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