Saturday, 25 October 2014

Indoor pot holes, mobility scooters and the public perception of disability

I've read a lot about disabled people being dicriminated in the press.  If you use a mobility aid or claim disability benefits then you're obviously a faking scrounger who is too lazy to go to work.  I considered myself lucky, I'd never had any kind of comments like that made about me until I had a minor accident in my local Post Office

On Thursday 24th October I went into Worksop town centre with my personal assistant and two of my children.  I visited the Post Office on Newcastle Avenue.  Even though it's the main post office in Worksop it is actually a sub post office, a privately owned business contracted to do Post Office Ltd. business.

When I entered the shop I was surprised to find it in a state of disrepair.  Several floor tiles were smashed, with fragments of tile on the floor.  It looked dirty and untidy but I didn't expect what happened next.

I drove my three wheel mobility scooter across a rug on the floor when my scooter suddenly lurched forward and jolted to a halt.  I was stuck in a hole in the floor!  I eventually managed to reverse out of the hole and my PA lifted the rug to find a significant hole in the floor.  The tile was completely smashed the concrete underneath was crumbling away and there was gaping hole in the floor!  I was lucky not to be injured.

Thankfully my scooter was not damaged so I queued up at the counter, bought my stamps and asked the clerk if I could make a complaint about the floor.  She didn't seem that concerned and took my name and address to pass on to the owner.

I was concerned that someone might injure themselves falling in the hole, so when I got home I telephoned the Post Office customer services.  They basically told me the Newcastle Avenue branch was a privately own sub post office and not their responsibility.

They didn't seem keen to take any action about the hole so I telephoned the local newspaper, The Worksop Guardian.  I told my story to a reporter and I emailed him the photographs I'd taken on my phone.  Later that day the story was published on the Worksop Guardian website:

Woman on mobility scooter falls down hole in Post Office on Newcastle Avenue

Local newspapers are infamous for getting the facts wrong but I think they did my story justice, and they even spelled my name right.  I was pleased with the final paragraph about how the Post Office was now dealing with the problem.  That was the reason I went to the press, to get some action and to stop anyone else falling in the hole.

I thought I'd done my civic duty.  I thought I'd done the right thing.  I guess I was naive because I didn't expect the all discriminatory posts made by trolls on the Worksop Guardian Facebook page.  Here are a few of the comments:

The story about a hole in the Post Office floor had turned into an attack mobility scooter users and my motives for reporting the hole!

I was offended by the insinuations that I did it for compensation.  The thought never crossed my mind. I was not injured, my scooter was not damaged, I just wanted to warn people about a potentially dangerous hole in the floor that had been hidden under a rug.  Was that wrong?

I was disappointed by the attitude towards mobility scooter users.  When did it become acceptable to publicly question people's disabilities?  I appreciate it can be confusing for people when they see a disabled person walk a short distance and then get on a scooter.  They might jump to the conclusion they are lazy or even faking a disability, but the truth is that you don't have to be paralysed to use a scooter or wheelchair.

There are many conditions that cause significant pain and fatigue to walk more than a few yards, but it is also important to maintain fitness and mobility to stay healthy.  I walk as much as I can.  There are days when I can walk short distances and there are days when I cannot stand at all.  There are days I can get around on my mobility scooter and days when I am so ill I need to be pushed in a manual wheelchair.

I am not faking it.  I am not lazy.  I am struggling with several chronic health problems that make it difficult for me to stand and walk.  I struggle with pain and exhaustion every day and I am very disappointed that the general public see me and my scooter in such a poor light.  I wish I could educate these people on what me and other disabled people go through every day.

I shared my feelings on Facebook.  A good friend of mine reminded me, "Local paper comments are where trainee trolls go before they get a bridge to live under."

Always remember kids, don't feed the troll!

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