This Friday, my little boy will be turning seven. For most parents their children's birthdays are a joy; for me the joy is tinged with guilt.
You see, every year, when my son's birthday comes around, I spend my time searching the internet for fun days out that are accessible to those with disabilities.
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The most common activities available seem to be walks around lakes and other such places that are wheelchair accessible. These walks are pleasant enough, but not as exciting for a child as going to say, an amusement park.
Here is where the problems start. You see, most amusement parks say that they are accessible for wheelchairs; awesome, but not everyone is comfortable in a wheelchair and very few parks say if they allow mobility scooters. So, you ring up, discover they either do or don't, and adapt accordingly (in my case, panic a little, when they say no to the mobility scooters), then freak out about having to use your wheelchair until the moment it's all over and you're safely back home after the event.
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It is not; however, as simple as just finding a place with disabled access. What most don't realise, until they are faced with visiting these places in a wheelchair or on a mobility scooter, is that disabled access does not always guarantee you access to the whole park. Often, when you get to these parks, you find that although some areas are indeed accessible to the disabled, many areas are not.
The result, the person with the disability is left sitting alone, waiting for their family to return from the areas they cannot get to, which is difficult for all involved.
Picture the scene, the person with the disability does their best to reassure their family that they will be fine, sitting in the cafe or restaurant, alone, so as not to spoil all their fun; after all, why should they all suffer for your disability.
They naturally want to experience everything the park has to offer, but are also feeling guilty, because they must leave you behind in order to do so. The result, someone volunteers as minder; staying behind with you, while pretending they didn't fancy any of the rides in that particular part of the park anyway, when you both know it's a lie, that you're holding them back and spoiling their fun.
You are. of course, grateful that they stayed, but feel guilty, because they are missing out, because of you and your disability.
I don't blame the sites for this lack of access. Most try their best to make as many areas accessible as possible, but it isn't always easy to do. There are parks that figure you wouldn't want access to rides you couldn't possibly go on anyway, but they are wrong. You don't have to ride these rides to get joy from them. Just watching your family, laughing and having fun can really put a smile on your face.
Uploaded by Lachlan Hardy on April 25, 2013
These problems are what really make my son's birthday hard for me, as ultimately my family try to plan around me and my needs instead of deciding what they want to do and where they want to go based on their own honest desires.
This is when I really hate being disabled. I don't want my son to decide what he wants to do based on my disability. I want him to make the choice based on his own desire.
I am pretty good now at coping with my disability; even the constant pain is something I have adapted to, but spoiling my family's fun is something I don't think I will ever learn to cope with.
Thankfully, this year I think I've found a solution thanks to Trethorne Leisure Park.
Although they don't state on the website if mobility scooters are allowed, they do seem to have wheelchair access to most of the site.
Not being the bravest person in the world, I still find using my wheelchair in public places a struggle. I favour instead, my mobility scooter, which I feel far less exposed and vulnerable on.
Another added bonus of my mobility scooter is that I don't have to ask for assistance, in the form of a pusher, as I frequently have to, when in my wheelchair, due to my serious lack of upper body strength.
So, my hope this year for my son's birthday outing are:
1) Mobility scooter access.
2) Access to the majority of the park, so no one is forced to play minder and no one is left behind.
3) We don't get to many staring, pointing, or rude people, making disparaging comments. You'd be surprised how often people do this, as if a disabled person is an added attraction.
4) By far, the most important hope of all is that my son has an amazing day out with us all. A day that he'll remember fondly, forever.
And on that note I will bid you adieu, wish you all a lovely weekend; well, what is left of it, and ask just one small favour. Please treat others as you would wish to be treated, regardless of colour, creed, or disability. We're all just human, after all, and simply trying to make the best of what life throws at us.
Love and hugs, Joss xx
If you would like to know more about Trethorne Leisure Park, check out the link here.
If you are interested in learning more about Tamar lake (pictured in this blog) and it's disabled access click here.