We had a brilliant day out yesterday with friends, Joshua and I went to the theatre to see a musical called ‘Club Tropicana’. It exceeded my expectations as it was not just full of 1980s music, which we were expecting, but it was a really funny panto-like show too. We had got seats at a good price, by going through a group that I belong to, of families with disabled, and ‘inspirational’ children. We met the organiser in the foyer to collect our tickets. Joshua was being difficult as he had rejected his wheelchair and was insisting on walking, which I usually prefer but when it is busy, the chair represents an easier option. But when we arrived at the theatre we were faced with a long queue and it became clear that he would not tolerate a long wait, as he began to try to kick out at strangers, so we created a ‘fast track’ system of our own and walked round to the front of the queue and down the steps into the theatre.
We collected our tickets but were told that we had to go back outside and back past the queue, to access the disabled/wheelchair entrance which was close to our four seats. Joshua began to object and tried to sit down, he thought that he had finally arrived at the venue and he did not understand why he was being taken outside again. We were offered lots of help as we both man-handled a bolshy Joshua outside, where we insisted that he need to get back into his wheelchair briefly. He was cross – I joke that he looks like The Incredible Hulk when he gets angry as his eyes blaze – and he stuck his legs out straight as I wheeled him round the building, as he hoped to target an innocent victim. But between us we negotiated our way through and to the back door,without hurting anyone, where we were welcomed and shown to our four seats . We were not at the end of a row but about three seats in and a lady with her carer were on seats one and two. We explained to them that we needed to get into the row before them, but they misunderstood and went into the row and into our seats. There followed a difficult few minutes trying to persuade them out of our seats and out of our way. Eventually they sat in the first two seats of the row, hoping that Joshua could squeeze past them and then they suggested that he just stay in his wheelchair at the end of the row! Finally they understood that they needed to move out of his way totally and we wriggled along the row to our seats with a great view of the stage.
By the time we had negotiated our way into our seats,we were exhausted and so it was really fortunate that it was a lively, funny show to keep us from nodding off! I began to ponder why the two ladies had made it so difficult for us, when the queue outside had been so accommodating. I came to the conclusion that they were simply not used to giving way or making allowances for other people, they were used to being the disabled party in need of assistance and yet Joshua’s need, at that particular time at least, was greater than theirs. They expected people to make way for them rather than the other way around.
Mostly the disabled community are very supportive of each other- as it tends to be us against the world – but I have come across this selfishness before. At school it seems that in some parents’ minds their need is greater than that of other families, as though there is an unspoken hierarchy of need . At school drop off/pick up times , in particular, some parents act as though their child’s physical disabilities have greater priority of, for example, a child with autism who is able to walk, but is therefore more unpredictable. This is ugly, selfish behaviour and sadly I think that is what was happening in the theatre too. Surely need should be based upon the individual situation as it varies and we should simply be more aware of others and what assistance they need and offer it where we can. Having a disability or being a carer of someone with a disability, does not give anyone the right to trample over others but we all need to co-exist and help each other whenever we can. When we understand how difficult life can be, you would hope that it would make us more , not less, accommodating.