Post war history taught us that western civilisation’s broad sweeping mindsets held ‘the belief that individuals needed to adapt to existing environments and that wheelchairs were obstacles to participation, not steps and curbs (Tremblay et al. 2005:112). The late 1960’s and early 70’s saw action being taken for infrastructure to be adapted to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities and encourage inclusion. Visibly, there are obvious procedures and policies, ramps, and electric doors to demonstrate this progression, servicing the needs of the disabled population. However, these physical alterations only take into account the physical needs of those who they intend to assist. It would appear that post war perceptions are still engrained in our cultures social interactions; Double doors allow the required space for those with mobility issues, but still create a physical barrier to participation if passersby do not have the awareness or even consideration to hold one of those doors open, or if one of those doors is locked. Lowered counters in shops are more user-friendly for those in wheelchairs, but still negates inclusion if the sales assistant behind it talks over the head of the disabled customer. It is to this end that I tell my recent, enlightening experience of disability in the everyday.

Following a recent operation my mobility was restricted and I was in a wheelchair. Even though many theories, ideologies and stigmas apply to ‘disability’ in general, the experience is still very unique and individualistic, therefore this change in my body made me consider disability from a different angle (quite literally).

Enter shop → find product → go to cashdesk → pay →take product → leave shop.

A very simple process and one which I have never evaluated in terms of disability politics. Welcomed by the lowered cashdesk area I was ignored while the assistant finished her conversation about a girl or customer or “whatever”. That I could accept and ignore as a personality trait of the employee, what was incomprehensible was that even though the product was placed down by me, it was my mother (stood behind the chair) who received the eye contact and request for payment….

I regained the assistant’s attention by shoving the money across the counter at her. She did look at me then, but continued to offer a carrier bag, for the product now on my knee, to my mother once more.

This illustrates the existence of a reactionary culture and the undermining attitudes that are still imposed onto the disabled individual, but also the misconception that the disabled population whether physically impaired or otherwise have a mental incapacity. This is unarguably not the case and even if someone does have a mental/learning disability no-one deserves ignorance imposed upon them.

Secondly, it appeared that even though my disability had been heightened in terms of its visibility and restriction, it had the ability to make me invisible; whilst in a queue for theatre tickets, those who entered the building did not join behind me in my chair but formed their own. With this reaction it is apparent to see why disabled individuals are alleged as having an aggressive cheerfulness in overcoming [their] handicaps (Lindsay. 1966) and show ‘courage in the face of adversity’ (Marcus. 2002). Using good manners and saying “excuse me” doesn’t have an effect.

Since the update of the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 ‘reasonable adjustments’ should be made to services and premises to give equal access to disabled and non-disabled people, so when a lift was not in place in another store and a staff member overlooked my struggle to access the full service, I had to be left alone by my partner whilst he retrieved the desired product from the second floor. This supplied the unwanted ‘helplessness’ that is associated with disability.

So, this explorative experience shows the contamination of post war history, that existing environments need to adapt to individuals and the main obstacles to participation are other people’s perceptions and lack of awareness.

To conclude, this not a wholly condemning blog; people did open doors, people did move obstacles, people did talk directly, but like the rest of disability politics there is still a lot more awareness to be raised and distance to travel.