Tag Archives: amputee

AS I SEE IT…ACCESS

Donald H. Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defence once said… “If you are not criticised, you may not be doing much.”

As a double amputee in a wheelchair, access is paramount and something I am passionate about.. Many a time I have been criticised for speaking out on this basic right.. but here’s the thing.. most people tend to sit back and say nothing..I can’t do that.

wheelchair accessFor the past 6 months, I have spent a fair amount of time travelling. Access is a big thing to one such as myself… Hotels, airlines, trains, buses, footpaths, shops let alone bathrooms and public conveniences! Where do I start?

Let’s just look at getting from the Gold Coast to Coolangatta airport for starters. The airport bus works fine…when the bus is capable of lowering the ramp!

Sadly this does not happen all of the time.. They simply do not work! My argument here, is simple…they should not be on the road! They are defective, same applies with “wheelchair taxis” if defective, they need to be withdrawn from service and repaired…simple as that!

Now, I’m probably going to upset a few of you… Gold Coast Airport, as you know, has no air-bridge. Some will argue this is a good thing. Try it from a wheelchair and you soon realise it is not! It is that simple! For this reason, I choose to travel up to Brisbane and fly from there. The trains are fantastic and very accessible and personally, I have never encountered a problem.

Now to the airlines… I could not believe that the particular airline I choose to fly did not have an aisle chair on board the aircraft. UNBELIEVABLE!!

I immediately addressed the issue with this carrier and I am happy to say, whilst there is still no chair on board, they are working toward a solution. You see, no one had ever bothered to point it out to them, so they were unaware of the problem.

The thing here is, they took OWNERSHIP and are working to resolve this issue. I continue to fly with them and have nothing but praise for the way in which they have addressed the issue. No need to jump up and down and create a scene at the airport. I just don’t have that chip on my shoulder.

Most accommodations these days, must provide an accessible room. The definition of accessible varies considerably and this is where the problem arises..What you and I call accessible, I am sure is poles apart. It’s simple…Access into the bathroom, shower and wide enough to cater for most wheelchairs.

With the Commonwealth Games upon us, we need to be thinking about total access now. I put my hand up to advise and assist the GCCC in this process. It simply must be right! In the United States, nothing is left to chance…NOTHING!

Ok, I grant you that the laws there allow for an individual to sue the pants off whoever gets it wrong. They pretty much have it right. Sadly the privilege is abused when it comes to cruising as laws there do not allow them to question your right to an accessible cabin on a ship.

What annoyed me there, was the number of people that abused the right. Climbed into a wheelchair, just to get to the front of the queue, then walked to the buffet or took the lift, simply because they were obese, or just plain lazy. Harsh yes, but fact!

Did I get angry, speak out…absolutely! Was I criticised for doing so, yes! Would I stop and sit back and let this happen NO!

Again, here’s the thing, I don’t care too much about myself, I can and have been speaking out for nearly 40 years as a Broadcaster and Journalist.

I have helped implement change and am proud of that achievement. The people I care about are our “Diggers, the elderly & frail, those that can’t speak out, simply because they are struggling to cope with their daily existence.

This brings me to the point I wish to hammer home…Right now, there is a lot of construction taking place on the Gold Coast with the building of the “LITE RAIL” access for anyone is difficult, let alone those who are frail, elderly, young families with strollers and of course those of us confined to a wheelchair.

I have addressed the issue and whilst the authorities are concerned, sadly they just play “lip service” to the problem and throw a bit of hot mix over the paths with no consideration to those that have to struggle on a daily basis, just to get to their corner store…It needs to be changed…Attitudes need to change as does the planners thinking.

No doubt I will be criticised once again for speaking out, but as I said at the start of this article, quoting from Donald H Rumsfeld…“If you are not criticised, you may not be doing much.”

I hope I am doing something!

As I See It – Body Image?

“There are two kinds of “disabled” persons: Those who dwell on what they have lost and those who concentrate on what they have left.” Thomas S. Szasz Spare Parts

I have been pondering a thought, after a conversation I had with a friend the other day. To be honest with you, I found it a little weird, in fact, it bordered on the the macabre! To be honest, it has disturbed me somewhat since,  so, I have decided to share it with you..

Now, as  most of you probably know, I lost my legs in a horrific train accident, (through no ones fault at the end of the day) and up until that day,life for this  21 year old was pretty good. Fit, healthy and  full of vim. One could even say ten foot tall and bullet proof. Well we all were at that age really? I adjusted pretty quickly to my new surroundings without legs.  Just got on with it !!  As you know, I like to think that I have a pretty positive attitude. Over the years, I have seen many disabled people  having to prove some point or other, not only to those around them, but more-so to themselves!.. We have all seen the incredible feats that these people have go to, challenging their physical and mental fitness climbing  a mountain or bumming their way up the Kokoda Track,  trekking in the Himalayas,  jumping out of an aeroplane or wheeling from one side of the globe to the other. Then they write the book and get on to the speaking circuit… Not all, but a fair number… Good on them I say!! They are inspirations  and if it helps them to cope in some way with their disability…go for it! Unfortunately, in my opinion, they are still coming to terms with their own demons and have not worked through the grief.. They still have to come to a point of acceptance.. Yes, sure, each of us is different and what worked for me, may not work for others.. I have said many times, I’m a “Glass half full” kind of guy…always have been and always will be.. That’s me!

Here’s the thing.. I have always considered myself ‘normal’, My colleagues have always seen and considered me as ‘normal’… I recall an incident that I still joke about with my best mate… Working at a particular radio station, the “On-Air” team decided to challenge a rival  station to a night of ten pin bowling… This was a great fun event and the competition was fierce… My mate, who happened to be the Station Manager, organised the bowling shoes… I’m waiting with the rest of the crew, when he turns around and straight as a die says  “Porty….what size show do you take?” As quick as lightening I replied “10 and a half” The person behind the counter just stared at him with disbelief… Just normal as normal… we still laugh about that to this day.. My boys saw me as no different to any other dad. Oh, they quickly worked out that they could test me to the limit and knew just how far to push the boundary. My work colleagues didn’t take too much notice of the fact that I was legless and in a wheelchair… After all I was another voice on the radio. Who needed legs to talk on air?  So on it went.  I guess all things considered, I did ok.. Had a pretty good career and loving family..  Don’t get me wrong… I had my share of ups & downs like anyone else. My own demons to deal with. I did that in my own way coming to a place of peace within myself.

Then, the other day my world turned upside down! I had a conversation with a disabled person who by choice had a leg surgically removed because they did not like the way they looked and from what I gather didn’t like the way other people looked at them. I reacted more quite surprised and even angry when I heard this.

Should I have reacted the way I did?

I questioned the ethic of this. Yes, it is your body and I guess you have the right to decide. Then I read about an art exhibition called “SPARE PARTS” this was a collection of prosthetics, all painted in a variety of colour & design. Innovative, I thought, until I did some further research. What I discovered is that these people nurture and caress these limbs in a way I personally find a little intriguing.

Is this normal, I asked myself?

Thomas S. Szasz sums it up rather well “There are two kinds of “disabled” persons: Those who dwell on what they have lost and those who concentrate on what they have left”

Personally I prefer the latter.

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