This afternoon at the adventure playground we had our end-of-year party for the children. We made decorations and gingerbread biscuits, had a feast, and played party games.
While lots of the other staff were setting up the party I sat on a sofa in the main entrance, with my new wheelchair beside me, and did some work on my laptop. It was a calm spot amid all the bustle. Before long I was joined by one of the young people who volunteers at the Kart Track. He’s about fourteen and though we’ve spoken many times before we’ve never had a proper chat.
We started to talk about my wheels. He was very impressed with my chair and politely asked if he could have a go. I said yes and he listened attentively as I explained how it worked. He was really interested in the design and the ways in which it differed from other wheelchairs. He glided around the room, staying within sight of me as requested. When I eventually needed to use it he brought it back straightaway. He’d clearly enjoyed the ride and was so captivated by the chair that he said he was going to ask his mum for one for Christmas.
I’m used to people being interested in my chair, but what I particularly enjoyed about this response was that as well as being into the design he also appreciated what it meant for me. His fascination was strangely reminiscent of the toddler in the doctor’s surgery earlier in the year.
Later on we started talking again and he asked me some questions about my experience of Tourettes and disability. One thing he wanted to know was “how long I’d had the tag of being ‘disabled’?”. I said it was interesting how he’d phrased the question, and told him about the social model of disability – explaining that I’m not disabled by my tics, but by the way things are set up without allowing for them properly.
He went on to tell me about his own experiences of stammering and the difference other people’s reactions made to him. I really enjoyed our conversation – it’s not the first thoughtful exchange I’ve had which has started on the subject of my wheels.
I love my new chair, not just for the autonomy it’s giving me but also for the discussions it’s prompting.
“Blizzard of bearded nuns.”