I’m not very well – I’ve got tonsillitis again. Yesterday my doctor prescribed some more antibiotics and I went with Poppy to collect them from the chemist.
The pharmacist, who’s served me many times before, knows I’m able to speak for myself and hold an intelligent conversation. Despite this, she gave all the information about my medication to Poppy. Sadly, this isn’t altogether unusual and happens in all sorts of situations, so I wasn’t surprised.
But I was surprised by what she said to Poppy next: “I know she wouldn’t anyway, but she mustn’t have any alcohol with this medication.’ How would she know that? What gave her the impression I’m not a massive party animal or a wine buff?
The most likely answer is probably my wheelchair. She’d made assumptions about my lifestyle and abilities based on how I get around. This is one small example, but the feeling of being judged and sidelined is all too familiar.
In the last two weeks the Paralympics has meant a dramatic increase in the visibility of disabled people in the media and many commentators have discussed the long-term impact the games will have on attitudes to disability.
I think the games could leave an important legacy and one that’s way more interesting than a sporting stadium or local amenity. They could lead to a community that makes far fewer assumptions about disabled people – and that would a truly remarkable legacy.
For this to happen though, the focus needs to shift from ‘inspirational’ stories about overcoming impairments to ones that acknowledge and question our preconceptions of disability. Attitudes can change very quickly, but for a lasting legacy from the Paralympics we need to create social and physical environments which have far fewer barriers and far less discrimination.
I’ll drink to that.