More to access than chair ramps

Disabled people are often accused of being so involved in the
practicalities of life that romance is a non-event. How untrue!
Romance, love, an understanding partner, even just the pure
physical comfort of a hug, are as important to disabled people as
they are to anyone else. What has been missing for so long in
disabled people’s lives is access.

From a purely practical point of view this means physical access to
shops, restaurants, theatres, parks – all those places that enable
us to organise romantic meetings. It also means access to
reasonably priced suitable transport.

But it also includes other kinds of access – to inclusive
education, and to employment so that disabled people can earn a
reasonable sum to pay for romantic gestures without worrying about
next month’s bills. Disabled people need to be able to buy
reasonably priced clothes that flatter, rather than infantilise, or
only serve a practical purpose. They also need inclusive social
lives mixing with all sorts of people, and not being confined to
“disabled clubs”.

But most of all disabled people need self-belief – the confidence
of knowing they are worthy of loving and being loved, without
judgement of their physical appearance, or physical and
intellectual ability. To not always be the recipient but to be able
to give as well and to be free from the guilt and anxiety of always
having to ask or depend on someone else. To be able to make
independent choices, even about something as small and simple as a
surprise gift.

So non-disabled people, stand back, let disabled people in. You
will find humorous, stimulating, and knowledgeable people. People
you can like. People you can talk to. People with similar interests
to yours. People with similar problems to your own. People you want
to see again. People you might fall in love with.

Believe me, we may have to wheel ourselves into the sunshine; not
be able to see but to absorb the summer fragrance; not hear, but
feel the summer buzz. But just like you, a tender touch, a handful
of flowers, a personally chosen gift, or a thoughtful card, can
create a smile that beams a message more clearly than a million
words can say.

Joanna Whisker is a wheelchair user

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