of the year get into my wheelchair cosy, which is considerably more involved than just grabbing a coat and walking out.  I also have a blanket which gets tucked in around me under the wheelchair cosy as I get so cold.

If you know the area, you have to mentally run through what you know about drop kerbs, pedestrain crossings, shop entrances etc.

If you don’t know the area you have to just wait and see which can be exhausting.  You’re constantly looking for drop kerbs and half waiting to get stuck on a pavement and have to retrace your route.

And then there’s illegally parked vehicles blocking pavements or drop kerbs.  Wheely bins and recycling boxes left in the way.  Yesterday (whilst I was running late for my art class) I had the triple whammy of a blocked dropkerb, a lorry unloading onto the pavement and scaffolding.  And I was made to feel shit because I wanted to get past.

You have to make sure other people do not walk into you as they stare at their phone because then they get pissed at you.  I have had someone get annoyed with me because my chair was quiet and she didn’t hear me coming.  I wonder if she’d like me to wear a bell round my neck?

You get stuck behind people who are weaving all over the path and ignoring your polite excuse mes.  As a wheelchair user, you can’t possibly be in a hurry.

And once you’re where you’re going, you have to ask shops to get out the ramp, if they have one, or strangers to reach things off the higher shelves.  If you try and go for a coffee, you often have to get help moving chairs or carrying drinks.

If there isn’t an appropriate toilet, you mentally have to pace your fluid intake.  If there is an appropriate toilet, you have to go through the process of getting out of your wheelchair and accessories and back in again after.

You have to deal with all the comments from strangers.  “Witty” jokes, inapprioriate prying questions, being told how brave you are etc.  You have to deal with the “Does s/he take sugar” approach*.  You get stared at and pitied.  You get utterly unhelpful suggestions to cure your disability.  And offers of prayer.

You are crotch and bag height and have to avoid getting hit.

You have the perfect opportuntity to take all your belongings out with you – just load up the back of the chair – but unless you can easily get in and out of your chair, you can’t actually reach any of your stuff.

Obviously you get cold because you are sitting still and you get wet when it rains if, like me, you can’t put on your own wheelchair waterproof.  And the rain drips down the chair and down your back and onto your seat…

None of this is to say I don’t like my electric wheelchair, I love it, just be aware of all the mental and emotional energy it takes for me to leave the house.  If I say I’d rather meet you for coffee at mine than go out, it’s not because I don’t want to do that interesting thing you suggested, it’s just that sometime the task feels too great.

And this is just the wheelchair related aspects of leaving the house with a disability.  And I’ve not even touched on the coming to terms with needing a wheelchair side of things…

*People talking to the person with the wheelchair user about the wheelchair user instead the wheelchair user themselves.

Attitudes towards disabled people

I live in a bubble.  Most of the people I talk to live in a bubble.  We surround ourselves with people with similar views, values, thoughts.

But we need to get out of our bubble from time to time or we miss some of the major problems in our society.

I’m willing to bet that almost everyone I know considers themselves to be accepting of disabled people.  I am willing to bet that almost everyone I know considers disabled people to be of value.

However…

“A poll in June 2010 by the leading social care organisation Turning Point of over 1,000 members of the public found that nearly a quarter of those polled believed that disabled people should live in institutions, and nearly one in ten that they should be cared for out of town, in a secure hospital. One-third of those surveyed believed that disabled people could not live independently or undertake employment.”

(as quoted in Scapegoat by Katharine Quamby, I couldn’t find the original report)

Another survey, four years later found that:

Two thirds (67%) of the British public feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people.

Over a third (36%) of people tend to think of disabled people as not as productive as everyone else.

Over four fifths (85%) of the British public believe that disabled people face prejudice.

A quarter (24%) of disabled people have experienced attitudes or behaviours where

other people expected less of them because of their disability.

Over three quarters (76%) think of disabled people as needing to be cared for, and 13% think of disabled people as getting in the way some or most of the time

Just a third (33%) of British people said that they would feel comfortable talking to disabled people, with many worried that they will seem patronising or say the wrong thing

2014 report from Scope

Two thirds of people wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to me.  One in ten people want to lock me in a secure facility outside of town.

WTF?!?!

And these are real people.  People who exist outside my bubble.

But sit them down at a table with me (preferably a table which hides the wheelchair and splints) and I really struggle to see how they’d then think I should be hidden away in the countryside.

13% of people think I get in the way… I have to say, I think they get in my way more than the other way around…

Again, as quoted in Scapegoat:

A recent poll from the charity Scope found that nearly 40% of people who are not disabled and do not have a disabled family member do not know any disabled people [that they are aware of…].

Only one in ten British people has ever invited a disabled person to their house for a social occasion, and only one in five has had a disabled work colleague.

(italics mine)

From my own experience I’m regularly treated as stupid, unable to communicate and childlike.

I have had carers who have obviously felt superior to me simply because they have better use and control of their limbs.  One of them talked to me using baby talk… (and nearly got a kick in the face when she tried to put on my “sockie wockies”…)

In shops, I am regularly ignored whilst strangers talk to my friend or carer.  The assumption being my wheelchair makes me unable to communicate effectively.

Strangers speak to me loudly and clearly, if they speak to me at all.  And they assume that I am public property.  They have a right to ask personal questions about my disability.  They have a right to move my wheelchair without telling me or asking me.

I had one guy try and help take off my coat.  I didn’t even know he was behind me.  He didn’t say anything just grabbed my sleeve…

I am routinely ignored and stared at in equal amounts.  I am pitied and praised, by strangers, simply for living.

Where do these attitudes come from?

For a more comprehensive answer, try a book like Scapegoat.  But for a quick run through of possibilities…

It’s not long ago that disabled people were locked away. Out of sight out of mind.  So society hasn’t had long to get to grips with, and understand, visibly disabled people.  The move away from institutions was around the 1970s and 80s.

There is research that disability hate crime is linked with poverty and deprivation.  Pressure on resources (which is especially high in poorer areas) leads to a pressure to find a scapegoat and disabled people often find themselves at the bottom of the pecking order.

A mix of government pressure on people to work and stigmatisation of people who do not work as well as propaganda which perpetrates the myth of the benefits scrounger.  Again, disabled people are at the bottom of the hierarchy of benefits claimants.

Attitudes may arise from, and crimes may be committed out of, ignorance, prejudice, power and fear of disability.  Becoming disabled can happen to anyone and thus disabled people make none disabled people face their own mortality simply by existing.  We’re powerful beings!

There is a weird jealousy of the ‘privileges’ of being disabled – disability benefits, blue badges, adaptations and people assume that disabled people are getting given things left,right and centre which is so far from the truth.

Images portrayed of disabled people tend to be unfavourable – whether it’s a film which uses disability as a shortcut for saying bitter and evil (think captain hook), or charities displaying us as pitiful and needy in order to raise money.  Even when they are more positive, such as the paralympians, they are not always helpful depictions – we can’t all be paralympians!


If you happen to be one of the 67% of people who feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people, please reflect on why.  And think about what you would say.  Asking about the disability is really not necessary.  Try the weather or a grumble about the length of the queue. 

Things which make my day easier

Someone recently found my blog by looking for “ehlers danlos can’t open jars” and I hope they found some help (try dycem jar and bottle openers).  I wrote a post in 2014 (2014, can you believe it?!) with some tips for stuff which really helps me. Anyway, a lot has changed since then so I wanted to write an updated version.

Collection of drinking vessels
a collection of my cups, a cup cover and one of my hot drink straws

If you find this helpful, do check out the 2014 post as it all still holds up.

  • Tablet and tablet stand – these were included in my last post and I still love my tablet and use it so so often throughout the day.  It’s my contact to the world.  It’s my books and my storytellers.  It’s my calendar.  It’s my notebook.  It’s my teacher.  It’s my alarm clock.  It’s my tv.
  • Pillows – find pillows that work for you.  I have two standard bed pillows and a, rather pricey but worth it, U shaped pillow.  It’s filled with beans so it squishes and my shoulders have dislocated a lot less since I got it as they are now supported at night.
  • Mattress raiser – I got mine through the local council.  Basically it goes under your mattress and allows you to raise the head end of the bed like a profiling bed would using a remote.  This makes it so much easier for me to get in and out of bed, more comfortable when I’m in bed but wanting to sit up and it’s easier for my carers to get me out.  The combination of this plus my mattress topper means that I have king size sheets for my double bed.  Much easier for my carers to get on and less likely to twang off in the night!
  • Bed wedges – there are lots of different options, I have one which supports my knees and ankles
  • Duvet raiser thingy which keeps the duvet off my feet (the weight of my not very heavy duvet is enough to hurt my ankles and dislocate my toes).  I have my thingy attached to my bed using a strap which goes round the mattress and I have a blanket pegged over the top, round the sides and the end of the bed so my toesies don’t get chilly!
  • Overbed table – I got mine for a bargain price of £3 at my local second hand furniture place.  It gives me a place to put things like meds, my tablet etc so that they’re essentially in my bed but not going to fall prey to my tossing and turning.  I have a tray on top of mine which has the advantage of making it look less clinical whilst the edges stop things falling off.
  • Key safe – this means that my friends and carers can let themselves into my flat if they know the code to the key safe.  In my old flat I kept my spare keys in a combination lock locked shed.  It means I don’t have to get out of bed to let my carers in and it’s there in an emergency so other people can get into my flat.
  • Cutlery – I can now only use my bent spoon to eat, anything else causes too much pain or is impossible.  You may find spoons easier than using a knife and fork or maybe just need a thicker handle.
  • Plastic crockery – this is lighter and obviously less breakable.  I have some nice bits from Cath Kidston, paperchase and I got some in the BHS closing down sale.
  • Cups and drinking accessories (what you don’t accessorise your drinking? how last season are you…?!)
  • Trolley – this lets me move a lot of stuff from room to room at once, reducing the need for multiple trips as well as reducing risks of dropping things and lessening the pain in my hands
  • Plug pulls – a little bit of plastic which attaches to your plugs to make them easier to pull out, genius!
  • My pouch – I love my pouch.  It holds my tablet, my money, my keys etc.  And because it isn’t an actual bag, it squishes down beside me in the wheelchair so I can get to the important stuff.
  • Hairbands – especially wide fabric ones and headscarves are perfect for bad hair days, weeks when you’ve not managed to wash it etc.  And dry shampoo is also helpful here!

I’ve included links to help illustrate what I mean.  I don’t get any money from the companies and obviously you should shop around and find what works for you.  You may also be able to get some of these things through your local community equpiment service (in the UK at least).

 

Save

Disability and poverty

The links between disability and poverty are complex but they are very connected.

Disability causes poverty and poverty causes disability.

Disability is one of the key indicators for living in poverty.  In 2013, it was estimated that 40% of disabled children and a third of disabled adults lived in poverty in the UK.

This is a pretty bleak post but I think it’s important that people start thinking about the details. 

Living in poverty is awful in many many ways but government policies and people’s attitudes towards poverty are disabling people as you read this.  And more than that, they are making disabled people more vulnerable to futher disability. 

Unless we look at the different factors, risks and influences, we will not be able to stop this cycle.

Disability causes poverty

This side of the circle seems more obvious or more intuitative I think.

Being disabled is expensive

Life costs £550 more on average a month if you happen to be disabled (Scope).

Worklessness

You may not be able to work which leaves you dependent on benefits or possibly a pension for your income.  In my case, I get a pension and some Personal Independence Payment.  But because my pension is above my allowable cost of living, anything over £12,000 goes straight on my care.  Thus meaning that despite paying into my pension, I still find myself below the minimum income standard (for a non disabled person).

In 2016, single people need to earn at least £17,100 a year before tax to achieve the MIS, and couples with two children at least £18,900 each. – Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Work hours

If you can work, your disability may affect the hours and types of work you’re able to do and thus restrict your income.

The same is true if you have a disabled child – there are appointments to go to etc and if you’re on a zero hours contract then you have few rights.  Also if you have a disabled child, you may (you shouldn’t, but you may), find childcare costs are higher or you just can’t find someone to look after your child (again, you shouldn’t but…).  You may end up unable to work because of your child’s needs.

Relationship stress

Having a child with a disability can place stress on the parents relationship and relationship breakdown can be a factor in causing poverty.

Reduced educational opportunities

Time out of education, due to ill health or appointments etc, can impact on a disabled child’s educational attainment which can then affect earning potential as an adult.  As can other barriers to education.  Perhaps your local school doesn’t have wheelchair access so you are forced to go to a different, lower quality but level access school.  Or your school has poor support for dyslexia etc.  All of this will effect your performance and hence your job opportunities and earning potential.

Infrastrucutre

The infrastructure also plays a part in work and living costs.

Inaccessible work places mean that disabled people don’t have the same opportunities as none disabled people.  Yes, employers are expected to make reasonable adjustments but there isn’t very much an office on the third floor of a very old, tiny building are going to be able to do to get my wheelchair to the office.  There’s also transport issues – if you can’t drive, you’re probably reliant on public transport to get you to work which again limits which jobs you can consider.  You may be unable to move home because of limited accessible housing so you have to look for jobs on your doorstep.

Ever tried getting across London in rush hour?  Now add in a wheelchair… Firstly that would be painful and it’d take longer and there’s the stress of the crowds.  If you want to use the tube, depending on which stops you needed, you’d have to get assistance to get on and off…  And then there’s all the tube stops which are still not accessible…

If you need to get to a medical appointment but the bus or train isn’t accessible or isn’t reliably accessible (think only half the buses having access), then you can find yourself forking out for a taxi just for the peace of mind.

I’m attending a free art class for people with mental health issues and whilst it’s only the other side of town, when it starts to get cold and icy I know I will have to pay the £10+ in taxis to attend.  I can’t get the bus because the bus route means I’d basically have to virtually get to the venue before getting on a bus.  And I can’t wait around in the cold hoping for a bus to arrive on time and with the wheelchair space free.  The cost in terms of my health make that a no go.

Attitudes

Stigma and prejudice also affect disabled people’s affluence.  If you go for an interview and the interviewer assumes you’re incompetent because of your disabiliy, you’re unlikely to get the job.  If you have a job and a prejudice manager, you’re probably more at risk of getting fired (even if it’s an unrelated reason).  If walking down the street means you get spat at, you’re probably not going to be especially keen on walking to work every day…

Poverty causing disability

“There is a strong link between povety and Special Educational Needs (SEND). Children from low income families are more likely than their peers to be born with inherited SEND, are more likely to develop some form of SEND in childhood and less likely to move out of SEND categories whilst at school” – Joseph Rowntree Foundation

If you’re living in poverty, you may find yourself at risk of disability for a number of reasons.

Environmental

For example, a damp home, an unsafe step etc increase your risk of breathing difficulties or a bad back.  There’s also the stress which a poor living environment can cause.  You may find that your area has higher pollution rates or higher crime rates, both of which have potential to cause disability.

Learning  and development

If a parent is working all the hours they can then they have less time to support their child’s development and learning and possibly less time to notice any developmental delay and hence are less likely to seek advice or support.  Or be able to seek advice and support if they want to because such professionals work 9-5 when a parent is also likely to be working…

Financial

Money is obviously a big part of this discussion.  Lack of money brings with it stress, inability to provide everything your child needs, buying cheaper and less nutritious food etc…
You may also end up working multiple jobs which is going to put it’s own pressure on your body and increase your risk of pain, RSI etc.
If you can’t afford to go off sick then your bad back gets worse and worse.  If you can’t get time off work to see a dr, your illness gets worse and becomes something more disabling.
Depending on where in the world you live, you may not be able to afford to seek healthcare at all.

Healthcare

Reduced access to preventative healthcare and reduced access to medication etc increase risk of preventable illness or exacerbate the effects of illness.
If you are unable to access healthcare (whether it’s the cost of healthcare, the cost of getting to your healthcare provider or not being able to take time off work), you are increasing your risk of disability.  If you can’t get your child immunised because of the logistics of doing so, you may inadvertently expose them to risks.
Being born into poverty increases your chance of being born early and being born underweight, both of which are risk factors for disability.

Stress

The stress of living in poverty inevitably impacts on mental health and poverty related stress can result in family breakdown which can be a cause of disability or SEND.
Children who grow up in low-income households have poorer mental and physical health, on average, than those who grow up in better-off families.

Intergenerational factors

A parent with a disability has a greater chance of living in poverty which means their child has a greater chance of having a non hereditary disability than their peers.  And so the cycle continues…

I’ve had a brief look at the UK here but the picture is often bleaker in other countries such as America and developing countries.

Retirement and me

I am a huge believer in sharing our stories and in doing so helping other people to see that they are not alone, that there are ways through difficult times…

So with that in mind, here is the story of me and my ill health retirement.  Or at least the story to this point in time.

I have a condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.  In a nutshell, this means that I am hypermobile, which causes joint and muscle pain, full and partial dislocation of joints and exhaustion.  It’s a genetic condition so it’s been with me all my life but I was probably about 21 or 22 when it started to interfere with my life.

My hands have always experienced the most amount of pain and this obviously isn’t very helpful if you have a desk job.  I had a fantastic manager who ensured I got the support I needed to continue with my job.  Initially, this was an access to work assessment which resulted in a number of recommendations for ergonomic equipment, a special chair and special pens.  This really reduced the amount of pain that I experienced at work.

As time went by, my pain increased and I think I had five different access to work assessments to ensure that I was getting all the support I could to stay in work.  It was a job and a team that I really loved and I didn’t want that taken from me.  Eventually, things got too much for me and through tears I had to tell my manager that I could no longer work full time.

I reduced my hours to four days a week which helped, initially.  Over time that too became exhausting and I reduced my hours again to three days a week.  The next step was working one of those three days at home.  And then that became too much.

It took a lot to admit to myself that I could no longer work.  I think it might have been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  The next thing I had to do was tell other people.  After much deliberation and procrastination, I emailed my manager.  It was too hard, at that stage, to tell him face to face.

I’ve always worked.  My dad is a farmer and I can’t remember how young I was when I started to help out.  I started work in a newsagent’s the weekend after my 16th birthday.  I worked full time the summer before and during my time at university.  After graduating, I had about a month of unemployment, followed by temping for seven months, covering sick leave for five months and then starting work for what would turn out to be my final employer.

I worked for my final employer to six years in numerous different jobs but with the same supportive manager.  By the time I retired I was managing the team.  I owe a lot to my team and my manager.  They all went well above and beyond to support me to continue to work.  Without them I would have had to have retired much earlier but because of them the decision to retire was so much harder.

Interestingly, whilst a google search for coping with ill health retirement provides limited information about the emotional side, a search for forced retirement is slightly more fruitful.  I was adamant that I would not be forced into retirement.  This was a decision that I wanted to make for myself rather than have somebody else thrust it upon me.

I imagine the emotional turmoil from a forced retirement would be very different to one you choose.  Although I say choose, it was a choice made with very tight constraints around it.  I am aware that if I hadn’t chosen retirement at some stage it would have been forced upon me.

Returning to my story, having told my manager, I then had to approach HR about my options and the process.  I had a lovely conversation with one of the advisers who set out the different ways this could go and answered the questions I had.  Luckily I was in the pension scheme which turns out to have been one of the best decisions in my life.  I was quite worried because I had only been in the scheme for two years, having had not been able to afford the loss of income previously.  She reassured me that this didn’t matter, we would apply for ill health retirement, I would be assessed and depending on my level of ill I would find myself in one of four scenarios:

  1. I would be assessed as fit to work
  2. I would be assessed as unfit to work but likely to return to work within three years
  3. I will be assessed as unfit to work, unlikely to return within three years but likely to return after that
  4. I would be assessed as unfit to work and unlikely to ever return

Depending on how I was assessed would obviously change the outcome financially.  If I was assessed as permanently unable to work, I would get a pension which will be worked out as if I had worked till retirement age.  Obviously this was the desirable, and as far as we were concerned the most appropriate, outcome.

Several months later and I had finally received the outcome.  In my case I had been assessed as unfit to work permanently and my pension was based on my full time earnings (because I had had to reduce my hours because of ill-health).

In so many ways I’m lucky – I’ve got financial security (although a lot of my pension now goes on care), I can choose what I do with my time, I don’t have to worry about restructures and I have lots of interests.  I knew I wouldn’t be short of things to do however, the reality is, when you have perhaps forty years ahead of you with nothing in them, you can get overwhelmed.

I officially retired at the end of May and at the same time, my door openers were finally fitted to my flat, meaning I could leave by myself!  Unfortunately, a lot of things were tying up for the summer at that point… Adult learning courses, groups etc were all taking a break…

So, now it’s September and things are starting up again and I am hopefully constructing myself a routine.  I have hydrotherapy starting, I have signed up for a weekly art course and am looking at other groups and courses.  I am hoping by the end of the year I’ll have a good idea about how much I can do in a week and have some kind of balance in my life.

Wheelchair walks!

Firstly, I know it’s not going for a walk when I’m being pushed but going for a roll or a push sounds stupid to me. Please do suggest better alternative language though as saying I’m going for a walk makes me feel like I have to explain that I’m not actually walking… The pickles of language… 

I’ve been on a couple of woodland walks recently (which require driving to as opposed to walks round my local area) and wanted to write a bit about how they fare when you’re in a chair.

For context, because both of these required driving to, I was in my manual wheelchair and I can’t self propel at all so my carers have to push me.

Dalby forest

£8 per car, no disabled discount…  This does not endear me to them. Especially given there are limited accessible paths…

We followed the Ellerburn Red Trail which was described as being suitable for wheelchair users (actually it was the only trail I could find that was described as such and again, this makes me annoyed at the £8 fee – able bodied users have access to the entire forest for their £8 a car…).  It wasn’t too bad but the path was quite bumpy and in one part a bit overgrown and I got plants in my face…

Other than a brief bit of river, there wasn’t very much of interest on the route…

DSC_0176e

However it does have disabled toilets (not great ones…) and a cafe.  There were also picnic benches with wheelchair spaces and a lovely man offered to sit on a wall just so I could use it (I didn’t take him up on it, that felt mean, plus I was cold and wanted to be inside…).

Moorlands nature reserve

But this, this was amazing!  There are no toilets, no cafe, parking is on the side of the road but it was free. And the path was much better, I didn’t get leaves in my face (although there were a few spiders webs instead…). There was lots more to look at and it was so quiet. I’m definitely going back with a picnic or a flask of hot chocolate (depending on the season). It’s also a lot closer to York which is important when I’m paying 45p per mile to my care agency.

I was so suprised at how accessible it was!  There was a kissing gate to get in but it was fairly big and I’ve seen a review on Euan’s Guide of someone in a mobility scooter going.  The path was mostly made of tree litter so I can imagine it might be harder to get round if it was wet.

We went round in about an hour which was a good length of time (given I tend to get care in blocks of three hours) and if we’d stopped for food or drink or whatever we could easily have been there much longer.

Dogs and bikes aren’t allowed because it disrupts the wildlife and we only saw one other group of people!

Unlike Dalby Forest, I think you could easily go back time after time and see new things each season, like the vast amount of Rhododendrons!