"My disability doesn’t stop me wanting to be independent"
By Krystal, mobility aids service technician, British Red Cross
Last updated 1 December 2022
My name is Krystal, and I work as a mobility aids service technician, where I hire out wheelchairs and toileting aids.
Most of these are short-term hires to people who have suffered from accidents which have left them temporarily disabled, some of these are people waiting for long-term provision from the NHS and who are going through the process of accepting the fact they have a long-term disability, and some are people who want to help permanently disabled relatives attend events like weddings.
Part of my role is helping support many of these people with coming to terms with either becoming temporarily disabled or accepting and getting accustomed to the major life changes that occur when a person has to come to terms with having a long-term condition or a disability, with the language changing depending on how they view themselves.
This is something I have personally worked through in my own disability story, as I have a connective tissue disorder which makes me disabled. I find that my lived experiences can help signpost people towards services and help people to accept the label and identity of being disabled or having a long-term condition.
- Visit our 'Hire a wheelchair' page
According to Scope, the disability equality charity, approximately 21 per cent of all adults are disabled and approximately 42 per cent of pension-aged adults are disabled, with the number rising since the pandemic.
This has not only highlighted how unaccommodating the world has been for disabled individuals from an accessibility perspective, but also how difficult it can be to obtain mobility aids when necessary to have a good quality of life.
The word 'disabled' is often viewed as an ugly word and those who struggle with disability are often ignored when talking about it.
I have had times when I am sitting in a wheelchair and people will talk to my partner rather than me, or actively glance at me and then avoid acknowledging my presence.
I’d seen this behaviour when I was a healthcare assistant, prior to my condition getting worse. The awkward passing glances at my clients, glances that just emphasise how you’re different and how clear it is that people generally feel uncomfortable around you.
It was awkward enough then, and now I know how much worse it was for my clients, being a person who is “other”.
It’s ostracising feeling like you’re challenging the norm and interfering with people’s day by merely existing. This is “overt ableism”, or discrimination based on the protected characteristic of disability.
Assuming ignorance over malice when it comes to people treating me and my disabled friends differently can help me mentally deal with those behaviours, as they are most likely due to a lack of education and the stigma surrounding disability.
However, suggesting that I am less capable or “differently abled”, which is I term I find incredibly derogatory, rather than a person like everyone else who has difficulty accessing services and doing certain activities, puts a heavy expectation on me to accommodate my disability rather than society accommodating me.
IT'S OSTRACISING FEELING LIKE YOU'RE CHALLENGING THE NORM AND INTERFERING WITH PEOPLE'S DAY BY MERELY EXISTING.
Since becoming disabled I have realised how ableist I am against myself. This is honestly the most challenging thing that I’ve realised I must deal with as a disabled person.
My internalised ableism has a direct impact on my mental health and challenging these thoughts is difficult. Justifying that I’m not lazy for being unable to do the same amount of work as an able-bodied person is difficult, not only because I can’t get as much done as I used to, but also because I still hold myself to the standards that I had when I was more physically capable.
My disability doesn’t stop me from wanting to be independent, which is where mobility aids such as my walking stick, wheelchair, and shower stool help to grant me independence. I then apply my experience with using aids and understanding the impact they can have on quality of life to helping those who require support from the mobility aids service.
Examples of these services are a toileting aid, which provides dignity, independence, and control rather than having people support you to do something you’ve been able to do your whole life, or a wheelchair, which either aids or replaces a person’s legs when they are unable to go far and enables them to enjoy a full and enriching life, rather than sit around lonely in a post-pandemic world.
SERVICES LIKE OURS ARE VITAL FOR THOSE WHO ARE BOTH TEMPORARILY AND FULL-TIME DISABLED.
Without the use of a wheelchair, special events and day-to-day activities can pass people by, adding to the feeling of loneliness and otherness that a disabled person experiences.
Services like ours are vital for those who are both temporarily and full-time disabled; it allows people who would otherwise be sitting at home watching TV all day, to be able to take their dog for a walk or attend their grandchild’s wedding.
Why should someone who struggles to walk, or has low energy due to the strain of walking, be denied access to having a life?
With our service, it is easier for those struggling to get the help and support they need to pet the dog, see the grandchildren, and get some independence in their lives.
- Learn more about our mobility aids service
Keeping people moving
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