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In first year, people told me that Lancaster was miniature compared to other places, but that is part of its charm for me. I have lived in Lancaster for a number of years now and I did my GCSEs and A-levels at a local college, and I love it. I have continuously appreciated its history, its heritage, its architecture, and even its cobblestones. As a disabled person, these are the bane of my existence, but I do fall for their traditional Dickensian charm, when I am not attempting to navigate them and frequently almost becoming too acquainted with the ground. I feel fortunate every time I can go out onto the balcony and see Lancaster Castle. I have been described as Bambie, and you would not put Bambie in a big city environment.
There are, however, places that I seldom go purely because, on more than one occasion, I have been on a night out and forced to sit outside the disabled bathroom as people were, apparently, having sexual intercourse inside, only to be dragged out by security in that post coitus haze. How much pride must they feel to have had sex in one of Lancaster’s dingiest and filthiest disabled toilets? Add to this the fact that they also demonstrate a penchant for storing large objects such as fridges in a room allegedly and theoretically meant for the convenience of those who cannot use the ordinary bathrooms and I can scarcely imagine a more blatant disregard for the importance of a disabled person’s right to use facilities.
But, at least they had a disabled bathroom in those bars. Recently, I went to a bar and asked whether they had a disabled bathroom, the answer was no. You have not felt the real effect of a vodka shot until you have to navigate a cubicle, an inability to walk (which was more pronounced than usual, if possible) a disturbingly wet floor, and one functioning hand (I actually have a condition which means I only have one fully functioning hand, comparable to a more attractive Davros, although to be honest at that point I probably looked more like Davros’ aesthetically impaired sister).
I was once told that a girl who was also in a wheelchair did not want to go on a night out because she feared being an ‘inconvenience’. This is disappointing; we should not feel that our presence is an inconvenience and it implants within us a feeling of otherness which does not encourage inclusion. However, what Lancaster may lack in disabled facilities it makes up for with the people, who are at all times accommodating. I have friends who will push the wheelchair once I have gone past a certain point, my personal point of ‘no return to sobriety’. Further to this, whenever there is an accessibility issue I will be assisted. I have been carried up stairs, used improvised ramps, and used the smallest of lifts. I have always been of the opinion that it should not matter what impairments you have, you have to get on with it. I feel very fortunate to have experienced support in this endeavour.
I have heard horror stories from disabled people who use public transport and find it to be problematic and occasionally discriminatory. This has not been my experience, I decided in first year that campus life was not for me. So in second year I have decided to live off campus, I was advised against it for the reason that it would be difficult to travel to campus every day. However, I use the bus each day and have not had any real issue. Aside from the fact that I occasionally miss the bus or struggle to park the wheelchair in those spots, my innate clumsiness overshadows my twenty-three years of experience
I’d even say that being disabled on a night-out can be advantageous, I never actually feel drunk until I get home and stand up to get into bed, which is an exercise in instant drunkenness. Having said that, I did once insist I was sober and told my friend that I would prove I was temperate by walking in a straight line; sober or drunk that was under no circumstances going to happen. I know that people who are drunk think they can overcome any obstacle but I do not think it means that I can cure quite severe brain damage. At times being in wheelchair can also be entertaining because I may lose a piece of the wheelchair, on one occasion I was ‘walking’ toward a bar when my footplate came off and I can only imagine what we looked like trying to reattach it whilst not fully in charge of all our faculties. Is it any wonder the bouncers of Lancaster now all know me? I can only apologise. .