Yesterday I had a meeting with a great guy and it was meant to be a catch up to discuss a few issues – straightforward right? The person I was meeting has a disability and uses a battery operated wheelchair which I learnt does not fold.
This means that wherever he goes he needs to get a bus (which hopefully has a ramp) or needs to get a ride in a specific car which allows him to get in with the wheelchair. I did not give all this much thought when we agreed to meet and I suggested we meet next to University – loads of coffee shops I thought!
The moment we met, I felt just so bad and inconsiderate that I suggested to meet there rather than in Valletta as he had suggested. The pavement was inadequate for the wheelchair, the coffee shops all had steps – it was hot and I must admit I started to panic. We then settled for one which had one step and the staff kindly helped me lift up the wheelchair.
Then we had to lift it down one step when we left. I know it sounds like I am making a fuss but not only is it quite a feat to lift a heavy wheelchair and a person, it is also rather embarrassing and undignified for the person in question. Having to live with a disability should not translate in having to depend on others for the mere basic access to a public space. The top it all the wheelchair failed to work properly at one point – I could not get him in my car and drive him home – that would have been the simplest thing to do so we called for a car to pick him up – he waited in the heat and by some miracle this wheelchair worked again and he was off back home – he had to catch two buses because we did not meet in Valletta.
I learnt a massive lesson yesterday – to be much more considerate and to stop and think – if a person with a disability asks to meet in Place A and not B there is a very valid reason! How I wish I knew! I apologise to this dear person and on my way back home I promised myself to raise more awareness about the matter, so here I am sharing this with you.