The Road to Recovery: Lots of lovely benefits?
My wife told me that so wondrous is the state’s largesse for wheelchair users that this is causing resentment among the able-bodied population. So much so that there have been incidences of attacks on the tube.
When she first told me about this I couldn’t quite believe it. I mean, the bankers who trousered six figure bonuses subsidised by the tax payer while they brought the economy down get a free ride (apart from people like me writing mean things in the press). But so juicy are disability benefits that they warrant physical chastisement from concerned members of the public.
Well, in the light of those riots perhaps I shouldn’t be that surprised.
And yes I have to admit that you do get some sweeties from the state when you are in receipt of a note from your doctor confirming that your mobility is constrained. A blue badge is a rather useful thing to have when it comes to parking, for a start.
But having carried out some research on the internet after Mrs Moore informed me that I could get much more, including something called a freedom pass which gets you free travel on the Capital’s extensive transport network. Yowza! Now I can understand why people get jealous and cross. Free tube travel in zone’s one, two, three, four, five and six! The world should be my oyster!
Except, of course, that it isn’t. The problem is there are only a handful of stations that have disabled access. So where you can go is actually rather limited. That’s not least because getting around London effectively usually requires several changes of line. And there aren’t that many stations with the correct facilities to allow you to do that if you’re stuck in a wheelchair, unless you’ve several hours to spare and are happy to take a magical mystery tour around various stations.
A friend recently got married in Northampton. Unfortunately I was unable to attend thanks to various wheelchair related issues. But when researching how I might get there, we rapidly came to the conclusion that the only possibility (without potentially putting my recovery at risk) was to hire a taxi, such is the state of facilities for the disabled on public transport. And the cheapest this could be done (including waiting time)? That would be three hundred quid. A lot of benefits, in other words.
I don’t intend to be seen as whinging. Let’s face it, if you’re going to end up stuck in a wheelchair for any length of time, there a many, many worse places than Britain to do it in.
But it remains that case that going anywhere with my family now, even when we are able to use the car, requires a considerable effort to be expended in thought and research before we get out of the front door. There are a plethora of questions that have to be answered: does the place, for example, have disabled toilets. What about parking. Does a sign saying it has disabled access really mean that or are there lots of tricky steps or tight turns.
Of course, there will come a time when all this will be a bad memory. I am, after all, learning to walk again. There may be another operation required to repair my damaged nerves and restore feeling to my right leg, which is to all intents and purposes dead below the knee. But there is, now, at least an end in sight.
When my legs are strong enough (and it is astonishing how weak they become after injury and three months enforced inactivity) I should be able to dispense with the wheelchair and frame which are currently my daily companions. And for that, I can count my blessings.
Still, becoming a wheelchair user is a sobering experience. And I can’t help thinking that it would benefit a few more people such as myself (after all as a particularly oily PR man reminded me this week, the Independent provides me with a platform) to try it out. Even better should they happen to be policymakers with real power.
It’s possible to do it too. My (brilliant) physiotherapist said that she had to spend a day in one as part of her training. She was shocked at how difficult it was (and admitted to causing havoc in a poorly laid out shop when she knocked a load of merchandise down). Such simulations can’t ever truly be the same as the actuality of life in a chair – when it comes down to it, the able bodied can call a halt at any time should they chose to do so or if things get too difficult. But, as my physio can testify, there a lot of people that might find the experience rather eye opening.Tagged in: disabled access, disabled parking, disabled toilets, recovery, rehabilitation, road traffic accident, RTA
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