That awkward moment when… the station attendant follows you into the loo – #EndTheAwkward

Guest blog by 35-year-old Sam who lives in St Ives, Cambridgeshire with her husband and three children. Sam has symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), meaning the muscles that hold her pelvis together are too relaxed and she needs crutches or a wheelchair to get around. Here she shares some of her awkward stories as part of our End the Awkward campaign.

That awkward moment when…

PeoplMother and daughter standing together in a garden, the mum using crutchese want to fix you…

When I’m using my crutches, virtually every day someone will ask me, “Oh what have you done?” usually in a very sympathetic voice. My reply is always the same “I haven’t done anything. I have an unstable pelvis which is a permanent disability”.

People are just taking an interest and they don’t mean anything by it. But sometimes I feel like being mischievous and saying “I was awful in a previous life and I’m being punished!” Of course I never do!

My daughter gets really tired of people asking me about my crutches. So for Christmas she bought a white t-shirt and customised it to say, “Yes, I use crutches. Get over it!” It was very sweet of her.

The helpful staff follow you into the loo…

I was at King’s Cross station and needed to use the loo. A helpful member of staff opened up the barrier for me to get through to the accessible toilet. He also came round and started pushing me, which was kind but not necessary because I can self propel my chair.

We got to the accessible toilet and he opened the toilet door. He then pushed me into the toilets and we were both in there together, when the door closed behind us we looked at each other like, “Oh right, now what?”

He very quickly got all flustered and said, “Oh right, thank you!” and left. His heart was in the right place, he was trying to be supportive and help me. It’s just slightly uncomfortable being in a toilet with a stranger!

The whole world knows you’re disabled…

I remember one occasion when we went to the cinema and the queue to get in was massive. A member of staff came over to me and asked if we would like to go through straight away so that I could sit down. I thanked her and said “yes please”.

We started to walk past the queue and we could hear people muttering “where are they going? Why are they getting through?” So the member of staff proceeded to shout so that all of the queue could hear, “she’s on crutches!! She’s using crutches!!”

I was pretty sure nobody in that queue had a sight impairment and could probably see I was on crutches. That was a pretty awkward moment as there were about 200 people staring at us!

People would rather talk to my husband…

Sam smiling with her husband, both holding drinks
Sam with her husband Will

My husband, my three children and I were in London for the day and wanted to go to a special restaurant for lunch. I called beforehand to find out if it was accessible and they informed me it was and reserved us a table

We arrived and went to the maître d’ where I explained I had reserved a table. She then looked at my husband and asked him if we could use the stairs.

So I answered, “I can but if it’s at all possible I’d prefer to stay in the chair. The stairs a bit steep.” She looked at my husband again and said “That’s fine. I’m just going to call someone who will take you to the lift.”

The disabled access is past all the bins…

The disabled access was in a completely different place to the non-disabled access and it meant we had to leave the children in the restaurant whilst my husband and I were escorted to the right place.

This was outside the restaurant and a bit further down the street, past where all the rubbish was stored.It absolutely reeked and the staff member escorting us was very apologetic!

When we reached the lift it was one of those old fashioned service ones with metal doors. On our way down you could hear the staff at the bottom shouting, “Someone in a wheelchair is coming! A wheelchair’s coming!”

Obviously the member of staff was mortified but as the whole thing had felt a little like we were in a comedy sketch we couldn’t help but laugh!

Sam with her husband, two sons and daughter

You don’t get searched like everyone else…

I’ve noticed that whenever I use my wheelchair at an organised event, I never, ever get my bag searched. When my cousins and I all went to see the Spice Girls, they each in turn had their bags checked but for some reason I didn’t!

We all had bottles of water and my cousins were told they couldn’t take them through to the arena, however the member of staff bent down to me and said, “Oh, you can take your water through”.

It’s an interesting insight into other people’s awkwardness around disability. The fear of offending a disabled person is worse than a fear of a bomb going off – I find that absolutely fascinating!

Do you have an awkward story to share? Submit your awkward stories, and we’ll publish our favourites on our blog and social media.

Find out more about how Scope is ending the awkward this summer.

Exercises to do at your desk

This September, we’re asking you to get a little more activity into your day, and raise funds for Scope’s work. Sign up today for Steptember and get ready to get active! Here are some exercises you can do at your desk to boost your step count.

There are so many articles out there about different ways to work out at work. We’ve scoured all of the articles to find the best exercises you can do at your desk from every source possible. And we’ve tried to make sure all of these can be done without standing.

1. Stretch

Forbes includes this exercise as one of their 10 best on their website and we think it’s good to start with a stretch. Sit tall in your chair and stretch your arms towards the ceiling for starters. You probably already do this exercise. Then, take your left arm, reach across your body and grab the back of your chair and turn your torso to the right to stretch out your spine. Repeat this with your right arm turning toward the left.

2. Arm pumps

WebMD has a series of great exercises, but most of them involve getting up from your seat. If that’s not an option, you can try arm pumps. If you have any items on your desk that can act as weights, this can help. Hold your arms up at right angles on each side of your head and straighten them out. Try that as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Then you can either rest for 30 seconds, or tap your feet on the floor football drill style during that time. Repeat this 3-5 times.

3. Single arm raises

Men’s Fitness recommends a series of workout tips for sitting at your desk, but a lot of these are definitely for the seasoned professional used to gym jargon. This exercise though, is fairly simple. Place your chair against a wall and lift your left arm to shoulder height. Turn your palm facing the wall and push against the surface. Try to hold this until you can’t anymore, or for 15 seconds. Then repeat this on the opposite side.

4. Bicep building

Another tip from WebMD, this will allow you to strengthen your biceps and stretch your back. Put your hands on your desk, somewhere you can hang on. Push your chair back until your head is between your arms and you can see the floor. Then pull yourself slowly back in. Do this 15 times.

5. Hidden leg raises

HowStuffWorks has a series of secret workouts you can do at work if you don’t want anyone to notice. One of the best ones we found is a series of leg raises you can do under your desk. All you have to do is sit in your chair, hold your ab muscles tight, lift one leg toe the height of your hip and hold for 10 seconds, switching to the other leg when you’re done. If raising your leg isn’t an option, consider just tilting your body to one side and using your core muscles to hold the position for 10 seconds, and then switch.

6. Ab clenches

Wisebread makes a fantastic point in that some of these exercises might make you look a little silly at your desk. We think there’s nothing to be ashamed of in getting some exercise in, but in case you’re shy, you can try this one. Just sit at your desk and clench your own ab muscles for about ten seconds, then release. And repeat again in sets of 10-15. You can even do this with your bum muscles if you so wish. You might look a bit irritated or like you’re concentrating hard, but otherwise, no one will know.

7. Wrist stretch

So this is more of a stretch than an exercise – but these are important too! Especially if you type a lot. We’re throwing this in as a common stretch that many people do and something you should too. Put your right arm out in front of you with your palm facing up. Take your left arm and, parallel to your right hand, grab your fingers, pulling your fingers back just slightly and your hand with it until your palm is facing outward instead of up to the ceiling. This should stretch out your wrist and arm. Hold for 10 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

8. Tricep dips

Lifehack has a decent number of exercises you can try at your desk, some already mentioned. But this one we think can work for a variety of people, and you don’t need arm rests. Put your arms behind your back, make your hands into fists, and rest them on either side behind your bum. Then try to raise your bum off of the chair. You should feel your tricep muscle engaged. Try holding it for 10 seconds, taking a short rest and then repeating 10-15 times.

9. Cushion squeeze

Sam Murphy writing for the Guardian has a decent amount of suggested exercises in his article, but one of the best ones we found is the cushion squeeze. You can place a cushion or a rolled up jumper in between your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor and your hips square. Then squeeze the cushion and clench your bum. You should feel your inner thighs and bottom muscles contracting. Hold for five seconds and the slowly relax, but don’t let the cushion fall. Repeat this six times.

10. Cooldown stretches

WikiHow has a collection of fantastic simple stretches you can do involving all parts of your body. For this article, we’ll encourage you to roll your shoulders. Try 10 times backwards first and then 10 times forward. This can help relieve tension all throughout the day.

To get more active, please get a few friends and sign up for SteptemberIf you have any other specific exercises we haven’t mentioned here, please join our community and share them.