Describing my friendship group growing up almost resembled telling one of those jokes your Dad tells of an Englishmen, Scotsman and an Irishman walking into a bar. There we were: a black friend, a Muslim friend, a lesbian and a wheelchair user. It was like diversity Pokemon and we had collected them all.
Jokes aside, I don’t think I have ever fully appreciated how special it is to have such a diverse group of friends and having been able to experience such unique perspectives. It is extremely rare to have a variety like this, especially considering we lived in a town consisting of mostly White British people and we all attended catholic school where there was not much diversity in terms of faith. To be honest, until watching this week’s module material it hadn’t really clicked for me how rare it is to have an insight into each of their individual perspectives.
This week’s learning particularly focused on disability and the social model which was a real eye opener for me. Having grown up with one of my best friends, Laura, who is a wheelchair user and has brittle bones, I already felt much more aware than most others when it came to disability. Although I have been exposed to the world of disability from Laura’s perspective since I was in primary one, I do not feel that I appreciated what that meant. I had always seen Laura as my friend rather than a wheelchair user to the point I was not even aware of what her particular disability was until at least 10 years into the friendship. In many ways I think that that is great. The fact I saw Laura as an equal and no different from my other able bodied friends is how it should be.
There is an amazing amount of adaptations that can be made in today’s society in order to make the disabled less disabled. Such simple additions to buildings like ramps and lifts or signs in braille makes the world that much more accessible for those who need it. I have seen it first hand through Laura’s adapted car, for example, which gives her so much freedom, especially considering she lives in the countryside. Plus, she always offers to pick us all up since it’s easier for her to get parking than it is us – her words not mine.
As easy as it is to make jokes at the pros of the disabled badge when it comes to the car park, I am certain there are a large number of adversities and struggles Laura has had to face that I can barely even begin to understand. From my perspective Laura has never been affronted by her impairment and has never been stopped doing anything she set out to do. She is currently a swimmer for the Scotland para swim team – Laura is unstoppable in my eyes. She is never one to complain but looking back on our years of friendship I know there has been harder times for her. From physical injuries such as easily broken bones to the discrimination she felt when she moved to university. I really hope that the social model way of thinking allows the world to be a more and more understanding, accepting and accessible place for everyone.