Check out a podcast I did with friend and mentor Ainle Ó Cairealláin from Rebel Matters a few weeks back. I talk about how I dealt with my disability growing up, recovering from broken bones and my international wheelchair rugby career.
I’ve been wanting to write this for a while now, and since doing a podcast with Rebel Matters this week I’ve decided to bite the bullet and go for it. The lack of respect out there for disabled parking spaces.
What really got me thinking about this and why I’ve really decided to write this blog is a question that he asked me.
“In your experience so far, how do people treat you as a wheelchair user? From the good to the bad.”
Now you could say that I’m somewhat of an expert as a wheelchair user. having being in a wheelchair the last 19/20 years its fair to say that I have come across some absolutely crazy situations with people!
It’s crazy to think how ignorant people can be towards disabilities. They seem to think that the parking spaces are just there for their own convenience.
For instance, just the other day as I was looking for a parking spot in the city-centre, I came across a rather popular security company parked in a disabled spot. When confronted the man in the van just nodded at me and carried on to look into his phone. The driver came out and was said to me “oh I was just in there for two minutes”.
I don’t think people really understand why we need/ have disabled parking spots. Getting a wheelchair in and out of a car is no easy task. Let alone doing it in a parking space so tight that the average human being would struggle to get in and out of it. We need the bigger spaces to allow room for our wheelchairs or mobility aids to get in and out of the cars. To allow for extra room for assistance in and out of the car depending on the level of disability. People also need these spaces as they might not be able to walk a far distance depending on the disability. These spaces should not be seen as a privilege, but rather a necessity for people with disabilities.
Taking up these spaces when you do not need them is taking away from someone who is in need. it is also taking away from them as a human being, a person with a disability is just as much of a human being as to what you are.
” If you want my parking space, have my disability.”
Since birth I have suffered with a disease called Oseteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) or to the everyday person, Brittle Bones. To this day I have had 99 fractures. This may seem like a lot, but when it comes to Brittle Bones its far from a lot! This is a disease that causes bones to be brittle and break easily. OI is caused by a defect in the collagen in the bone. Collagen is what causes you bones to be strong. A lack of collagen will mean that the bones are weaker. OI can also cause your teeth to be brittle and affect hearing. In the more extreme types it can also effect muscle strength.
OI is caused by either being inherited from your parents or if your (un)lucky like me a gene mutation. This happens when a gene dominant mutation is paired with a ‘normal’ gene. When a mutation occurs it only has to be one faulty gene to have the genetic disorder. For most people with OI this is the case. They will have one faulty type 1 collagen gene and one normal type 1 collagen gene.
Over the years I’ve had numerous fractures. 99 to be precise! I’ve come to realise that with these fractures usually comes a sort of grieving process.
- Anger / Frustration
The denial is pretty short-lived when it comes to breaking a bone. For me, I’ll hear the crack of the bone and think ‘Oh sh*t, did I imagine that or did it actually just happen?’ Then you’ll get a bit of an adrenaline rush, (weird I know) and then the pain kicks in and you realise that yes, it did actually just happen.
Anger, Frustration and Depression. Ah the terrible three’s as I like to call them! The three of these sort of go hand in hand with one another. When I was younger, before I started my medication I was nearly coming out of one cast and would be back into another one before you could blink. That’s how regular my fractures would have been. Thinking back to then, I would have gotten frustrated a lot with my breaks. I felt as if I was always on my back foot. I would make the slightest bit of progress and then end up going back two steps. I always felt as if the world was against me so to speak. It was very debilitating, as a kid being bed bound at some stages for weeks on end was absolute torture!
The depression of breaking a bone did not really hit me until recently. Fracture #97 and #98 were definitely when I realised that I was not ok after breaking a bone. These fractures happened in the build up to European Championships and it completely wrecked my mind-set. Not so much the fact that I broke my leg, but it was the sense of I worked my ass off for months on end to have it all taken away from me in a blink of an eye.
Acceptance, a bit of a weird one for me. I accept that it has happened as soon as I break a bone, but I still go through the other stages at the same time.
From realising that this was happening, I came up with a routine I go through now to try to counteract this from happening in the future.
- Set Goals
- Create a routine to go through every morning
- Practice mindfulness
- Eat healthy
- Continue training and exercising to your ability
There is no point in getting worked up over the things you cannot change. I’ve come to terms with this and that I will almost certainly have more fractures to come in my life. But I will not let them get the better of me, life, in my view is too short to keep getting down and knocked backwards after every upset.
If you would like more information on OI here are a few links to check out.