Close up of ju90

The thing is, I love my wheelchair. To me, it’s an object of desire. When I got my first powered chair, a friend dedicated a song to it. I threw a party. For the first time in ten years I could sit comfortably, go anywhere, do anything.

First time I took my chair out, though, to a conference, it was a different story. The invisibility cloak hid me from people I’d known for years. Others sympathised with my tragedy instead of toasting my new freedom. The promise of wheelchair access turned out to be an empty one.

It literally made me sick. The following day I was sent home, along with new impairments. My beautiful new chair turned up three weeks later, broken into pieces. I was blamed for expecting too much, for expecting things to be organised in such a way that I could participate fully, just because it was entirely possible to do so.

I thought that I had rights. The right to be equal, the right not to be discriminated against.

But that was just on paper. As a disabled person I didn’t have any right to legal assistance, and so a barrister argued succesfully that, as a disabled person, I could only expect to ask for charity.

I should expect to beg for someone to take messages, rather than to talk to colleagues and friends myself. I should expect to beg for someone to collect my food and drink, rather than collecting them for myself. I should expect to beg for help, and then be grateful. And I should never be so ungrateful as to complain if things went wrong, even if I was permanently injured as a result.

Now, don’t get me wrong. People are continually creating obstructions for wheelchair users, and if you offer me help to overcome them, I will be grateful for it. But why is it considered normal to designate someone as vulnerable, and then to leave them to the mercy of strangers? And is it really my function in life to make other people feel good about themselves through helping me?

Am I deluded to expect equality. Do you think so? Do you think I should be expected to beg for help, rather than doing things for myself, just because of thoughtlessness or poor design? Or do you want me begging for it?


Brightly coloured photograph of an armchair-type wheelchair

Dr Ju Gosling aka ju90's ABNORMAL: How Britain became body dysphoric and the key to a cure is available now for just 3.09 for the Kindle or in a limited-edition hardback with full-colour art plates for 20 inc UK postage and packing. Book cover