On the disability-themed messageboard where I spend far too much of my time, we’re discussing car use. A member of the board has put forward the theory that some disabled people claim they need a car for disability-related reasons, when actually they’re using this as an excuse (because transport in their area is accessible, or similar) and actually just want their car for convenience sake.
This is irritating me. There are a whole number of reasons why disabled people need cars – at least as many are there are types of impairment and ways people are affected as a result. I can only talk about my situation. But I know how much easier my car makes my life, and how it’s all-but-impossible to get very far without it.
For example. I am trying to get to the British Library as much as possible in the next few weeks, because my dyspraxia means I need to start my reading list now or I’ll never get through enough of it to pass my course. I live quite near to the BL, and it should be easy to get to. But since I find buses so hard to use (and I have other access issues at the library itself), and I only get a few hours of PA support a week, in order to go by bus I have actually been sacrificing showers and decent meals so I can take someone with me. This is, let’s face it, ridiculous.
So I’m considering what my other alternatives are, given that parking is massively restricted around there. And all I can come up with is that I go on crutches, walk *much* further than is healthy for me between the bus stop and the library, and spend the next day (or two) in bed. This would certainly save the planet better than getting dropped off in the car by The Girl, or similar. But I don’t see it as an acceptable alternative, because I need my energy for other things (like those showers and meals). Non-disabled people, who in this case could take the inaccessible tube, generally have FAR more choices about how they get to places, and they don’t have to lose half the week in recovery from such a simple journey. Yes, it can be inconvenient for them too that car-driving and parking are regulated in London. But it’s much more of a problem for those of us whose transport options are limited.
And then people say to me “You don’t need a car in London. Transport is accessible there.” And you can probably see why I get pissed off by this. I really, really do wish I could do without a car. I hate driving, and I lived perfectly well without a car for many years (and did a lot of five-mile walks, which might be partly responsible for some of my impairment now). But the complications and limited choices of transport now make it too difficult *not* to have a car as an alternative.
I used to be quite vocally ‘green’. I was never a big campaigner, since my campaigning energy generally gets all used up on more immediate things, but I was good about my own use of energy. I switched off and unplugged devices. I did a lot of hand-washing, and only put very large loads of laundry in the washing machine. I barely used the central heating. I recycled absolutely everything that could be recycled. And I didn’t have a car. But now, I discover that these things are really very tricky to do quite so well when you’re low on energy, or have specific disability-related needs. Kate Ansell does a much better job than me at explaining why, in her Ouch article ‘How Green is my Disability?’, in which she pointedly says: “It’s amazing how many Green organisations will scratch their head, shuffle their feet, and tell you that they have never done any work specifically on disabled people and the environment … which is a shame because, hell, if you’re anything like me, you’ll really need the advice.” I want to be more green. I want to recycle everything I can (but I don’t always have the energy to put into separating recyclables and other waste – though I try). I want to turn off appliances more (but the last time I remembered to unplug my mobile phone charger, I fell over – but I try). And I really, really want to drive less (but another temporary PA has just told me she won’t be able to carry on helping me, and the car is therefore my only way to get to a place with a pint of milk today – but I will try to stagger there on the crutches if I can face it). Green and disabled. Is it even vaguely possible?
In not-entirely-unrelated news, I’m reading Allyson Beatrice’s ‘Will The Vampire People Please Leave The Lobby?’, a fantastic memoir of Buffy fandom (made more fun by the fact that I remember much of the online and some of the offline fandom events she describes). It was a birthday present from the wonderful Lisy. It is making me seriously miss Buffy fandom and the Bronze (our old official bulletin board for all discussion Buffy-related). These days, I mainly post two places – the BBC Ouch messageboards on the topic of disability (which can get serious and wearing), and the Ship of Fools posting boards on the topic of religion (which can get serious and wearing). Both places also have great capacity for fun and laughs. But I’m remembering the Mentally Diverse Morning Crew (TM me) and our British-and-Australia-based complete randomness, back in the days when I actually was indeed very mentally diverse, and the UK Posting Board Fan Party (I only made it to one, but have some awesome friends from it) and other fan meets, and my unbelievably in-depth two-year-long discussion with one friend about whether Angel was responsible for his crimes committed as Angelus (I was studying English and therefore had nothing better to do with my time), and all sorts of other Bronze-based fun. I had a birthday party a couple of weeks ago, and a fair number of former Bronzers turned up. This led to reminiscing about such odd things as The Time They Were On The Big Breakfast With Amber Benson, and I remembered with amusement (as Allyson points out in the book) that it’s still not quite socially acceptable to explain at parties that you met through a internet board that discussed a TV programme about vampires…
So, as great as it is to have two online posting boards that I completely love, it’s just not quite the same as when everyone *just got it* at the Bronze. As much as I love all science fiction and fantasy telly, nothing else has inspired the same levels of fandom discussion and friendship, either for me or for lots of others among those old BtVS fans. Lisy mentioned yesterday that there’s a new Joss Whedon show on the way soon (with Eliza, no less). Maybe that, or something similar, will bring us or other like-minded cult/sci-fi/fantasy fans together in a similar way. Or maybe it won’t, and I’ll keep on using the net to have deep, slightly irritated thoughts about the social model, and process theology, and the nature of the disabled community, and why churches aren’t more welcoming to people who are different from the norm, and why on God’s earth shouldn’t women be bishops, and inaccessible transport. But today, mostly the last of these.
To end with a bit of fun: the lovely Linz, over at Living With Fibromyalgia, has tagged me for a 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Me Meme. I think I’ve done this quite recently, but have thought of a few more, so there’s just five. Apologies for repeats…
1. I’m a huge fan of most TV-based science fiction and fantasy (which, thanks to this post, you are probably now aware).
2. I’m thoroughly addicted to Kraft ‘Mac and Cheese’, that American aimed-at-kids stuff that comes dried in boxes. The Girl brings it back for me when she goes to visit relatives in the US. She bought me six boxes for my birthday. I was overjoyed.
3. The Girl and I share a common Massive Pet Peeve about non-badge holders parking in blue badge spaces. It comes from when I was already mobility-impaired but didn’t yet have a badge, and refused on principle to park in blue badge spaces. We have reported people to the local council, put sarcastic notes on windscreens, and recently The Girl blocked an extremely rude offender into a space in a supermarket car park while she ran off to find a member of security staff. It was a fantastic moment.
4. I like pretty mobility aids. I own three colourful walking sticks, three pairs of crutches (one foldable) and a green wheelchair called Luna (I used to have a blue powerchair called Marvin too, but there was no more space for him, so we found him a new home. I hope he will be happy there).
5. There is currently a gazebo in my garden.
By the way, Linz’s blog is a fantastic source of FMS-related research and information, which I can’t recommend highly enough. Bookmark it! Happy Tuesday, people.