Even Paralympians Can “Look Normal”

 

I came across this article a little while ago and it irked me, as it should. It should annoy anyone reading it, because it’s ridiculous. 43 year old Sophia Warner suffers from Cerebral Palsy, and competed in the 2012 Paralympics. But this amazing UK Paralympian was left in tears after a flight she took in March because she was challenged about her disability.

She posted on Twitter about the upset it caused when staff from easyJet said You look completely normal. Why do you need help? She wrote how she cried all the way home, and it’s not surprising when you’re made to feel you have to “prove” an illness/disability, especially when we’re talking about staff who are paid to help you who are the ones making you feel as though you don’t need or deserve assistance.

Such instances need to be made known and reported so that changes can be made. Following this Twitter post from Sophia gaining publicity, easyJet of course promised to look into the incident and ensure improvements are made in the future.

I think this highlights a few things :

  1. Anyone can have an illness / disability, whether invisible or not, can “look fine”. Any age, race, social class, job status, physical ability or gender.
  2. A lot of people are experiencing problems with assistance at airports and other means of public transport where those that are there to help do not treat passengers with due care, attention or respect. This needs to change.
  3. Being made to feel like a fraud, almost as though you’re lying and as though you have to prove you’re unwell is devastating, exhausting and upsetting. If this amazing lady, who has won medals at Birmingham’s 1998 Paralympic World Championships, the Paralympic World Championships in New Zealand in 2011 and London’s 2012 Paralympics can cry all the way home, you, me, and anyone else can get upset, too.

Of course, some people will have very positive experiences with the likes of transport assistance. A lot will depend on the individuals themselves, rather than being a distinct reflection of a particular company, place or provider. It’s also understandable that some justification needs to be made as to why assistance is needed, but there is a line that needs to be drawn. It’s such a shame to know that so many people still struggle so much and get treated so poorly.

I like to hope that with increasing awareness being raised, there will be less ignorance and more compassion. More people will have have a caveat formed in their thinking – You don’t have to look sick to be sick and you don’t have to be in a wheelchair to be disabled.

Have you had problems with assistance on public transport or flights, or any positive experiences to share?

Caz  

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24 Comments

  1. April 17, 2018 / 4:19 pm

    Good post. People need to speak up to help the disabled.

  2. April 17, 2018 / 4:40 pm

    So true. Sometimes people are very sick and you can’t see it. It’s ever so important to treat everyone with care and respect.

    Have a fabulous day. ♥

    • April 20, 2018 / 5:00 am

      Yes, exactly – everyone should be treated with care & respect, spot on. Thanks for the comment & you have a lovely rest of the week too! 🙂

  3. April 17, 2018 / 5:23 pm

    Wrong though it is, this sort of ignorance being shown in a high profile way does a lot to increase awareness.

    • April 20, 2018 / 4:59 am

      I totally agree – more high profile experiences and media can really help to bring the issues to social consciousness and gradually change perspectives & opinions. Thanks for the great comment Suzanne! 🙂

  4. April 17, 2018 / 6:58 pm

    I suffer from an auto – immune disease. My medications include steriods that has led to weight gain, joint pains, nervous disorders among others. I feel embarrassed to show my physical pain; and, I am overweight because of which reasons people take me to be “healthy” and, that I cannot possibly “seem” to have disease. That doesn’t feel good…

    • April 20, 2018 / 5:23 am

      You’re right, that doesn’t feel good at all. It’s easy for people to jump to conclusions and make judgements based on outer appearance, which we know can be far from the truth of how healthy our bodies are or how we feel inside mentally & physically. But you know what you have to contend with every day, so don’t let ignorance get to you (easier said than done…) or stop you from living the best life you can with the circumstances you’re in. Thank you for sharing 🙂
      xx

  5. April 17, 2018 / 7:34 pm

    My disability is more obvious because I am blind and use a white cane, but I’ve had trouble at airports too. My biggest frustrations are people trying to insist that I use a wheelchair even though I can walk, and someone saying there would be nobody available to assist me for a couple of hours. They soon rethought that one and I managed to educate them that the wheelchairs should be for those who genuinely need them, but although I have had some good experiences at airports, I would say there is a long way to go.

    • April 20, 2018 / 5:19 am

      I’m sorry you’ve had frustrating experiences; I wonder whether the push to use a wheelchair is sometimes because they genuinely think you’d be more comfortable, or because it’s part of procedure/ticks a health&safety box for them. You’re right, it does seem like there’s still a way to go but the positive instances people have suggests it can be done, that there are some compassionate staff & amazing people out there. I really do hope your next public transport or airport experience is a positive one! Thank you so much for sharing.x

  6. April 17, 2018 / 8:19 pm

    Well, it depends. I had good and bad experiences. Some people will ignore me and not give me their seat, others are great. The same goes for the bus drivers. But it is a shame, what Sophia was put through.

    • April 20, 2018 / 4:58 am

      I think a mix of positive and negative shows it’s possible people and staff can be compassionate & amazing, but also that there’s a way to go to raising awareness & being more mindful of invisible illness/disability. Thanks for your comment Viola =]

  7. April 17, 2018 / 9:27 pm

    Really good post Caz. xx The points you highlight are so important and hopefully things like this happening will make people more aware. At least then something good comes out of a horrible experience. xxx

    • April 20, 2018 / 4:56 am

      A very good way to see it, that something good can hopefully come from horrible experiences. I’m glad you liked the post – thanks for the great comment! 🙂

  8. Wendy Bloom
    April 18, 2018 / 3:37 pm

    I often get the comment, “you are looking well”, made to me. When I was extremely ill, many years back, I was so thin that I looked something like a concentration camp victim. I remember someone whispering ‘anorexic’ as I walked by them, in junior high school. At either side of the spectrum, it’s painful to be judged by people who have no awareness as to the reality of living with a serious illness. Or of living with any kind of illness, for that matter. I like the comment that Susan Cox made above. Very true.

    • April 18, 2018 / 9:56 pm

      Eugh, it’s awful to get such comments of judgement from those with no awareness or knowledge. Sometimes I’m not sure whether it’s worse to have whispered comments or direct ones. I’m sorry you’ve had to experience it too, Wendy, but thank you for sharing. In time, hopefully there will be a little more compassion and a little less ignorance, bit by bit. x

  9. April 18, 2018 / 8:19 pm

    Great post Caz! This highlights so well the fact that outward appearances don’t tell the whole story, and people shouldn’t be so quick to judge things they know nothing about.

    • April 18, 2018 / 9:39 pm

      Exactly, the rush to judgement can be so unwarranted with such negative consequences. Thanks for reading & the great comment, Terri! Have a lovely rest of the week =]

  10. April 18, 2018 / 8:44 pm

    This bothers me. It’s not the employee’s job to determine someone’s health. It’s only his or her job to provide the accommodations and keep their opinions to their self. People have some nerve.

    • April 21, 2018 / 2:58 pm

      Exactly! Very well said, it bothers me too. Thanks for the comment =]

  11. April 21, 2018 / 2:36 pm

    Great post! We really need to step up and spread the awareness!

    • April 21, 2018 / 2:57 pm

      Yep – bit by bit I think it’s possible, because ‘every little helps’! Thanks for the comment 🙂

  12. April 22, 2018 / 4:10 am

    Hate she had to go through that. It is a very unfortunate dilemma that shouldn’t be one..

    • April 22, 2018 / 10:28 am

      Yes, it happens all too often & it’s awful because those saying such things and treating people in such a way often don’t realise the harm they’re causing. Thank you for your comment Gail – have a lovely Sunday 🙂
      x

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