An active social life has played an essential role in who I have become. My parents were so determined to set me on the best path they possibly could. So, as a child, they included me in as many activities as my disability allowed me to undertake. My social life has been full-on, and I am forever grateful to my parents for showing me 'let us say, the Welsh way, the fun way, the happy way.' Admittedly, I have partied as hard as my body physically allowed me to until now. Although my body is telling me to slow down a bit, I think my brain is still in party mode, but you know what they say, 'work hard and play even harder.'
In the past, I have used a wheelchair to get around, especially on trips where there has been a lot of walking, and I must admit I am stubborn and will walk a little until I am physically tired and my legs hurt. One reason is that sometimes in the past, I did not want to become a burden to my friends and family. I now know that being in a wheelchair does not make you become a burden. It is the barriers around us that do that, which brings me to this blog.
Inclusion and acceptance are so important, and having access to an active social life are vital to creating a more inclusive world. I get that people have different disabilities, and the severity may mean you cannot get around or go out. Still, everybody has a right to a social life if you choose to have one, whether non-disabled, have a physical disability, have a learning disability, or have a hidden disability.
There is nothing more disconcerting than after all the planning and excitement of going to a concert or venue and being turned away because where it is situated, or the building that function or concert is happening is not accessible because you are either in a wheelchair or because it is too far or difficult to get to by foot.
I am so independent, but some people may need a little assistance regarding socialising. There is nothing wrong with a disabled person going for a well-deserved shopping trip, a meal, or a friendly drink with friends or even a holiday with a carer, or as people prefer to call them today, personal assistants.
To become more socially inclusive, we need to really zone in from a positive and collaborative perspective and think about ways to make our lives much more accessible, such as our pavements and pathways, parks, and green spaces, especially our hospitality spaces and venues. For example, on occasions whilst visiting nightlife venues with friends, I have had to assess the situation upon arrival and sometimes go to a different venue to everybody else with somebody willing to accompany me. Purely because of the other venue where everybody else is at after seeing the number of steps or different heights of the floor, I get a little anxious about tripping over. Whereas with a bit of initiative by that particular venue, maybe (if possible and practical within the venue's layout, of course), installing accessible aids such as more even ramps, walkways and hand-rails, I could have joined everyone at the preferred venue. To others, this may come across as a little pessimistic. Still, to someone with a disability or who has limited mobility or uses a wheelchair, these small changes could be the difference between becoming more included at more venues or being left out or left behind altogether. It is these little adjustments that make a difference. Being a little more mindful of this will make my night and many other people's night out all that more memorable.
Yes, there are differences and limitations to each venue on how we can make them more accessible. Some buildings and spaces are many years old. This does not mean we cannot become more accessible minded, get more accessibility aids into venues, train staff on dealing with the different types of disabilities and interact with different spectrums and scales of disability. Then we move onto music, putting on sensory and movement events for deaf and blind people. Admittedly, these few elements that I have touched upon are just a few of the adjustments we can make. By any means, I am no expert on how to make our venues accessible, and I can only give my personal feelings on this subject. 'Everybody deserves access to an active social life no matter what.'
I being passionate about access and inclusion in society. A few months ago, whilst on my social media, I stumbled across a page called 'Access Rating', and after looking at their page and finding out who and what they are about, I not only liked their Facebook page, but I downloaded their fantastic Access Rating app too. Access Rating is a consultancy promoting disability access for all. Specialising in disability awareness training and access audits allowing organisations to advocate total diversity and inclusion across their sites. I love everything about Access Rating, their website, the app, and the whole working concept and values they advocate for. I believe that these people involved have certainly found a credible platform to enable every part of the disabled community to come together in many ways to make all walks of life more inclusive for disabled people. It's a 10/10 from me, so much so I recently emailed Aisha Seedat, the Project Coordinator at Access Rating, to ask for permission to feature and promote Access Rating in this blog, and in a very lovely Zoom meeting with Aisha, we spoke about the possibility of myself getting involved with Access Rating a little more in the future, I have now put my name forward for the possibility of a role with them. I am always here if Access Rating needs my help.
For more information and any enquiries, their website is www.accessrating.com. Be sure to check them out.
Inclusion and acceptance are so important to me from a personal perspective. These were the core values that fuelled my dream of writing my children's book called 'Max And The Magic Which,' which is available on Amazon.
Thank you for reading,
On a family holiday when I was young.