It’s three days until the London Marathon, and I’ve spent the last week learning about Leonard Cheshire Disability so that I truly understand why they are a great charity to support.
As a person who was born with what could be considered an apparent disability, but one I have never felt constrained by or even conscious of really, I’ve found that my ability is at times underestimated or misunderstood. Here’s an example: when I’m on an underground train, someone will often offer me their seat. I’m fairly sure I don’t look pregnant. Or even uncomfortable in my shoes. What I do look is different because of my Bebionic hand (or stump if I’m not wearing it). And therefore strangers make the thoughtful, but misplaced assumption, that my need for a seat is greater than their own. This suggests two things to me:
- They are uncomfortable, and don’t know how to react
- They don’t understand my ability
I understand my own ability, but I don’t know anything about what people with other types of (dis)ability need, don’t need, or care about. So to find out, I went to the #londonforall mayoral hustings event organised by Leonard Cheshire Disability, Scope, the RNIB, and Mencap. Through listening to Sadiq Khan, Zac Goldsmith, Caroline Pidgeon, and Caroline Russell (standing in for Siân Berry) come under fire with questions from London’s disabled population, I gained some understanding of the key issues to this group of voters.
Transport. As Leonard Cheshire Disability have previously pointed-out, every day is like a tube strike for wheelchair users. It’s not just inconvenient, the tube is often an impossibility, meaning wheelchair users will instead pay an expensive cab journey instead of a £2.80 Oyster fare. And sometimes minicab drivers refuse their service.
Housing. We’re all familiar with the shortage of affordable housing in London, but there’s even less of it around that’s adapted for specific needs.
Disability hate crime. Some questions expressed concern about going out at night alone – a fear justified by statistics that show disability hate crime is on the rise, and disabled people are at greater risk of violent crime than they were ten years ago.
I don’t think the mayoral candidates understand the varied needs of disabled Londoners, just like strangers don’t understand if I need a seat on the train, but the intention is equally good. Improvements will only come by increased awareness and inclusiveness. All candidates talked of bringing in representatives to consult on how new policies will affect and can be adapted to suit those with disabilities and hidden disabilities.
The marathon shows London at its best, with bustling streets, non-stop support and a community spirit. It’s a great time to remember #Londonforall, and so I’m running to raise awareness, and to promote understanding and inclusiveness.
See the Twitter feed from #Londonforall
Learn more about Leonard Cheshire Disability