I’m Bossymamma and I’m a “Disabled Person”.
Just this week I have realised that I am a “Disabled Person”. It has been a shock as I really hadn’t thought of myself as such. Yes, I have disabilities but, in my mind, that didn’t actually mean that I was a “Disabled Person”. I don’t know what I thought a “Disabled Person” was, but I know that I didn’t think I was one of them. But, as I say, this week that all changed and I can’t even say why it has changed. Admittedly, my walking has become even worse – it seems to worsen every day – and I had to visit the vehicle adaptation company to discuss the options for adapting my new car, oh, and I had my appointment with the Musculo-Skeletal Team this week who are making urgent referrals for a full-spine MRI and to a Neurologist, but none of those things, in isolation, made me believe I am a “Disabled Person”. Maybe it was the cumulative effect of those things? Who knows? How ever you look at it, it doesn’t change the fact that I now feel like a “Disabled Person”. And, if I didn’t feel like one before, then yesterday certainly made sure that I did!
Anne with an “E” and I went to a local town to collect something I had reserved online. As the store we went to is on the same retail park as a large supermarket, I asked Anne with an “E” if she would mind us going into the supermarket. I need to find some proper slippers, rather than the slip-on type I have worn since Tyrannosaurus Rex was a lizard, not a pop group.
My walking was very problematic while we were out – no, actually, it is being problematic all the time but I keep thinking I’m going to have ‘good’ days. Anyway, I really struggled to make it into the supermarket from the car, which was parked in the nearest Disabled bay, even though I was leaning heavily on the trolley. I told Anne with an “E” that I was going to have to use one of the motorised scooters or a wheelchair. We stopped at the Security desk just inside the door and asked where to find a scooter or a wheelchair and he very kindly went and fetched a wheelchair for us. I didn’t want Anne with an “E” to push it but she insisted. (I’ve mentioned that because I don’t want FPR to moan at me!)
As we went about looking for what I needed, we asked one of the staff to help us look. She was pleasant, helpful and respectful. We finished shopping and went to a till. The cashier was chatting in a friendly manner to the father and daughter whose shopping she was checking through the till. When our turn came, the cashier greeted Anne with an “E”, but not me. As she rang up the items (all mine) she made a few comments to Anne with an “E”. While I was fumbling with my shopping bags, she asked Anne with an “E” if she could help. (Can you see a pattern developing here?) I handed her my loyalty card and she managed to take it, even though she wasn’t looking towards it, and offered it back when she had pinged it. I had my credit card ready to pay using the Contactless option but the machine was too far away for me to reach. The cashier told Anne with an “E” that the machine didn’t always work when it was removed from its holder, and proceeded to fiddle with it. Eventually she held the machine out and I was able to reach it to pay. She even gave me the receipt without looking at me!
Those of you who know me well, will be able to imagine how my temper was by this time.
I was absolutely, bl**dy livid. I didn’t say anything to the cashier because I knew I would not be polite. Instead, I asked Anne with an “E” to take me to Customer Services. She seemed a little puzzled but agreed. When the chap at the Customer Services desk first spoke, he looked at Anne with an “E”, not me!
I opened my mouth and accused him of doing what I had come to complain about i.e. ignored me. He immediately apologised in what appeared to a sincere manner. I explained what had happened at the till and apologised for the way I had snapped at him. I told him that the way the cashier had avoided speaking or even looking at me had made me feel as though she thought she was going to catch ‘disability’, as if it were contagious. He was a lovely young chap and came across well. I felt reassured that he understood why I was aggrieved and how insulted I felt. At first, he was going to write a report because the Customer Services Manager was dealing with a matter in the car park, but he changed his mind and asked if I would mind waiting while he found the manager and explained what had happened. I happily agreed. He found the manager nearby and explained what had happened and I saw the look on her face. I could see she was appalled. She walked over to me, came down so that her eyes were on a level with mine, apologised and explained that their staff training covers how disabled people should be treated and that the cashier seemed not to have understood or taken on board how she should behave. Again, I was reassured by her manner, what she said and how she said it. Now, I don’t say that lightly. I was in a store of a supermarket chain that I don’t particularly like, for many reasons, so for me to accept her and her actions is no small thing. It felt as though she, and the lad I had spoken to, cared about how upset I was by the cashier’s treatment of me – and I don’t say that lightly, either. I am well-known as being sceptical in such circumstances. The manager asked if she could do anything for me so I asked if I might have some flowers, please, but not chrysanthemums (I don’t like ’em). She brought over some lovely roses – one of my favourites. She promised to deal with the matter to ensure that the cashier understood what she should do differently. I left the store satisfied with how my complaint had been dealt with.
Being ignored by that cashier made me feel dirty. I felt diminished by her ignorance. I didn’t like those feelings – who would? – so I complained. However, I didn’t complain just for me, but for every disabled person, many of whom may not feel able, or indeed actually be able, of complaining for themselves. I will not accept that sort of treatment. It only took being in a wheelchair in a shop once for me to receive that sort of treatment. Doesn’t bode well for the future, does it?
Beware World. I will not let you be so dismissive of me or of disabled people, so, think on.