I’m tired of being pushed around.
It seems I can’t leave London without some well-meaning soul fetching a wheelchair for me – ‘to make things easier’.
Easier for whom?!
Last time I checked, my visual impairment hadn’t spread to my legs. It’s bad enough losing one area of independence without having another snatched away.
Recently I turned up to Stansted Airport, having navigated my way there unaided, on time, with a rucksack full of climbing gear and ready to tackle an Italian rockface. All I wanted was a bit of guidance through the gloom to the departure gate – but oh no, instead my arrival initiated ‘a procedure’.
I was ushered into a corner, seated and told to wait. Resistance was futile – I had entered the Health & Safety zone.
Forty minutes later, with my flight being called for the final time, the inevitable wheelchair was produced. My wheezing charioteer was significantly older and rounder than me and I feared for her wellbeing throughout the ensuing white-knuckle slalom.
It’s not just airports. At Victoria Station I made the schoolboy error of checking at the ticket barrier that I had the right platform.
‘You travelling alone?’ asked the guard. When I replied I was he held me there and radioed for backup. There was, he explained, a danger I might fall down the gap between the train and the platform. I explained I was in a hurry. He explained he was doing his job. The minutes ticked by and I considered vaulting the barrier.
Eventually an electric buggy arrived but the train had departed. After an hour’s wait I was driven 15 metres to the next train. Apparently this service was provided to ‘facilitate my journey’!
I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s the same impulse that drives hosts at parties to seat me on arrival. And I don’t want to sound churlish. An offer of genuine assistance is a joy to receive but being subjected to a one-size-fits-all risk assessment solution is like being labelled a liability for daring to set foot outdoors.
I know that airport and railway staff have a duty of care and a host has every right to direct proceedings at his or her own party, but these well-meaning souls should consider that I live with my condition and a good doctor consults with the patient before dispensing treatment.