Is it too much to expect some respect? Is it really that much of a problem? Read Jonny's latest A Different Light column - Northern Advocate, 48 Hours Saturday 1st April 2017

Ever felt like you're smacking your head against a brick wall?

Do you relate well to the movie Groundhog Day?

Get the impression you're taking two steps forward and three back? (Actually I used to literally do that a lot when I was learning to walk).

It seems I'm getting a little bit of déjà vu and not in a good way.

When you're in the business of social change, of readjusting attitudes and changing perceptions, you can get so caught up in the like-mindedness around you that you forget what a mammoth task social change really is beyond your usual sphere.

It is a bit like the stats in the news on International Women's Day recently, which underpinned the startling fact that women still get paid considerably less than men for the same work.

I can imagine how frustrating that must be for the generations of feminists who did the hard yards on this 'back in the day'.

At Tiaho Trust we have been plotting and scheming, writing and filming. We've produced a training video called No Problem, You're Welcome.

When I say the title I can imagine saying it accompanied by a quick flick of my head, a wink of my eye and click of my tongue.

It's a training video for businesses to learn how to provide excellent service to disabled customers, clients and patients without inadvertently pissing them off.

The other day, after poring over the final proof of the facilitator's manual and brainstorming over the logistics of the project, the three of us decided we deserved a self-congratulatory coffee.

We went to a new café.

The food looked very approachable and well-priced. The décor was roomy, allowing me to drive my mobility scooter right in there.

The two young guys behind the counter were polite and engaging.

'What a great place!' I thought.

It went to custard, however, when another of the café staff came to collect our plates.

I saw her out of the corner of my eye giving some kind of elementary sign language to my colleagues to ask if I had finished.

It was a kind of a Charleston dance move of both hands coming together and then apart with a facial grimace and raised eyebrows.

"Yes, I've finished," I snarled through gritted teeth.

This patronising episode was reminiscent of an eggshell in a potato salad, or sand in your sandwich.

When your mana gets a sideswipe it's always a bitter pill to swallow.

Fast-forward to the following week when I went for a MRI on my neck, which is slowly turning into cervical talcum powder after years of jerking it around, coupled with bad posture.

I got changed into the hospital gown, leaving my undies on as clearly requested. Walking into the radiology room, the nurses complimented me on my apparently astonishing ability to walk upright.

"You're doing really well," they gushed.

"You're a super star," they announced.

I wanted to unleash a whole lot of feedback, but when you're barefoot wearing a nightie, you kind of feel a bit vulnerable.

The lack of subtlety continued.

"So I see you're going to have sedation. Is that because you're claustrophobic?"

No, I thought, it's to stop me from trying to strangle you.

"No, it's so I can keep still, my cerebral palsy makes me move around a lot," I replied helpfully.

I know people can't know everything and they genuinely try to do their best etc, etc, etc.

However, is it too much to expect some respect?

Is it really that much of a problem?

Just remember the mantra, 'No Problem, You're Welcome'.

Downloadable pdf below, or read online at The Northern Advocate.

Available Downloads Type Size
The mammoth in the room pdf 225 KB

Published 04/04/2017

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