Embracing Differences, Fostering Community, Illuminating Hearts

A different viewpoint- “melanie”- more than just a chair

IH: HI, thank you for agreeing to meet me and talk.

Melanie: That’s ok.

IH: let’s start with the obvious… you use a wheelchair- have you always done so?

Melanie: No, I was fairly mobile when i was child but gradually my mobility got so bad that I use the chair 90% of the time now.

IH: what’s the reason for your lack of mobility?

Melanie: I have Cerebral Palsy. I was diagnosed quite early in and had lots of physiotherapy growing up- it probably helped that my mam trained to become one!

IH: what was it like growing up? did you encounter any difficulties because of your situation?

Melanie: in nursery and primary not so much but when i got to secondary life got more difficult.

IH: in what way?

Melanie: My mam and da disagreed about how i should be schooled. da wanted me to go to a special needs school – in fact i went to one from the age of 8 to 11.

IH: and you mum didnt want that for you?

Melanie: no. she’s always encouraged me to fight my limitations. she wanted me ot have the same opportunities as other kids.

IH: so what happened?

Melanie; my parents got divorced when i was 11. I stayed with mam. I started going to a main stream school, interacting with “normal” people a lot more…

IH: it obviously was a difficult time for you…

Melanie: yes. I was missing my dad. Mam was pushing me to do more and people were not always friendly.

IH: You were bullied?

Melanie: some. mainly the girls. They seemed to think that because i was less mobile than them and used sticks that that meant i was thick.

IH: and the boys?

Melanie: the boys were mainly okay. the odd one was  a jerk but that’s boys for you!

IH: did things improve?

Melanie: after a couple of years yes. I decided that I didn’t like being bullied and started being a little more….forceful(laughs)

IH: and now, what is your experience now? do you have any problems?

Melanie: there are the people who see the chair rather than me.

IH: in what way?

Melanie: some people seem to think that being in the chair means I am slow. Others seem to think I can’t speak for myself! Often they will talk to the person I’m with rather than me.

IH: how does this make you feel?

Melanie: it depends on how I feel that day (laughing) sometimes i can ignore it…sometimes i just feel resigned and other times i get angry.

IH: what would you like to say to the people who treat you that way? to anyone who comes into contact with you?

Melanie: I just want them to realise that people in wheelchairs are the same as they are…. we have the same dreams and hopes… frustrations and fears…. that we are just as valid as they are.

IH: some people feel that extra … respect or concern should be given to disabled people…what do you think?

Melanie: I know disabled people who believe that..that because of their situation they should be treated as special but i don’t agree.

IH: why not?

Melanie@ I think that if we want to be treated as equals,asking for special treatment isnt going to help!  we need to oppose prejudice and discrimination but otherwise we need to show we are the same… yes some of use need help for certain things but otherwise we’re as capable as anyone else.

IH: thank you for taking this time to speak to me


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