Disability discrimination – who gets the lift?

Little things that other mothers take for granted don’t always come so easily for me.

Lifting up my children, even when they are little.

Sitting down to play with them, or running around in the park.

Getting them dressed and putting their shoes on.

And on a particularly bad day, even being able to get out of bed to interact with them at all.

It’s probably not immediately obvious to most people that I even have a disability. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome doesn’t really show unless you look hard and notice my unbalanced walking gait, the time it takes me to stand up from a sitting position or the grimaces every time I have to do something that involves my knees, hips or hands.

That means I often get people being a bit rude to or about me if I accidentally bang into things, can’t stop my maurading toddler as quick as they would like, or perhaps look a bit messy because brushing my hair was too painful.

But one thing that I don’t generally expect is to be treated incredibly rudely by other people with a disability.

Which is what happened today, in IKEA.

Anyone who has been to IKEA will know they have very large lifts. They have to really, because they manage to convince people to buy an awful lot of stuff – I’ve never managed to come out empty handed. Their lifts are the size of about ten supermarket trolleys. Basically, massive.

Today, we approached the lift and there was a lady waiting in a wheelchair. She had already pressed the lift call button, but my kids LOVE to press the button as it seems most kids do, and so I lifted an excited and clamouring Bubby D up to press it anyway. (Which hurt me, but it’s sometimes worth the pain to see her so happy). The doors opened, and the Wee Man immediately ran straight inside to push the next button – he knows they have to take it in turns.

Anyway, it seems like my unbalanced lifting act was a heinous crime, because no sooner had we entered the lift than the woman began screaming at us, calling us ignorant and discriminatory. Apparently because we had ‘pushed in front of her’ and ‘she has a right to go first, because she has a disability’.

First off, its a fricking ENORMOUS lift, with room for three wheelchairs to enter together at the same time if necessary. It’s not like we weren’t both going to fit in.

Secondly, there was that whole ‘difficult for me to grab my kids and stop them running into a lift’ thing. Because it hurts, and I’m slow. And because really, I didn’t actually think it mattered who got in first! Does she seriously want to fight with a three year old over pushing a button?

‘I hope one day YOU get a disability’ says the woman. Nice!

‘Actually’, I do have a disability’ I said. ‘And it may not be immediately obvious, like yours, but it does cause me physical difficulty’.

‘Well, I didn’t ask for mine’ says the woman.

What the hell does that mean? I didn’t ask for mine, either! And as far as I know, no-one ever does?

Disability isn’t a war. It’s not a matter of who has the worst disability, who has the most pain, who has the most right to have themselves put before others.

Personally I think that a person with a disability who fails to recognise the disabilities of others is the ignorant one.

And as the lift doors were closing, and another wheelchair bound person appeared outside, the woman who was ranting at us stabbed at the door close button to try and stop them getting in. Apparently, even other wheelchair users aren’t as entitled as her to use the lift, either.

Luckily my children seemed to think it was all some kind of crazy person game, and pressed the doors open button, therefore earning us another diatribe, this time about how ‘people with disabilities shouldn’t have kids’.

The other wheelchair user didn’t agree.

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