Paul admires the view of Glasgow's skyline

People, places and possibilities: Transition and young disabled people

By: Paul Ralph | Posted on: | Tags:

When I was forming ideas about what I wanted to say I was mindful of the idea of transition. It struck a chord as for many adults of my vintage they too can experience their own transition … it’s different to the young folks of today but shares many similar threads …

Listen to the audio version of People, Places and Possibilities

For me it was that rather scary moment when someone started talking about Direct Payments and Self Directed Support, managing your own care and support arrangements, employing your own staff and so much more.

Oh, so different from the old days of one size fits all! The days of red wheelchairs and blue death trap motors … oh, dear that’s me showing my age there!

The transition from traditional service models to being flexible, fluid, exciting, frustrating, challenging, empowering, scary, lonely journeys into the unknown.

I bought the ticket and boarded the S. D. S. bus to start the journey … the magical mystery tour that I’m still on …

Let me paint you a picture. My picture has a label below that simply says:

People, Places and Possibilities

For me to do what I want to do, in the way I choose to do it I rely on the support of other people. A PA facilitates and enables me on my adventures. So people are very important in my independence.

I don't just exist in a box and so it's important for me to be able to get out and about. To visit the places I want to go but also the places I need to go. So in my world places are very important.

Thirdly possibilities are an important part of my life. I like to think that anything is possible. You see it's like this - I may not actually do something but it's a great feeling to know that I could if I wanted to. That's what I meant by possibilities.

So those are my people, places and possibilities …

Where does Euan's Guide fit in?

Let me share my journey with you.

It all started with places and those challenges you recognise all too well. Can you get in, is there an accessible loo or Changing Places Toilet - and what are the people like? Did you feel wanted and welcome?

Euan’s Guide was a new means to find out about the places I wanted to, or sometimes imagined I might like to, go. It was great to be able to get more details than just a wheelchair symbol or the curious statement of "disabled facilities" or "wheelchair accessible with assistance" or my favourite puzzle of “fully accessible” - not that helpful to me. I’m sure you recognise many of these from your own experience…

To be able to read what another powerchair user had written about visiting the Riverside Museum, visiting Edinburgh Zoo or exploring the new V&A are very empowering moments.

Often folk would talk about the experience on a people level - what were the staff like, what happened when you rolled up. Tips on what to look out for, ways to go, what to ask for. For me this opened doors. So for me that’s the places piece of my story …

I soon realised there's more to this than just reading. I could write reviews, I could get my P.A. to take pictures, I could tell my friends, I could share my knowledge and experience. I didn't need to be some sort of access guru - I simply just wrote about my experiences.

Euan's and Kiki's idea was simple - if I share what I know and have experienced about my home town perhaps others will do the same.

I am delighted to report that this has happened as we have over 2,000 reviewers and it grows daily. I write about Edinburgh and Ryan writes about Glasgow, Iggy writes about Lincoln, and Hannah writes about Dudley, and Kevin writes about Derry, and Ian writes about London .... And so it goes on as so many people join forces to write about their experiences.

I have been lucky enough to meet many of these people and a sense of community is developing as, at last, there is a reliable and informative place to share access information. For me as a disabled person it was striking that here was something that was growing from the grass roots and felt good. It’s disabled people and the folk around them helping disabled people.

For me and so many others the story from one person was often enough to make me feel confident about making a visit. I took a holiday in Blackpool on the strength of one reviewer’s review … So that’s my people part of the story …

My journey on the magical bus continues …

I often think of my Self Directed Support as a link to people, people link to places, and places link to possibilities.

The possibilities part is harder as you know you want to do stuff but you don’t know what, where, how or sometimes why? You have the people around you to support those possibilities so you know you can but what is it that you can?

I guess I would say that Euan's Guide helps to make finding possibilities easier. It makes planning easier and enjoying those places easier. If someone has walked that path before you and shares the journey you can follow … it just feels a wee bit easier …

Euan’s Guide offers a great feeling of support and understanding. Over time you may start to identify with particular reviewers and you tend to follow their adventures.

We all have our own interests, we have our own individual needs and of course our aspirations … I look at reviews written by powerchair users, by Changing Places users, by adventurers, by photographers, and folk interested in history or open spaces and places …

I know when I read those reviews that these are an array of possibilities, of opportunities that have been unfolded before me. That's the usefulness of Euan’s Guide … practical information and a host of possibilities to consider … so there’s my possibilities part of the story …

Now, I guess comes the ask … if you have those golden moments, those great places and those gems where life feels easier maybe you could write a review or two …

We all navigate the world in different ways … working together we can make the world more accessible one review at a time …

Source: Paul speaking at the Talking About Tomorrow Conference, Glasgow, on 13th March 2019 at the Scottish Youth Theatre

Blog | Paul J Ralph, FRSA