Christine Tongue: Taking an attitude

Christine Tongue

What’s the correct way of addressing a lady pensioner on a mobility scooter? Love? Mate? Sweetie? (Pass the sick bowl…) Well, the right answer is YOU DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL!

It’s certainly not “TAXI!” Followed by a huge laugh and a pat on the shoulder as  I pass.  “Hilarious ” I ungraciously shouted over my shoulder. And then hated myself for a) succumbing to replying and b) not coming up with anything better!

I sometimes get “Well done!” For what? You don’t know how well I’m doing what I’m doing. You’re not my doctor or my physio. Just for existing at my great age? Thanks…

It’s almost always men who pass remarks. I wonder if it’s an extension of the wolf whistles and “give us a smile!” stuff they shouted at young girls years ago? Banter?

Women mostly only speak to me to say something helpful like “shall I hold the door for you?” or “Where did you get the scooter? My mum’s not able to walk far now and she’s scared to go out.” In a conversation like that I’m an equal. And happy to help if your mum’s scared to go out.

Mind you these sort of things are pretty minor. The  worst attitude of all is  when  people don’t seem ro see me at all or pretend I don’t exist.

The lorry parked across the only dropped kerb in the street, the cars parked on the pavement so as not to block the road, but stops me in my tracks, the designers of “accessible “ toilets that are up a ramp with a door that opens outwards etc etc – all the product of an attitude that puts people like me at the back of the queue for consideration.

Scoot 100 yards in Broadstairs and you’ll see examples of all this. It’s every day for disabled people.

But even worse, is the attitude that treats us as lazy scroungers, somehow luxuriating in undeserved wealth. That scooter cost the same as a second hand car. Some people manage to get help from charities,  and county council occupational therapists can help with house adaptations.

But it’s not cheap being disabled. And you have to do a lot of work on your own attitude – being grateful for tiny benefits, not losing your temper with lorries and trying not to aim for the toes of well meaning street comedians.

I need more of the attitude of the small boy in my life who likes to clear the pavement for me and the scooter with red a flag and a whistle. Respect! Yes, I know, deeply embarrassing  and may lead to weird career ambitions in his future life, but better than cheap jokes and patronising praise, isn’t it?

Christine is a founder member of disability campaign group Access Thanet


  1. My usual greeting would be a friendly “Hello”, but in your case I’d probably follow it with “Cheer up, you grumpy old moo!”.

    • Hahahahahahaha…
      Mobility scooters shouldn’t be on the pavement, especially when it forces elderly or buggies into the road!

      • This is from the government Web site:
        “All mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs can legally travel at a maximum of 4mph on footpaths or in pedestrian areas.”
        But I rather object to being hooted at and bulldozed out of the way by impatient mobility scooter users trying to bully their way along a crowded pavement.

  2. I agree with most of what you say, Christine.
    Vehicles parked on the pavement are a problem for all those who use pavements, whether they be mobility scooter users, parents with children in push chairs, less able people using walking frames or families wanting to walk side-by-side.
    For most of us, it’s a nuisance sometimes hazardous, to have to step out into the road to avoid badly parked vehicles. For wheelchair and mobility scooter users, it’s a game changer.

    • Indeed – just one of society’s many problems with expanding wealth and expanding population.

      There is a very simple solution – no person should be allowed more than one child and no house allowed more than one vehicle.

      Problem solved.

      • What the f*** has that got to do with getting around on a mobility scooter. Perish the thought you might need one one day.

      • Disabled people are amongst the poorest in our society! And most mobility scooter users don’t have any other means of getting around! I have a manual wheelchair as well as a scooter but it’s very hard to use in hilly places like Broadstairs. I hope you are never disabled but it can happen to all of us very easily and then you’ll be glad of people with sympathetic attitudes!

  3. No one cares where they park in Thanet and the police have shed the responsibility of illegal parking on to local councils – Double yellows once meant No Parking now its like ‘we will be OK overnight the traffic wardens are all tucked up in bed’
    It’s horrendous to see disabled people have try and pass these inconsiderate prats along with mothers having to push their babies into a busy road.
    It 100% needs sorting out somehow

  4. Christine I was referring to John’s comment. I do know it very hard for people in wheelchairs and scooters to get about. I used to wheel my mother around when she was alive and it wasn’t easy. I also dont think people in disability scooters should have to ride in the road it is to dangerous.

  5. People are people and they are all different. Some are considerate, some are not. For example, I would never park on the pavements and especially not if it meant making it inaccessible for the people for whom it was intended. I would never ride my bike on the pavements either unless it is a designated shared space in which case I would ride as considerately as possible and be prepared to ride at walking pace. The road is always an option for those who want to go faster. I would love to have an e-scooter to get about on but I don’t because I am a law-abiding person and e-scooters are illegal.
    Likewise, if I was unfortunate enough to need to use a mobility scooter, I would not expect everyone to get out of my way nor would I exceed the “acceptable” speed limit of 4 mph on pavements.
    I would accept the fact that the pavements are for pedestrians and I would have no more right to use it than they do. If people were to move aside to let me pass, I would see it as a courtesy and I would thank them for that. I certainly would not feel entitled and be rude to people.

  6. Peter Checksfield’s comment about my appearance would perhaps be fair if he actually knew me. But it’s just as well for both of us that he doesn’t.

  7. The fact is, Christine, that after frequent insults- often racist, in my opinion- from Checksfield, I really don’t want ever to meet him in person.

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