Christine Tongue: Why should you care?

Christine Tongue

“I just don’t care! I’ve had people whinging at me all day so I can do without you going on at me as well,” shouted the driver of the removal lorry parked on the dropped kerb on my way home.

Like many disabled people it took me a long time to acknowledge that I wasn’t as able as the majority of the population. But why are we reluctant to come out as disabled? I hear “I won’t use a stick it makes me look old.” “I’d rather stay at home than be wheeled around.”

Other people’s attitudes have a lot to with it.

As a seven year-old, just out of hospital and recovering  from polio, I heard a woman say to my mother: “she’s too old to be in a pushchair!” “She can’t walk,” replied my mother. The attitude stuck in my memory. As did the well meaning organisers of a Christmas party for “children crippled by polio”. I hated it. I didn’t know it was patronising but I sensed the organisers congratulating themselves on  their own kindness, while we cripples tried to play games with our callipers, our limping legs and our wheelchairs. Picked out as different! Just what you need as a child!

Christine and a friend 

Disabled people don’t want to be pitied or explained. We also don’t want to be blamed for not being economically productive.

Why does my friend Peter with cerebral palsy have to constantly prove he can’t work in order to continue getting benefits? “Do they think I’m lying? Do they think my GP is lying?”

This was a comment on my article about trying out the disabled help on the London train:

“Disability is a drag but she needs to accept she cannot do what able-bodied people can do. Get over it….we cannot keep changing things to keep the minority happy.”

Well, to me, if something is a drag, it’s a temporary setback  – you gashed your finger cutting cabbage, your water pipes burst,  you burned your dinner etc etc. It’s vastly different from having to give up on ever using your legs again, or accepting that your only chance of living at all is a lung transplant. These are all experiences of people I know, and it’s why I get so furious when I hear other people say they just don’t care.

We may be a minority but more than fourteen million are disabled and it could happen to anyone tomorrow!

Mandy understands. She has a degenerative illness and is one of the bravest people I know. She won’t let inability stop her but even she fears negative attitudes.

“Many people don’t want to make their disability visible until they absolutely must because of disability discrimination.”

“I would say, with my illness, I always have an undercurrent of anxiety when travelling or going out somewhere I haven’t been before. And that is exhausting. And when I’m tired my condition means I can’t speak. So often I depend on the help of strangers – and this time they may not want to help.”

Janie, wheelchair user, says: “The issue with loos is ridiculed by some people but for disabled people it can imprison them in their homes. If you’ve got nowhere to pee, you can’t go out!”

Rina, who walks with a rollator, says: “There is a woman working in my local supermarket, who frequently says to me she wishes her mum would use a rollator and go out by herself but she’s too nervous – it’s very sad.”

Melissa, a researcher into special educational needs, SEN  says: “Attitudes to disability have a long way to go. People with disabilities are still required to integrate into existing systems rather than society removing barriers to inclusion.”

Jim, his wife’s carer and disabled himself, says: “So many have zero idea the challenges disabled people have. Often, just leaving the house is an actual nightmare.  Try living a day in our shoes. We don’t want it on a plate but just some consideration to help us in our daily lives!”

I couldn’t put it better. Except I might want it on a plate as well,

Joan who is autistic, says: “How it treats disabled people is a mark of how civilised a society is.”

And before you say you just “don’t care” remember one day you may be disabled too.

Christine is a founder member of disability campaign group Access Thanet

19 Comments

  1. i completely agree with your comments , and i think the abuse of blue badges and the parking bays is something that requires action. some people think they ae there for work vans and range rovers !!

  2. Usual sad acts berating this person again. Grow up. She is just trying to highlight the difficulties people with disabilities have to overcome on a daily basis.

  3. The removal lorry driver has a job to do it is what it is he can’t just move the house he is working from to just move down the road to suit all those around him abled and disabled. It takes 4 to 5 hours to load / unload a removal lorry of that size. A lot of disabled expect the world to revolve around them. The same considerations you expect to be given to you should also be given to the removal lorry driver and his colleagues who is trying to do his job.

    • Would the driver have parked across a zebra or pelican crosd9ng? The access to a builder’s yard? The end of a “T” junction?

  4. Sorry Christine my sympathy is with the truck driver there are plenty of dropped kerbs you could have gone to without having a moan to the driver. Do you have any idea of how exhausting it must be for removal men to do their work? Not only do they have to spend hours loading their trucks they then have to drive to wherever the next house is sometimes hundreds of miles away, to then unload and carry the heavy contents into the next address!!!
    Ironically I know from my medical background that a high percentage of those who have worked in the house removal industry end up becoming disabled due to back -leg and neck injuries.

    • She has ZERO empathy with others. It was the same with her recent report on travelling by rail, where anyone struggling with children or heavy luggage didn’t matter.

    • There are not “plenty of dropped curbs”. There are woefully few. It is an offence to obstruct a dropped curb. Christine should have reported the obstruction to the police. On the other hand, the removal men could have been proactive and helped Christine Cross the road nearby.
      I agree that Christine’s bitter comments do her plight no favours

  5. This ‘Opinion’ should be renamed ‘Christine Tongue’s venting page’ 🙂
    It’s great to bring awareness to disability and how it must be a constant struggle.
    I think with physical disability its easy to speak out but with mental disabilities it seems to get hidden behind these guys.
    People with a mental illness get forgotten because it can’t be seen – most would much rather have lost a leg – albeit for the sympathy vote or more the fact that they can see it and understand it themselves.

    • I agree about mental illness and neuro diversity – hidden disabilities. I’d like to write about it but I don’t feel qualified. What do you suggest?

      • I really wish I was more qualified Christine – I can only say what I see and how I feel.
        It’s a total mine field.

  6. Good to see someone else can see the forest through the trees – but not a very nice thing to say 🙂

  7. You’ll never change the mind of the Gammon types, but be absolutely assured that when it happens to them, suddenly they have every right to moan, cajole, gaslight and generally make life unpleasant for everyone around them.

    3 of your different commenters also seem to be coming from the same address. What a bitter household that must be.

  8. People with physical disabilities are prevented from getting to and into places because simple structural adaptations are not made. It’s a fact underpinned by legislation that supports equality. The impact on individuals well being can be devastating and destructive. It’s horrible to not be able to cross the road, get into a shop etc. a bit more understanding wouldn’t go amiss .

  9. I read Christine’s articles and have never seen a single instance of her being ‘thoroughly hateful’ to anyone. She politely stands up for herself on occasions and that’s it. I read her article on travelling by rail several times in order to try to understand the hostility of some responses but saw nothing at all to suggest that she didn’t care about people travelling with children or heavy luggage – it was simply that her particular focus was travelling by train with a disability.
    I used to think that relatively few people disliked disabled people purely on the grounds of their disability. How naive I was. Thanks to all who have opened my eyes to reality. Did people hate my severely disabled Mum? Did they hate me during the relatively short time I was unable to walk without assistance? Seems they probably did. No idea what it’s all about. But I’m shocked. And salute Christine’s courage in putting herself out there.

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