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…
People 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…
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!
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.