Wheelchairs make me invisible....and what I decided to do about it

Adjusting Change Chronic illness invisible illness mental health Wheelchair

One of the best things about life at the moment is the joy and pleasure I'm getting from not just designing and working on my handmade jewellery but being able to support my three chosen charities as well.  But there are also the corresponding bad bits, and today I want to tell you about my unwanted superpower, one I never knew I had. Let me give you some background.

Whenever I go out somewhere with my husband or friends, I have to use either my scooter or a wheelchair to get around more than a few feet. This is because I have Lupus and RA, things hurt a lot, I get exhausted quickly etc. etc. I've had my own wheelchair for about six years now, about a year after I was diagnosed and it's extremely well travelled, having been to Florida with me twice and gone round Disneyworld several times!

(On an important side note, we love the House of the Mouse, practically everywhere is flat and accessible. And yes, that matters. I no longer visit a town nearby that used to be a favourite shopping destination, purely and simply because it has done nothing at all to help disabled people and seems to be completely disinterested in listening to ideas. Ok, so I've gone elsewhere. But not everything about being disabled in mid life has options.....and when you're in a wheelchair being pushed by someone else there are some unexpected issues you have to face.)

The biggest thing, that I never expected, was that I seem to be invisible in it. People talk to my husband who's pushing the chair and say things to him like, "Can she transfer?" or "Does she need any help?".  Bless them for asking but I was right there, talking and reacting, looking them in the eye.....

When we were queuing at Immigration in the USA, my husband Mark was pushing me in the wheelchair.  When we were called forward, the passport guard didn't speak to me, he said to Mark, "Have her put her finger on the fingerprint scanner please sir."  I was right there, but I was invisible.  And I felt diminished; essentially I was less ME and more a second class citizen.

What is it about being in a wheelchair that makes people assume you're unable to speak for yourself, incapable of any kind of direct conversation? I really wanted to know so I had a think about it dispassionately and I believe it's about fear.

For the same reason you don't want anyone to sit next to you on the bus and start shouting their head off or harassing you, the same reason that anyone behaving "differently" is looked at sideways and rushed past.  You don't fit in, you're in some way different.

This got me thinking for quite some time.  You may be different in appearance or behaviour but you're just as fabulous as the next person, sometimes more! That really resonated with me so I came up with all sorts of mad ideas, and played around with the best of them until I had something I was really excited about.  

I wanted to create something tangible with a positive, inspiring message for disabled kids and adults.  Not just disabled people either, but for anyone who was "different" and needs reminding that they are amazing and loved for who they are, not what they happen to be.

I started looking for possible designs, began to put together some ideas.  I asked for and got fabulous feedback from Facebook crafting groups, especially from women who were disabled or had chronic illnesses, or had children in the same situation.

And to cut to the chase..... I've created a small collection of clothing and accessories available in three designs, one for men and boys, one for women and girls and one for kids and babies. I have more designs ready for some feedback and my talented artistic husband is coming up with some of his own designs too.

My next blog post will go into more detail, but I am super proud and slightly nervous to announce that our new range is nearly finished and can be seen on the website very soon at www.sparklyprettythings.net

Half the profits go straight to charity but I do so hope that the real success will come in helping people who need it, like me, to remember to feel that little bit better about themselves.


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