Well, it’s been a truly horrendous few weeks for this county after people being injured and killed in terror attacks or utterly preventable fires, a dreadful general election and all the fallout from that, that it’s a wonder we are still finding a way to carry on. But Britain does.
Britain gets furious and then just gets on with it. Much like me in that respect. I get angry and stamp my tiny size 3s if I feel people have treated me unfairly just because of my disability and I use this platform to share my feelings with the world – whether you want me to or not. There isn’t much for me to be thrilled about but one thing for me to look forward to is my upcoming wedding next year. Now, don’t get me wrong, the whole thing has already caused more tears and tantrums than it needed to.
I’ve only ever been to a handful of weddings and most of them have been checked for access and that I can be involved in events. One had a reception in a function room on the first floor of a restaurant which had no lift so family members of the bride had to carry me up while seated in my chair. No toilet upstairs meant I was only able to have one drink the entire day just so I didn’t have to be carried up and down again by inebriated people. Another wedding was in a large old castle where the only entrance was a very steep ramp with no safety rail. Wedding photos were held in the gardens down steps with no ramp. If I wanted to be part of them, I’d have to negotiate the laughable ramp, go round the entire building on a gravel path (wheelchairs and gravel mix like water and electricity for those of you not in the know) and get through a very narrow passageway to the grounds. I didn’t bother. It made me feel belittled and excluded that these supposedly clever wedding organisers were saying that I had to endanger myself and relinquish my dignity if I wanted to take part in these things somebody liked me enough to invite me to. Although the respective brides and grooms may well have asked and been told access was fine, I obviously have different ideas about it. What if I was getting married? Would my big day end up ruined because access was never considered by the venue? People are entitled to choose whatever place is going to make their special day great but I just hate the thought that people are being misled.
Brides are not supposed to have disabilities. People like me don’t get married. You never see girls in wheelchairs in bridal magazines unless the editors have decided to do a disability-positive piece. Wedding dresses are largely made of stiff material, are very fitted and don’t account for the fact it will be sat in and so must be comfy and have lots of stretchy panels so people can, y’know, breathe. Spending the day looking like a fluffy white sheep doesn’t appeal to me so I can, thankfully, dodge that drama. How difficult must it be for women, and men if that’s what takes their fancy, to find a bridal shop with designers who know that disabled dresses need to be made differently, with an adapted fitting room, constantly having to be pulled into awkward and dangerous positions to try on outfits? I’ve got better things to do with my time thanks.
Laurence and I decided immediately that we weren’t going to put our guests through the indignity of being carried up to a reception room or being excluded from certain parts of the day. If things weren’t accessible and acceptable to me then it wouldn’t do for our loved and liked ones. That means having words with guests to ensure those with visible disabilities get first dibs at stuff, putting instructions in the service and warning my man-wife I will halt proceedings if any of our rules are being broken. Bridezilla? Who, me?
Obviously, I want to keep our exact plans a secret. Every couple wants their wedding day to be perfect and, because of my condition, getting what we wanted could have been way more difficult. In fact, most initial queries were met with ‘we have no facilities (or very limited and unsuitable) for the disabled’. Fortunately, our venues are places we both knew well and, because I don’t normally go anywhere without doing my research first, knew would meet the requirements of everyone invited. It might not end up big and extravagant but, if all goes to plan, it will be lovely.
Of course there is a dark corner of my mind that wonders if being stuck to somebody with ataxia will be too much and Laurence will get so exhausted caring for me, never knowing which part of me is going to malfunction next that he will just up and leave. For one day, though, reality can just go and do one!