If I had a penny for everytime someone (the worst thing is that it’s not always a stranger) has either said “I wish I had my own wheelchair” or implied that I am lucky as the disabled seem to get all the best perks in life, I would be very rich. I do want society to be empathetic but when people actually want to get in your shoes, that’s a bit of a step too far. Disability is not a fun game that you can switch off when you’re bored of not being able to walk. There’s more to it than sitting in a chair all day.
It all comes down to ignorance and a fundamental lack of knowledge but that is not an excuse. People need to realise the life of a disabled person is not a bundle of laughs. Sometimes, depending on the circumstance, I have bad thoughts that make me ashamed. I wouldn’t actively wish a disability on my worst enemy but if the council are being obstructive about my care package for example, I begin to wonder how they would feel if an unfortunate accident left them or a loved one disabled. A dark thought, I know, but merely theoretical. I’m not really wishing bad health on anyone.
My point is that everyone should be made to feel what life is like for a disabled person, at least for a few hours. Obviously, it is impossible to fully re-create a disability and just sitting in a wheelchair probably wouldn’t be enough to make people realise the difficulties faced on a daily basis so clear guidelines would be necessary. For example when someone needs the toilet, they cannot just hop out of the chair and go, because I can’t. I have to use a bottle. They should also realise how uncomfortable cobbled streets are and what a pain it is when there is no dropped kerb near a shop.
I did actually suggest this format to a TV channel last year but they dismissed it and said the concept would never take off. I’ve just been thinking about the idea a lot recently because I saw a segment on This Morning, which was quite similar but focused on Schizophrenia. A celebrity wore headphones that were playing voices to try and give him an idea of what the condition is like. It was very interesting to watch and a real eye-opener for Jeff Brazier. I think embracing a disability for a day would give people perspective and make the world less ignorant.
Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons