My friend Lizzie @oohdizzielizzie shared a story on Instagram a while back that really resonated with me and I thought I'd do a little post about it.
As young disabled people, we have to give up so much of our freedom. I rely on care, I can’t really be left alone, my mobility is not great & my social life is very different from other people my age.
On Tuesday I’m having a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) arrive. While I’m very excited to convert it into a little campervan and make it all cute, I can’t help but feel a little sad about the fact I’m in my early twenties and I’m going to be driving a big fat van. It’s kinda funny cause I’m making it so clear it’s a campervan to everyone rather than a ‘man with a van van’ or a ‘WAV’ but like why does it matter?
I was having a conversation with a friend who has the same condition as me and is also now a wheelchair user her first car was a Fiat 500, and my first car was a Mini. Oh if we could’ve seen ourselves now.
Now five years later and I spent my weekends wheeling in and out of adapted vehicles and my very own (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle) is arriving on Tuesday.
I wheeled into a car dealership and said ‘I’m looking to buy a car’ Straight away I was met with - come with me, here’s a Citroen Berlingo. I laughed out loud. No way in a million years will you see me driving a Citroen Berlingo. (I actually appreciate that these are such practical vehicles, I'm just an idiot).
I don’t know what it is but I have such internalised ableism about cars that I almost make things more difficult for myself- it kind of reminds me of the way I avoided getting a wheelchair for a few years when it would’ve really helped. Society gives us such a warped view of disability that when we think of a disabled person's car, we can all think of a great-grandad doing 30mph in lane 2 of the motorway with everyone beeping at him to move over. You just kinda wouldn’t expect to see me get out a Berlingo. Idk I want a nice car and I don’t have much choice over cars.
Three years ago when I had my little white 1.0 litre Vauxhall Viva (Vivienne) there was absolutely no way on earth I would be getting rid of her and I would be forcing my wheelchair into it whether you like it or not. After two trips out with my wheelchair, taking off both wheels, both footplates, the battery, the joystick, the backrest folding, and folding the frame in half, I quickly realised how much effort and how impractical it was taking my whole wheelchair apart to 'nip to the shops' and then began the hunt for a bigger vehicle still adamant I was not having anything that was not 'small' and white. Like plz, why does it need to be a white car?
My mum and I spent hours and hours across multiple weeks going around multiple garages and I ended up having to spend an awful lot of money to get the only one car we could get my wheelchair in fast forward to now and I've lived with this car (Orla, what a babe) for a couple of years and I've finally realised how much of a faff asking strangers to lift my wheelchair in the car every single time I want to go anywhere is. I've broken my chair from doing it, I've scratched my car & dislocated my joints and often it makes me late!
But hey at least my car 'looks the part' So now I need a WAV. LOL. Anyone around me could've told me I needed a WAV way back when I first got my chair, but through Internalised Ableism and not wanting to lose more control of my life, I did not want to give in.
Similarly, lots of people have suggested I now get an automatic vehicle as it will mean driving will be a lot less exhausting and painful for my body- but to me, driving is one of the only things I am still able to do. (Albeit very rarely!) We can predict my next WAV will be automatic and it’ll have been what I needed in the first place and I’ll probably make myself worst but I love driving. I don’t drive very often as I’m too poorly so when I drive I want to be able to drive properly and to me that means a manual car and having the freedom to do so, not losing more control of my life.
So I’m sad for my lil Captur to go (which felt hugeeee when I first got it but now I realise is actually quite small). But I am super excited to get building a bed and toilet etc in my new WAV so stay tuned for that- also it’s going to make life easier for myself and everyone around me.
Meet the new Van post incoming…
Sorry to all the Berlingo owners- my grandparents had many and I loved it as a kid. I'm just being an absolute car snob and I hate myself for it. Wouldn't we all drive a Porsche if we had the money?