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Phrases that almost always annoy me in some way

Reading Facebook comments I started to notice there are several phrases that almost always manage to get on my nervous and make me feel like that person is either a moron or not very nice.  I started to think about other expressions I also really dislike and why I do not like them so much.  This is what I came up with.

Cheer up love, it might never happen

What if ‘it’ already did happen?  What if that is my normal expression?  This phrase is often said to women by men, the kind of men who expect women to be smiley and bubbly all the time, which is almost impossible to be constantly.  My thinking face often gets this comment by total strangers passing me in the street, which I think is actually quite rude.  They do not know me or what I am going through at that moment.

Man up

To show emotions or feelings as a man is often seen as week or unmanly, but that is just a stereotype and it in no way makes you less of a man.   As a woman I find it more attractive when a man is able to show some emotions, it makes them not seems just cold, but whole and human.  Stereotyping men as always strong and tough means a lot of men do not admit when they need help and they can end up in serious situations with their mental health.

Just get over it

You cannot tell someone to just stop their own feelings.  To say it to someone can make them feel unheard and trivialised, as if you are dismissing how they feel.  It can make someone sound selfish and uncaring.  This is especially true in regards to mental health, a clinically depressed person cannot just get over it and I cannot just get over my OCD rituals that easily. 

I’m a bit OCD

OCD is not just being neat and arranging your music collection in alphabetical order, it is a serious mental health condition that can cause someone a great deal of stress and affect their ability to live their everyday life as they would wish.  You cannot be just a little bit OCD, you either meet the criteria to be diagnosed with it by a mental health professional or you do not.  The use of this phrase trivialises OCD and can prevent those really suffering from seeking help.

But you don’t look disabled

Some people seem to assume disabled people all use wheelchairs or at least some kind of walking aid and when they do not, act surprised when someone tells them they are disabled.  If someone considers their condition disables them, they are disabled, even if that condition does not require a walking aid.  Some people use this phrase when someone uses a disabled parking badge or disabled toilet but does not conform to their stereotype of disabled.  It is no one’s business why someone uses these facilities and people should not judge on appearances alone. 

What do you do?

In other words, how do you earn a living?  This can be an awkward question when you live on benefits and have not had paying work in some years.  When I tell people I sometimes get the rude eye role of ‘oh, you are one those lazy people who sponge off society’ or sometimes they just assume it must be because I am special needs, which, while that might sort of be partly true, they then often get rather patronising.  When some people ask I do not mind so much, but when someone I have only just met asks me or someone who really does not need to know, I can find it rather annoying.  It can help to say I volunteer, although some people do not respect volunteering and think it is an excuse to stay on benefits and not do ‘proper’ work.   

Young people today show no respect

This is a stupid expression since all age groups have some disrespectful people among them.  I have   seen elderly people disrespect the young just as much as I have seen the young disrespect them.  In fact even this expression is disrespectful as it makes out all the young are the same.  Respect is a two way street, are the elderly respecting the young in the first place? 

Special snowflakes

Young people often get called snowflakes now whenever they challenge an older person’s point of view or bring them up on their offensive behaviour such as racist jokes or use of derogatory expressions.  A special snowflake is used to describe a millennial that is seen as over sensitive, thinking the world revolves around them and that just moan about everything, but do not really care.  The current issue they are moaning about will not last; it will melt away and be replaced by a new one like a snowflake.  This is used to dismiss any younger person’s point of view by some and does not help a generation of young people already struggling to find their place in the world.  As Shelly Haslam-Ormerod says in online magazine The Conversation, ‘flippant stereotyping of a generation as weak based on their mental well-being contradicts efforts to reduce mental health stigma’.  As a millennial myself I find the term not only offensive, but used as a lazy argument or when an older person has clearly got no other defense for what they have said or done.

That’s so gay

Younger people often seem to use this expression now to mean something is bad, rubbish or stupid.  I am not sure how this came about, but it makes me uncomfortable.  It gives the word gay negative associations and I am sure the gay community does not need more negativity.       

Charity begins at home

Look after your own family and direct circle first, or in other words unless I have to come into direct contact with you regularly, I will not be offering you any help.  It is used as an excuse to not give any money or time to others by mostly quite selfish people.  I cannot see why I cannot care about both my family and friends and other wider causes at the same time, but this expression seems to be saying this is impossible to do, which is simply not true. 

I’m not racist, but…

Excuse me whilst I am actually racist.  If you feel you need to justify what you are about to say with this expression then do not say it or you simply are racist.  A truly non racist person would never need to make that statement in the first place.  

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Being on benefits is not a life style choice

I am fed up with the ignorant and rude comments made about people on benefits.  I would like to say what it is really like to live on benefits.

  • When people describe it as ‘choosing to live off the government’, I would like to point out for most people it was not a choice.  I did not sit in school and think; when I grow up I want to live on benefits.  I had dreams and ambitions the same as most young people do.
  • Being on benefits does not automatically make me a lazy person.  I volunteer for three local good causes and try to be an active part of my local community.
  • I am not on befits because I am stupid.  I have various qualifications including a degree.
  • When people say ‘just get a job’ they have no idea how long and hard I tried to get a job.  I spent years applying for work and went to lots of interviews.  I tried really hard at every interview to get the job. 
  • I did not ‘turn down perfectly OK work as beneath me’.  I had an interview at McDonalds, they were the ones to turn me down and I would have willingly taken the job.   
  • Some people on benefits are simply too ill or disabled to work.  They are not lazy; they just know their limitations and know that they would actually be unable to fulfill most job roles to any satisfactory level. 
  • Not everyone on benefits is an addict on illegal drugs or an alcoholic.  I have never taken illegal substances and am not a heavy drinker.  Hardly anyone I know on benefits is an addict.
  • Getting benefits is not as easy as some people think it is.  Claim forms are tricky to even fill in.  Firstly you need internet access these days to get most kinds of benefits which for some people is not always easy.  Secondly the forms are often long and confusing.  If you cannot read or write well they are difficult.  Yes you can get help to fill in a claim from charities, but you often have to be able to get to them and have limited time with them.  You often need proof of certain things which can be hard to get sometimes.  Then they keep changing the rules on who can claim what and how, making it even more confusing.
  • Some people make out immigrants often come here just to live of benefits and can claim them almost as soon as they enter the country.  This is simply not the case as the Full Fact charity explain ‘Most non-EU nationals who are subject to immigration control are not allowed access to “public funds” (such as jobseekers’ allowance or tax credits), although they can use public services like the NHS and education.’  The rules on what immigrants can claim in benefits are complicated, and not as simple as turning up and filling in a form as this article explains https://fullfact.org/immigration/migration-and-welfare-benefits/  
  • Then there are sickness benefits.  On Employment and Support Allowance or Personal Independents Payments you have to have a medical assessment, which is not always easy, without someone with me I would have struggled to find the place it was held.  An awful lot of people fail these medicals, even those who are obviously very sick.  I failed my medical and had to appeal, which meant going to court.  Yes I had to go to an actual court, with a judge and a full on hearing.  This process can be scary, intimidating and somewhat embarrassing.  I had to listen to my support worker list the ways I failed at being an adult, which was not easy to hear, although I know she did it for the right reasons.  Not everyone even has support when they go through this process which must be really scary and I am not sure if I would another time as I no longer have a support worker.
  • I have had people say I should be working and not on sickness benefits because someone else they know who has the same condition as me is working.  Every disability and illness will affect the person with it differently to the next person.  Maybe if I only had that one condition I would be working, but like a lot of people I have a few different things which combine to make it harder.  Some might have had a lucky break finding an employer willing to hire someone disabled or sick, but not every employer is willing to deal with someone who may need more support and time off than the average employee. 
  • People who threaten those on sickness benefits with reporting them to the DWP as they seem perfectly fit and able to work need to mind their own business.  That person may not leave the house on a bad day, so you only see them on a good day when they are able to do more.  They may also only be going out as they simply have to and once they get home again may end up in bed for the next few hours recovering.  My mental health fluctuates and I do not always know if I am going to be able to get out the next day, so holding down a job full time would be very hard.  When people do not fit the stereotype idea of disabled it can result in being judged as a benefit cheat by others which is rarely the case.  
  • Being on benefits does not mean I should never have a night out or go and enjoy myself in some way.  Sick and disabled people can leave the house for more than just hospital appointments.  If I did not get out and socialise I would end up more ill physically and mentally, and then cost society more as a bigger drain on the NHS.  
  • The assumption can be that benefits should only pay for the bare essentials such as food and utility bills, and if I have anything more I must be getting far too much money.  Some people do only get benefits that cover the bare essentials, and sometimes not even that, hence the rise in food banks.  However I live alone and do not have any children so my day to day living costs can be kept quite minimal.  I am careful with money and so can afford to have some social outings and nights out now and then and can afford to have some nice things in my flat.  Besides, a lot of my nicer things are second hand from charity shops or things family no longer wanted, or gifts for birthdays or Christmas.  
  • Some people who judge others for being on benefits may be on benefits themselves but not realise it.  Things like Working Tax Credits, Cold Weather payments and even state pensions are technically a benefit.
  • The stigma of being on benefits is enough to put some people off claiming what they could and only doing so when totally desperate, by which point it might be they left it so long they have made their health worse or ended up in debt.  The nasty comments and societies attitude are putting some people at risk.

The demonising of those on benefits needs to stop.  I am sure a few do cheat the benefits system, but it is a teeny, tiny minority and most are just trying to survive.  Until you have lived on benefits for a while, try not to judge what you do not really know.  Bear in mind the phrase there but for the grace of God go you or I.  Most people are one accident or illness or job redundancy away from needing to claim them. 

Common Sense and Respect for the Disabled Please

This is a rant, a rant about things disabled people hate, at least some disabled people. Not everything on the list will affect all disabled people and these are just what I have experienced and observed.

People who judge others for using disabled facilities such as toilets and parking spaces without knowing them. I used to have a disabled parking badge due to not being able to walk very far without getting tired or in pain, but I did not always use a walking aid. Sometimes people would stare at me as if to say, why have you got a badge when you can walk. I got the same look sometimes when I would come out of a disabled toilet. They did not know me or my situation and it was none of their business why I needed to use disabled facilities, but even a look can make you feel judged. I have heard stories of people getting notes left on their cars for parking in disabled spots being accused of using someone else’s badge when it was their own!

Bus drivers who refuse to let a disabled person on as it would mean them having to get up to get the ramp out or having to ask someone with a push chair to fold it and move seats. The space at the front of a bus is not for a pushchair, the signs clearly state it is a disabled space, yet some drivers do not seem to enforce this. Bus drivers who refuse a disabled person are discriminating against them. A recent court case that went all the way to the Supreme Court found in favor of the disabled claimant in that ‘the court said the company should consider further steps to persuade non-wheelchair users to move, without making it a legal duty to move them,’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38663322). So it is an ongoing battle with some drivers to get a space on a bus.

When a disabled toilet is used as a storage area or left out of order for a long time. Sometimes it feels like the disabled toilet is only there as a legal requirement and the company do not actually care if you can use it or not. For example a pub near me uses their disabled toilet to store things. You can still technically use the toilet, but the rails are blocked by things, and a lot of disabled people need the rails. My local supermarket has had an out of order disabled toilet for about a month now. Businesses are being short sighted when it comes to disabled toilets sometimes as it could lose them business. For example when I am on a night out with some of my friends, some of them are very disabled and we would choose to not go to a bar that we knew had bad disabled facilities. This would mean them losing out on not only the disabled persons custom but all their friends custom as well.

Shops that give little or no thought to disabled customers. Really heavy doors can be a  problem. When I was on crutches I used to use my body to push the door open, but with heavier doors this was tricky. For those with arthritic hands and wrists heavy doors can be impossible. Automatic doors are better for disabled customers, or at least a lighter door. Then once inside the shop the lack of space between rails or shelving can be an issue. Some clothing shops have over full rails that are too closely packed for a wheelchair user to get past. I used to knock things off sometimes in crutches if I was not careful. I have noticed that some shops have too much stock piled up on the floor between shelving units which can mean no space for a wheelchair or walking frame to turn around. Without the space to move disabled customers will shop elsewhere.

Poorly maintained pavements and walkways. Loose paving slabs and crumbling tarmac can be a trip hazard for anyone, but even more so for those with walking aids. I used to trip up on loose slabs when I was on crutches and this could hurt my hip quite a lot. People in wheelchairs can fall out of their chair if the wheels get caught up on loose slabs or in pot holes.

Dog waste and rubbish left on pavements and paths. It is unpleasant for anyone to have to smell and see, but for the disabled it can be very annoying. Dog waste can get on the wheels of someone’s chair and it can mean dragging it around. It is not always easy to see the ground right in front of your wheels to know to avoid it. Blind people also have obvious problems with dog waste since they cannot see it to walk around it. Rubbish can also be a problem since it can get caught up the wheels of a chair and then cause the chair to not move smoothly. I have noticed a significant increase in both dog waste and litter in the last few years and this shows a lack of respect for both other people and the environment.

People who park in front of drop down curbs on pavements or park on the pavement. A disabled person may not be able to cross the road without a drop down curb and may have to go an awful long way to find the next one, which could take them a long way out of where they want to be. There is a convince store in my town that people often park outside to pop in quickly, but they often park in front of the drop down curb. They often say they will not be very long, but what If the queue is long or they get distracted by something else? Parking on the pavement is just as bad as it means a disabled person may not be able to get passed. Often this means a disabled person will have to go back on themselves for ages and divert a long way round or simply not be able to get where they want to go. I have often had to walk into the road to get around a car and some disabled people simply cannot do that.

People who talk for you or to your companion about you when you are right next to them. This seems to happen especially to those in a wheelchair, it is as if because your legs do not work nor can your mind to talk properly. This is patronising and rude. When I was younger if this happened when I was with my parents I would just start talking anyway and join in showing them I was more than capable of talking for myself, in fact they might have more trouble getting me to be quite! Sure some people do have learning difficulties that come with a physical disability, but even then it still does not mean they cannot talk for themselves in most cases.

Poorly designed disabled toilets. Not all disabled people are in wheelchairs and want the sink low, in fact after my hip surgery I needed the sink not to be low as I could not bend far, but needed the rails and raised seat of a disabled toilet. Some disabled toilets are far too small for the needs of some disabled people who may need a carer to come in with them as well as space for a wheelchair or walker. A lot of disabled toilets also seem to lack a mirror which assumes disabled people do not care what they look like, which is wrong, disabled people are just as likely to want to check their make up or hair as everyone else.

People who say ‘you’re doing so well considering’ or call disabled people brave. They are very patronising things to say.  How do you know I am doing well? For all you know I am having a really bad day and on a good day you would not even notice I was disabled. How is it brave that I left the house and got on with my life? What am I supposed to do sit at home and rot? I cannot live my life not disabled so I just get on with it the best that I can.

Being accused of being a benefit scrounger. This is the big one that all disabled people hate. The media often make it seem like an awful lot more people are scamming the benefits system than actually are. The vast majority on benefits are on them legally with a good reason. Most people would not choose to be on benefits if they could help it. Having to prove yourself as ill and jump through the hoops they require to get them would put most cheats off. Being on benefits does not make me lazy or pathetic. You should never judge someone for being on benefits or any kind of welfare without knowing the full facts.

Disabled people are on the whole sensible and understand that sometimes some of these things cannot be helped under certain circumstances. What we ask for is to not let these things be issues when they do not have to be. A bit of common sense and respect is all disabled people want. Disabled people can be an active part of society, if society lets them.

Disabling Attitudes

The reaction I get when someone realises I am disabled is usually one of three

The patronising sympathy attitude

Recently in a café a man came up to me and said I was doing really well. He asked if I had spina bifida, which was rather a personal thing to ask, none of his business and wrong. I explained I had a hip replacement. He then went on to tell me he used to work in a special school with people like me and I was doing really well. I know he meant well, but I found it annoying. Firstly ‘people like me’ just labels me as special needs and does not give me any credit as an individual person. Secondly how does he know I am doing really well? I was in a café with my mum, nothing remarkable in that. What is a disabled person supposed to do? Either I carry on with life like everyone else or roll over and die. I guess I could sit at home all day, everyday and get very depressed and lonely, lamenting woe is me I am disabled or I could go out and have some kind of a life. Also being disabled physically does not make me stupid. The man in the café may have thought I was doing well to be so functioning. Well I chose my own drink, ordered it and paid for it, and do this kind of thing on a regular basis. In fact I live alone and do not have a carer.

The fact he used to work in a special school with that kind of attitude annoyed, but did not surprise me. I spent three years in a special needs school as a teenager and this was something that annoyed me on an almost daily basis, the patronising attitude of some of the staff. I think I may have acted up a little bit less perhaps if the staff had expected more of me. Thankfully my parents were never patronising and never let me use my disability as an excuse to not make an effort or learn things. I can do a lot more for myself now thanks to my parents making me learn than I may have been able to do otherwise had it been left up to school.

The super human Paralympics attitude

I watched the Paralympics opening ceremony earlier this month. I like the Paralympics; they are fun and help promote disabled issues around the world. On phrase I dislike that was also used a lot in the 2012 Paralympics, that disabled athletes are ‘superhuman’. I admit that they achieve some incredible things, but why are they superhuman? Disabled people are only joining in sport like everyone else. Sport for some people seems to be something natural, an instinct, why is it so amazing that a disabled person would also have this? Yes it is often harder for a disabled person to be able to join a sport, but it can be tricky for anyone to join sports, especially at an Olympic level. Sometimes the Paralympics can make it harder for the disabled with people thinking that if the Paralympians can achieve so much why can’t all disabled people. For example someone once said to me that if the disabled athletes can do that, why I can not even get a job. When it comes to work my physical issues are the least of my problems, like all disabled people I have more going on in my life than just my disability. Every four years it is like we are all suddenly expected to be superhuman. Well I will win a Paralympic medal the day all my non-disabled friends win an Olympic medal. Rob Crosan in the Telegraph puts it well, ‘The Chances of most disabled people becoming a world class athlete is roughly the same as it is for able-bodied people (i.e. nil).’

The scrounger on benefits attitude

I would love to have a paying job and not be on benefits, but that does not seem to be an option for me right now. There is only a brief three month period of my life I can remember being totally off any benefits as an a adult when I had part time temp job. I was on job seekers allowance for a number of years before changing to employment support allowance for health reasons. At first on job seekers everyone seemed supportive, but the longer I remained on it the more the support seemed to decline. People who understood my situation less well started to say not very nice things. Apparently I was lazy, not trying hard enough or too fussy about the type of work I would do. If only they knew how hard I was trying to get work, attending interview after interview and getting rejected over and over. I ended up having to remove a couple of people who I thought were friends from social media for saying very negative things about people on benefits.

The media do not help with the scrounger attitude some people have. There are so many newspaper articles about benefits cheats that it must seem to some that the vast majority cheat the system. For example if you type the words disabled or disability into an internet news search, you nearly always get at least one article on someone who has been caught cheating benefits. Yes, a few people do lie and claim benefits falsely, but the vast majority do not. ‘Official data shows that there is nearly twice as much error as fraud in the benefits system’ (www.disabilityrightsuk.org). Less than one percent of people are benefits are said to be fraudulently claiming. The media often muddle up fraud statistics with system errors making the fraud look much worse than it actually is. The government have also made things worse by constantly banging on about cutting disability benefits and catching benefit cheats. However if I was to come off ESA I would have no income coming in at all apart from housing benefit which gets paid straight to my housing association anyway.

I am not a scrounger; I volunteer a lot in my local community. I am not super human, I am rubbish at sport, but I also do not want your sympathy. I am simply me, a human being, but as Penny Pepper writes in the Guardian, ‘It truly seems that the only acceptable disabled person is a Paralympian – and then only for a few weeks’. All disabled people just want to be accepted as themselves and not just during the Paralympics, but all of the time.

References:

Rob Crosan, Telegraph, 15.09.2016
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/the-filter/we-disabled-people-arent-super-in-any-way-i-couldnt-care-less-ab/

15.05.2014
http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2014/may/benefits-fraud-less-one-cent

Penny Pepper, the Guardian, 06.09.2016
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/06/paralympians-superhumans-disabled-people

A little consideration for the disabled goes a long way

When you are disabled life already gives you a plenty of challenges and problems, the last thing disabled people need is others making life even more tricky.  These issues may seem trivial to some, but to the disabled they affect they are very important.

 

Misusing a disabled parking badge

A blue badge is issued to disabled people who can not walk far or find it painful.  However some people seem to think that it is issued to the vehicle not the person, so feel free to use it when the disabled person is not even with them, but this is actually illegal.  The idea is that the disabled person can take the badge with them in any vehicle they get a lift in, not that the entire family can use it.  The other excuse disabled people have pointed out in a Facebook group for disabled parking badge abuse is when a carer says they are shopping on behalf of the disabled person.  If the disabled person is not with them, they can not use the badge and it makes no difference why they are shopping.  Also the disabled person does not just have to be in the car, but getting out and going somewhere.  The badge is to help disabled people get out more, not to sit back and watch others have the life for them.

 

Using a disabled parking space without having a blue badge

Then there are those who use disabled spaces without even having a badge at all.  There are only a few disabled spaces in a car park and if they are all taken up it can prevent a disabled person from being able to park and they could miss out on doing what they wanted.  The excuse, ‘I am only going to be a minuet’ is not valid, what you are doing could end up taking longer than intended or just happen to be the  minuet a disabled person arrives.

 

Parking in front of a drop down curb or on the pavement

Drop down curbs on pavements are put in to help people cross the road.  Whilst most people could walk around a car parked in front of a drop down curb, a lot of disabled people can not.  The disabled person would have to go back to the last drop down curb, which could be a very long way back and in some cases there is only one drop down curb on and off the entire pavement.  On the road where I live there seems to be a lot of parking half on the pavement, with no room at all to get past the car unless you walk onto the road, which is not only unsafe, but impossible for some.  I do realise that sometimes there is not much parking space and it is the only option, but even so I often see cases when the car could have been parked with more space left on the pavement to get past.

 

Businesses using disabled toilets for storage or blocking access

If a disabled person can not use the toilet whilst they are in a restaurant, café or place of business they are highly unlikely to give the place repeat custom and may have to leave early and go elsewhere.  I have come across disabled toilets used to store cleaning equipment and empty bar kegs.  Whilst I could still get to the toilet, I doubt that some people with large wheelchairs or walking frames could have.  A person in a wheelchair may need turning space, which can be tricky if there is other stuff in the way.  Even worse is when you can not even get to the disabled toilet because access is blocked.  I was once seated in a pub restaurant at a table right in front of the disabled toilet.  For someone to use the toilet we would have had to shift the table to the side and stand up and wait.  They had crammed far too many tables into the place anyway and it just made for a loud, unpleasant atmosphere.

 

Poorly designed disabled toilets

A good disabled toilet design should take into account the fact that not all users will be wheelchair bound and that not all wheelchair users are in the same situation.  I used to use crutches and the disabled toilet was easier as it had more space for them and after my hip replacement I found rails helpful to sit down and get up again.  However the sink in a disabled toilet is often lower than normal with the thinking that wheelchair users are lower down, while this is often true, for those who use other walking aids this is actually not helpful as bending can be tricky.  The best solution I have seen to this is in some Costa Coffee branches that have both a sink at average height and another one at a slightly lower height.  Although in one branch the soap dispenser was only reachable for the higher sink user and for those who could not reach up they would have had to go without.  Another problem is when the toilet is too small for the user to turnaround in a wheelchair, forcing them to reverse out which can make opening the door tricky and has the risk of bumping into someone.  Plus some disabled people need to go with someone for help and this is tricky if the toilet is small.  Quite often the baby changing facilities are put in the disabled toilet, which I can understand as it has more room, but if the changing table does not fold against the wall it can just get in the way.

 

Shops that cram in too many rails or display units

As the expression goes ‘pile them high, sell them cheep’.  I do love those bargain discount stores, but they do like to pile things to the point there is not much floor space left.  If I have trouble walking through some of them without a walking aid; imagine trying to get through in a wheelchair.  Cheep clothing stores often cram in so many clothing rails there is not room to get a wheelchair through or the chair knocks half the clothing off the rails as it goes.  Knocking things off can be embarrassing and bending down to pick them up can be tricky for some.  If you do not make a shop floor plan with the disabled in mind not only could you lose customers, but you could damage or dirty stock as disabled people try to get through.

 

Shops with heavy or awkward doors

A lot of disabled people rely on automatic doors.  Whilst some can get through pushing the door open using their wheelchair, if the door opens towards them this is not possible and it is not possible in either direction with crutches.  It is understandable that some smaller independent shops do not have automatic doors as they cost a lot to install, but bigger stores should have them.  If it is not possible to have automatic doors, using doors that are not too heavy or stiff will at least help some.

 

Poor disabled entrances to buildings

When the disabled entrance to a building is around the back or side it can be annoying.  Once on a college trip to a museum with several disabled people on the course we had to enter through a side door.  The door took a while to find as it was rather hidden, then we had to ring a bell and wait for someone to come and let us in, which seemed to take several minuets.  We had to go through a fairly dark corridor somewhere in the museum that was clearly not generally public access and then we came out in the middle of the museum no where near the main entrance, which if you wanted to go to reception left you with something of a trek.  It felt somewhat like using the servants’ entrance to a grand house, rather embarrassing.  I understand that sometimes it can be very costly to change a building entrance and some listed buildings may not allow any change.  However when possible it is always best to make the main entrance assessable to all.  The best idea is to put a ramp to the side of the main steps.  I have also seen a small lift solution used when it is not possible to have a ramp.  If you can not make the main entrance wheelchair assessable at least add a rail so as many people as possible can use the steps.  Then have decent signage to the disabled entrance, or you could lose visitors or customers who give up on finding the way in.

 

Cafes with joined together tables and chairs

Mostly seen in the greasy spoon type cafés, these tables and chairs come as one joined together.  Climbing over the bar to sit down can be tricky for some, even if they can walk.  I used to find it hard myself due to a hip disability.  The seats cannot be moved for wheelchair users to pull up to the table, and although they can sit at a table end, two wheelchair users can not sit together at the same table if they wanted.

 

Benches left broken long term

Not all disabled people use wheelchairs; I used to use crutches or no walking aid at all before that.  However I could not walk very far before I got pain in my bad hip.  When having a day out I would need to sit down now and then to rest.  A lot of places have a good number of benches which really come in handy for this.  What annoys me though is when you see benches that are left broken for a long time.  I have been to places which have caution tape over a broken bench, then gone back weeks or even months later to find it still exactly the same.  If it is a busy place this can be annoying when all the other benches are taken up or the next bench is not that near by.  I have also seen when a bench is no longer able to be repaired, the remains taken away and the bench just not replaced at all.  I get annoyed when a bench has clearly been broken by vandals, they have no idea how much a simple bench can mean to some people, making the difference between a good or bad outing.

 

Most of these issues can be solved simply, often by just having some consideration for others.  For businesses thinking about disabled customers using your building could actually increase custom and make you more money.  A lot of these things also can affect people with pushchairs or the elderly, so just think how many people you would be helping if you made some simple changes to your life.

Myths and Facts About Mental Health

 

Living in low support housing for those with various mental health issues and dealing with my own issues I know a lot of the myths surrounding mental health are wrong.  This is my view on why some of those myths are wrong.

Myth: Only certain types of people experience mental health issues.

Fact: Anyone can experience them.  Although it is true that certain events or lifestyles can trigger mental health issues, for me this is not the case.  I come from a loving, stable family, and did not grow up with violence around me or major addiction issues in the family.  It could be that my problems are genetic, I have no idea.  I have met people from all kinds of backgrounds with mental health issues.

Myth: Mental Illness is not as bad as a physical one.

Fact: It can be just as bad as a physical illness, hence suicide and self-harm in some cases.  Mental health problems can sometimes lead to physical problems.  Such as eating disorders, not looking after themselves properly and smoking.

‘People with depression are twice as likely to smoke as other people. People with schizophrenia are three times as likely to smoke as other people.’ (Mental Health Foundation).

Myth: You can tell someone has a mental illness just by looking at them.

Fact: Often you will have no idea if someone has mental health issues or not.  People you work with, friends and even family may have issues you do not know about.  It is hard to know what is going on inside someone’s head.  However just because you cannot see the problem does not make it any less real for the person experiencing it.

Myth: People with mental health issues can snap out of it if they try hard enough.

Fact: If it was only that simple!  It is not being lazy or weak and it requires help to get better when really mentally ill.

Myth: People with mental health issues are usually violent and unpredictable.

Fact: According to Time to Change, a campaign to end mental health discrimination, more than one-third of the public believe that people with mental health problems are more likely to be violent.

‘Violent crime statistics tell a different story, though. One survey suggested that only 1% of victims of violent crime believed that the incident occurred because the offender had a mental illness.’ (BBC Future).

In fact according to various surveys mentally ill people are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators.

Myth: Mentally ill people need to be kept in hospital.

Fact: With treatment and support most mentally ill people live independent lives in the community.  Although I have been to hospital appointments for mental health help, I have never been hospitalised overnight for it.  Some people may need a stay in hospital, but this is much rarer than it used to be and often for very short periods of time.  There is no need for the confinement and isolation that was commonly used in the past.

Myth: Men with depression or anxiety are weak, lack masculinity and asking for help is an admission of defeat.

Fact: Asking for help makes you stronger, not weaker, it shows you are gaining strength and want to beat it, rather than let the anxiety win.  A strong man is honest with himself and others about it.

‘Anxiety has nothing to do with courage or character. Nothing at all.’ (The Mighty).

Myth: Children do not experience metal health problems.

Fact: Even very young children can show signs of mental health concerns.  I experienced mental health issues as a child.  Although not diagnosed till I was about twelve, I definitely showed signs of mental health issues way before that.  Sadly less than twenty percent of children and adolescents receive the help they need.

Myth: All young people go through ups and downs as party of puberty, it is nothing.

Fact: One in ten young people experience mental health issues.  As a teenager some people would say to me ‘most teenagers get angry from time to time’, but trust me I was more than your average teenage angry.  I think my problems may have been made worse by puberty at times, but I already had mental health issues before puberty hit, so it was clearly not just that.

Myth: A mental illness is the same as being learning disabled.

Fact: A mental illness has nothing to do with how smart someone is.  Steven Fry is known for being very smart, and he has bipolar disorder, which can cause huge mood swings.

I believe ignorance and fear keep mental health stigmatised.  If people understood what mental health really is and how it affects people it would be easier for some people to admit to having problems and to get help.  Those who can need to speak out about it so others can feel that it is not something to hide and be ashamed of.

References

http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/physiucal-health-and-mental-health

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150723-the-myth-of-mental-illness-and-violance

Themighty.com/2015/07/loving-someone-with-anxiety-what-t0-know/

 

The Disabled and Other People

I am an avid user of Facebook, I have found it a great way to connect with other disabled people who have similar disabilities to mine.  I am a member of several groups and pages for various disability issues.  I find that it helps to have a place to share our thoughts and issues regarding our conditions.  Often we ask each other questions that only others in the same kind of situation will understand  or be able to answer.  It can be very handy for example to ask a group of people who have already had the same surgery you are about to undergo what things we might need to consider taking with us to the hospital or to have ready at home for afterwards.

Whilst I am on these groups I see a fair number of posts about the way disabled people are treated by others.  Some posts are just people using the group as a place to vent and then move on from the situation.  Some people are trying to raise awareness and see if it has happened to anyone else.  Sometimes we even come up with ideas to help deal with some situations.  I decided to try to find out what annoys the disabled most about other people’s attitudes towards them.  Then I hope we can help raise awareness of these things and show the public how we would in fact like to be treated.  The results were interesting and varied.

Question: When it comes to being disabled in any way, what annoys you most about other people’s attitude to you or your disability?

  • They think that if you don’t look disabled or ill then you must be faking it.

You can’t always see signs of disability in a disabled person.  I had a bad hip and sometimes I used a walking stick and then people knew I had mobility issues, but during periods when I did not need the stick people would often not believe me about my hip hurting or not being able to walk very far.  Someone asked me once if I fake it for attention and some people seem to think you would fake it to get a disabled parking badge or benefits.  These people are very annoying.

  • When they pass judgement on you without bothering  to check for facts.  Like parking in a handicap space and having people giving you filthy looks because you are not old or decrepit, so you obviously have no need of the space, regardless of the fact you can’t walk far!

There seems to be a certain type of older person who think that just being older gives them more rights to things than the rest of us.  The ‘I’ve worked hard all my life and paid my taxes, so I deserve this hand out’ brigade.  Being old does not automatically mean you can have a disabled parking badge or certain benefits.  If you can not walk far without severe pain regardless of age you can claim a blue badge.

  • When someone takes something out of my hands and says they’ll do it for you.  If I wanted help I am capable of asking.

Just because a person has mobility issues does not mean their arms and hands do not work.  A person who has a missing arm can still use the other arm and their legs.  It is kind of insulting to have people automatically assume you can’t do something as if you must be brain dead as well as unable to walk or whatever it is.

  • It’s annoying when people say they understand as they had a sore leg the other day.  Not really the same scale of pain.

When I explain my hip issue to some people they say how they once broke their leg and know what I mean.  A broken leg can heal, a hip that grows undersized and deformed and has not regrown by adulthood into the right shape will never mend.  They did not end up needing a whole new body part like I did.  The pain before my replacement was every single day only varying from painfully sore, but I can walk, to so painful I can not move.  Unless you have had chronic pain you have no idea what it is like knowing that the pain is not going to end any time soon.

  • Patronised, being told I am brave.  (I am not brave, I am just living my life like everyone else, no one has a pain or stress free life.)  Or worse, ‘It must be nice for you to get out’.

If you are born disabled you have only ever lived that way so it is not brave it is just living.  If you have an accident is it brave to want to carry on living?  No, it is a natural human instinct to carry on living.  As for being nice to get out, well depends, maybe it was not nice to get out as you were feeling lazy that day or tired or hate the place you are going, just like everyone else.

  • Once you need to use a wheelchair you become invisible.

People start talking to your carer rather than you or fail to even notice you are there.

  • Ignoring me when in town with hubby.  Then asking him how is Debbie doing.  Hello, I’m here ask me.

Unless the disability specificity affects the voice, most disabled people can speak perfectly well and in fully formed sentences too!

  • People moving or pushing my chair without asking.  You don’t grab an able-bodied person and move them, why do that to me?

‘I am just going to move you over here out of the way’ says the woman in the cafe to my friend in her chair.  Err maybe she does not want to sit right in the corner pushed up against the wall.  If she was in the way of the queue or another table, if the woman had asked her politely if she would not mind moving and explained the situation I am sure she would have moved as she is sensible and kind like that.  That way she could pick her own spot to move into and keep her dignity.  If a chair has self-propelling big wheels, there is usually a reason, as they are perfectly capable of moving themselves.

  • That I can’t be a single mum and disabled.

Alison Lapper the disabled artist is a good example of how you can be both a single mum and disabled.  She is clearly a wonderful mother to her son, despite having no arms and truncated legs, as shown on the BBC’s Child of Our Time.

  • Because of bad media coverage on benefit cheats the constant need to justify my disability to strangers and authorities.

Having to constantly prove that you are disabled enough to warrant your disability benefits or disabled parking badge can get very wearing.  A person does not get given these things very easily, it takes considerable effort and time to get benefits, sometimes having to go to medical assessments miles from home.  A very few people do somehow manage to cheat the system, but the other 99% of people on disability benefit are genuine.  These few people are very annoying as they make the genuinely disabled or sick look bad and the fact that the press make a huge deal out of benefit cheats does not help.

  • Being told I can’t be in that much pain as you are smiling.

When in loads of pain every single day you try to find ways to distract yourself from the pain and the fact that you are smiling for all of ten seconds does not mean the pain has gone away, it means you just for a few seconds managed to not think about it quite so much.  Also some smiles might be fake to please other people in a certain situation, but inside the person still feels lousy.

  • When people say well done to us for doing everyday things.

Wow I managed to read a book that won the Man Booker prize and was considered a reasonably hard read!  Could the classroom support worker have been any more patronising at college?  I love to read and have done from a young age.  Having a learning disability does not necessarily mean I can not read and write.  Unless you know the disabled person has managed to do something they have been struggling with for a very long time, it is best not to praise them like you might a dog or a small child.

  • As a job seeker the law says not to discriminate however I get the impression that potential employers see me as a liability.

You can’t prove the employer did not hire you due to your disability, they will come up with some other reason if questioned, but sometimes it is obvious what they are really thinking.  They ask you how you would manage certain tasks and start to question your health during the interview.

  • When someone says ‘well you look OK to me, stop making a fuss’.

Most disabled people only make a fuss when they feel they are not getting fair treatment or really, really need help with something.  Most of us are not attention seeking.  As stated before not all disability or illness is obviously visible.

  • I have been turned away on public transport as buggies are using the disabled spaces.  One bus driver refused to lower the ramp as he could not be bothered.

A child can be more easily lifted out of a buggy than a full-grown disabled adult from a wheelchair.  By law buses have to provide disabled spaces and they can only let the space be used by buggies if there are no disabled people wanting to use them.  Parents who refuse to fold the buggy and make space are just down right rude.  Not lowering the ramp is denying a disabled person access to services which is illegal.

  • No disabled toilets in eating establishments and those with steps to them.

How little brain power do you have to make a disabled toilet with a step up to it?!  Well I have seen this done more than once, idiots.  Restaurants and cafes that seat over a certain number of people have to have toilets and they have to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled people have access to a toilet.  If they do not have disabled toilets they could be breaking the law.  What also annoys me is disabled toilets being used for storage or blocked so you can not use them.

  • It’s the tuts that get to me more than anything.

Tuts as if a disabled person should not be there and should be hidden away out of sight, how old-fashioned is that view!  Or the tut that says this is typical of a disabled person, making a fuss, when all they want is the same access to something as everyone else.

  • I remember someone telling me I was lucky to have a mobility scooter as it meant I did not have to walk anywhere.

I doubt the person chose not to be able to walk far.  I also bet they had to pay for the scooter themselves, and I do not call having to fork out hundreds or thousands of pounds just to be able to cope with a trip to town lucky.

  • People who say you are too young for a total hip replacement.

How do they know, have they had any medical training?  If a surgeon has agreed to the operation I can’t be too young, it is kind of obvious.

The answers of-course relate to the groups the question was asked in.  The group with the largest number of responses was Want my space? Take my disability!   The group campaign against the misuse of disabled parking spaces and blue badges for the disabled.  So quite a few of their answers related to parking and transport issues.

I also got a fair number of responses from Perthes Disease in Adults, a page I run myself.  This page relates to the hip condition I had as a child and is about what happens later in life when we grow up, but still have hip pain.  So the answers from them were often mobility and hip surgery related.  I also asked the question on my own wall as I have a few disabled friends and got a couple of responses.