The course of your life can be forever changed in just a split second.
I learnt that the hard way, when I became a paraplegic at the age of 22 in a road crash.
For the past six years – after being t-boned by a ute while riding through a roundabout on my motorbike – I’ve needed a wheelchair to get around.
That change brought many challenges. But the biggest one, the one I’m still struggling with, is the social aspect of being wheelchair-bound. Before, my social life didn’t require much thought. I could go wherever I wanted and meet friends on a whim. But now it’s a completely different story.
I’d worked 22 years to become the woman that I was and to be happy with myself, to love myself, and gain all my life experiences. And that was just taken away from me in a second. And from that point, through rehabilitation and even after it, I’ve tried to rebuild that person – or some semblance of her. We all do. Sometimes we’re the same as we were before sustaining our injuries, sometimes not.
Many people who have a disability deal with being stared at, treated differently, discriminated against and feel a lack of inclusion for a variety of reasons.
The likelihood of these things happening to people with a disability when businesses or events consider a client’s rights to social inclusion, for example having a portable ramp available, is significantly reduced.
There is a wide variance in understanding the term “accessible”. Often when we ring and check if a venue or event is wheelchair accessible, people say yes, however on arrival it’s not the case. Having an understanding of a range of accessibility needs would make a huge difference.
Watch Heidi describe her experiences of life in a wheelchair (post continues after video):