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Old Wheelchair done got me...? / 28 November 2011

photo of two male actors in an embrace

Soft Murders by Found Reality Theatre was performed at Chapter Art Centre, Cardiff in summer 2011

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I am about to fly back to Wales from Corfu alone, and have been recommended to book wheelchair assistance. Now, my relationship with the wheelchair is problematic. It was thought to be the solution to those mobility problems that we 'Crips' will insist on creating, such as my inability to climb the Laban Dance Academy floor ramps that replace stairs between studios in the radically accessible building eagerly being copied by International Architectural students who presume this will provide equality of access.

My MA Choreography tutor turned out to be uber-keen on wheelchairs and suggested putting me in one when I complained of mobility inequality:  "We can just wheel you to where we want you and that will solve all your problems". No, your problems solved, not mine!

But he had already promised me in advance that my being disabled would in no way interfere with my Choreographic studies. On this advise I enrolled, first re-mortgaging my house to pay the astronomical fees. Due to my 'unstable condition', I spent the first half of my year at Laban refusing to be put into a chair and the second half having no option but to navigate the dreaded Laban ramps in one. Their gradient is so steep that climbing them in my manual chair caused me to wrench the hand rails out of their wall fixings, whilst descending resulted in me hurtling towards the plate glass walls that awaited me below, scattering dance students  as I screamed past them.

The travel agent tells me that at Corfu Airport you are either fully mobile or you are not. Living on a Greek island where being disabled is seen as a justification to beg in the streets displaying your missing or mutilated bits, I can appreciate this to be true. Previous experience of traveling alone resulted in me being knocked over, trampled on, being 'reported' because I tried to board before a young woman who had paid the early boarding supplement, and being refused an aisle seat as I ‘had not booked  a meal so it would upset the serving plans’. I booked the wheelchair.

Having just been collected by my partner at Bristol Airport after my assisted journey, I have had nothing but help assistance kindness and consideration. This is the first long distance journey I can recall where I do not feel emotionally drained, exhausted and  fearful of my fellow humans. Whilst weekly commuting from Laban in London to home in Cardiff, I depended on a wonderful Morrocan Taxi driver who not only drove me to school but stopped at late night garage supermarkets (meter off) while I grabbed my supper and breakfast basics. So just because I have the odd one night stand with you, wheelchair, don't call me I'll call you-maybe...