‘Live in my shoes, and you will soon see how being in a wheelchair influences everything I do, every day’

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What support is there for people in wheelchairs in the UK?

What is a disability? Live a day in my shoes and you will soon see how being in a wheelchair influences everything I do, every day.

In some ways our community today is a very wheelchair place; in many ways it isn’t.

In this country alone there are 770,000 disabled people under the age of 16 – one child in 20. This, to me, is an astonishing statistic when you think about it, that’s more than I could ever have imagined. In this essay I will discuss what support there is for people that use wheelchairs in the UK.

One improvement in recent years is that there is now a law that every building, new or old, has to have disabled access. This is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA), which gives disabled people the right to access everyday facilities like shops, sports centres and public toilets.

Drains cause a big problem for people using wheelchairs. Having had first-hand experience in this area, I know the dangers as well as the embarrassment of having this happen to you.

This act also stops people like us being discriminated against, so we are able to get a job. This part of the DDA stops employers from discriminating against a disabled person, for a reason related to their disability. I think the DDA has been a great help. I hope it will help me achieve what I want.

Another form of support is that the government has an obligation to pay each and every disabled person a sum of money, Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

The amount you get depends on how seriously your disability affects you. DLA is made up of a care component, which you get if you need help looking after yourself or supervision to keep yourself safe, and a mobility component, which you get if you can’t walk or find it very hard to walk, or you need help getting around.

Some people may be entitled to receive just one component; others may get both.

If you do not want to receive DLA, the money will go towards a car or wheelchair instead. You can get DLA whether you work or not, so this means if you are retired and have a disability you are still eligible for DLA. I have found that claiming DLA is quite time consuming, as the forms you have to fill in are very extensive.

As soon as a disabled child reaches the age of 16 they have the right to decide where they want to live. If they choose to be independent, which I am, they could have adaptations made to the home of their choice, such as a ramp.

Housing is key to independent living. Without a house it can be impossible for disabled people to access employment, education or even social and recreational opportunities. Many disabled people face significant barriers when it comes to finding somewhere to call home. Living in a house totally independent is a major dream of mine; I hope to reach it some day.

Charities are invaluable sources of support for disabled people. Established in 1946 by a group of committed parents and professionals, Capability Scotland is a massive UK charity that campaigns with, and provides services to disabled children and adults throughout Scotland.

The charity has worked with governments and councils to change laws to allow disabled people to be treated as equals and have also fought for a fair and just Scotland.

I think the general public has a lot to learn about the world of disabilities. Able-bodied people tend to judge us by our appearance, the wheelchair, before they get to know the person in it. Personal experience has taught me that people have stereotyped us into people who don’t have brains, which has happened to me on a number of occasions.

I think that people jump to the conclusion that because I am in a wheelchair I don’t have the ability to speak for myself. The question still remains. Are disabled people different? I think you’ll find that the answer is no.