Growing up, I often heard what is purported to be an American-Indian saying, “Never criticise a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” Regardless of the veracity of its origins, the empathetic notions that are meant to be derived from it were made patently manifest to me after I
experienced near-labour-levels of pain broke fractured mangled mutilated dismembered pulverised seriously injured two of my toes some days ago. (note to self: play down the degree of severity incase mother reads this blog)
I shan’t bore you with the technicalities of the incident, suffice to say that I was saved from going into shock on the spot because my dear friend who accompanied me to the Accident and Emergency Unit at the Hospital could not stop giggling at the incredulity of the situation. What’s that saying about a true friend being someone who sits with you and laughs whilst you have visions of needing reconstructive toe surgery as you almost faint from the pain of a crushed foot – yes, I’m looking reproachfully at you Ms. LOL-A. (What a coincidentally apt acronym of your name!)
Anyhow, so back to the purpose of this blogpost. What an eye-opening few days I’ve had. Now, although my doctoral studies have been about the support given to children with special educational needs and disabilities, actually having a disability – albeit a temporary one – has afforded me a first-hand insight into the daily travails faced by those whose physical mobility is impacted to some degree.
The time taken hobbling between offices, for instance, has doubled. As has my planning in terms of the accessibility options available within various buildings. I now have to think twice before making multiple trips to and from the printer in my office, and have also been constrained by my inability to dash up the stairs to pick up a notepad from my desk whilst en route to a training session directly after a meeting at a different location. All these examples have led me to reflect on just how much allowance we make for those with physical disabilities during our day-to-day activities. Working in a higher education institution, I am aware of expectations for instance, where students sometimes have a mere 30 minutes between lectures, during which time they are expected to not only buy lunch from the bustling campus cafeteria, but also move speedily between lecture locations, which could be from one end of campus to the other.
My doctoral research afforded me an insight into support levels for those with disabilities, but my first-hand experiences of disability have afforded me the empathy that is so critical when it comes to planning for provisions and initiatives which take into account those who are “differently-abled”. This website has some useful practical tools and tips that we can implement in our daily lives.
To conclude, on a light-hearted note, I can finally say that I achieved one of the items on my bucket-list: I literally brought traffic to a standstill this morning, as the drivers waited patiently for me to hobble across the road. Granted it wasn’t because of my stunning beauty – but hey, my attractiveness played some part in it, right? You can’t blame a girl for trying!
Saneeya Qureshi © 2015