Ken Ebbens, Carers Council chairman, says there is still an ignorance surrounding ho to act around walking stick and wheelchair users
Two years ago this month, I became a carer much closer to home when my wife Val, badly tore her calf muscle playing badminton.
This meant that she had to use a pair of crutches and a wheelchair for many months; even today, two years on, she still needs the assistance of a walking stick.
Even though she is now improving thanks primarily to a fantastic private physiotherapist.
What I would like to ask you, the general public, the vast majority of whom are ‘able bodied’, is to give a little more thought when you see people who use crutches, walking sticks or a wheelchair, no matter what their age.
We all hear and read stories of how people can be unkind, unthinking or just downright ignorant with how they treat disabled people.
Like many others, Val and I thought we knew what it must be like in their situation.
However, you don’t truly realise how hard it is until it is you.
The enclosed spaces of shops and supermarkets are pinch points where people are too busy looking for their favourite yoghurt to allow a few extra seconds or a little space for the crutches or wheelchair, all too busy with what they are looking for.
Lifts are a great source of ignorance; when you see able bodied young fit men pushing into a lift in QA to go up one floor.
Meaning that my wife and I were not able to get on that lift in the melee of a busy hospital reception area.
People walk side by side on narrow pavements and force the crutches or wheelchair user to stop and feel ‘in the way’.
Of course, we are ordinary people who should not be given special privileges.
But a little thought goes a long way in not making disabled people feel isolated in the community, and remember that to be able bodied is a privilege not to be taken for granted.
However, some of the things we hear and see aren’t all negative thankfully.
A large group of ‘fairly well oiled’ youths were outside a pub when Val walked up, slightly nervous as to whether she would have to go around.
‘Let the good lady through, move over lads’ said one of the group and all did just that, wishing her good evening and opening the door.
It can be done, so please next time let that nice young man be you.
Any queries on disability please contact Lynne Rigby and her team at the Portsmouth Disability Forum 02392 815266 or www.p-d-f.org.