For many years I never shared my opinion no matter how small because I was scared of what people would think. My family have always had strong opinions which if I am honest I have not always agreed with, this has made it difficult to air my views in public. Some of this nervousness about having an opinion that I shared, is as a result of society and the need to fit in, I have also had to learn which battles are worth fighting and whether if I shared my views they would be listened to anyway.
In more recent years I have learnt that it is possible for me to have an opinion, even if it is different to other people. Having said that I am still careful in certain situations as I am sure you can imagine, its not always easy to change how you are with specific people and as mentioned above you have to choose the battles you fight.
I owe the new voice that I have found to my husband, who has shown me that it is important to have my own opinion and challenge what you believe to not be right as this is the only way that things will change. This is very true with regards to society, and the way they view disability.
Society is one of the biggest problems for disabled people, because it is often the opinions of others that stop disabled people from being part of society and able to experience all that others in the society I live in experience.
Opinions have changed and on the most part for the better, but there are still times when every disabled person will have to face prejudice and small minded views on what it means to live with a disability. I can recollect many occasion where young and old have treated me noticeably different to other people that they come into contact with just because that is the accepted norm with people they know. This is quite hard to deal with at times but I have learnt some acceptance of this where individuals are concerned because I realise that this is isn't how everyone sees disability and I try to educate people so they deal with disability the way people with disabilities want to be. Educating people isn't always easy, especially for the older generation, who have had grandparents and parents to guide them in their beliefs. I used to think it was something I said or done and couldn't see what other people saw because I only saw me, I didn't see someone in a wheelchair.
As I said previously, choosing the right battles is the most important aspect for me, I now see that the friends I have and the people that come into close contact with me see who I am, rather than the wheelchair that I sit in. Unfortunately I have had to accept that not everyone sees me and all they see are the problems that are caused by sitting in a wheelchair.
One such situation of people seeing the wheelchair and not me is employment, over the past 10 years I have had numerous volunteer roles and one employed part time. I am currently in the employed position and for the most part I enjoy the job that I do. It has given me great experience and has allowed me to grow in confidence, but it will never be a career and will never pay me what I feel that I am worth, considering the qualifications that I have gained over the years.
I have applied for other jobs, which I either haven't had an interview for or have been unsuccessful at interview. The interviewer of the job where I actually got an interview, let slip that the reason that they did not employ someone was due to them being in a wheelchair. Yep, I can hear what you are saying . . . outrageous, the problem is I only heard what she said and she was very quick to back track so not really a lot that can be said there. It's the whole choosing the battles you fight scenario again. But as I am sure you can imagine, this has knocked my confidence and doubt myself. I am also aware that there are many people in a worse position than myself, who aren't in a job and are finding it very difficult to find suitable employment able-bodied or disabled. I fear this is only going to get worse under this government as there are more people unemployed than there are jobs and so the opinion of employers will continue to get worse because they will want to employ people who are seen fit and able to do the job, especially with all other spending cuts that are being put in place like funding to Access to Work, that if you don't know about it helps remove some of the physical barriers for disabled people to allow them to work.
So all in all these are trying times, and I feel this is only the beginning of the fight for many disabled people, I am glad I am not a disabled child in this period as I feel that this will be a very sad time for those who are, with all the changes that the ConDem government are trying to enforce.