My whole life I’ve had a neon sign above my head flashing ‘disabled’. Although, the light can be blinding and aggravating most of the time I’ve learnt how to bask in the glow.
This year I’ve had a few occasions where the light is so bright and flashing faster than my mobility scooter, the bulb has nearly blown. If you’re not understanding my metaphor – this year I’ve been made to feel really disabled for the first time in my life.
If you are disabled or have a mental illness, you may have heard of Personal Independence Payment. This is slowly taking over from Disability Living Allowance, which was introduced in the 1990s. The latter, I have revived for my entire 24 years. It really helped my mum when she was my full-time carer up until I was 18 when I went to university.
Now, even at 24, I rely on my disability living allowance, as last year I was unemployed for a full 18 months and this was my only way of survival. Although I now run my own business, if I break my bones at any time, I would be unable to fulfil my job properly meaning I would have the backbone of Disability Living Allowance to help me get on with my life like getting transport to hospital appointments for example.
Making the change to PIP was defiantly a process I do not ever want to do again. A 25 page document asking me multiple questions that really didn’t relate to me or my circumstances. After repeating myself 1000 times, I sent the form off… only for them to say that “They needed more information on my case to asses me”. A huge lump in my throat rose. What if I don’t get help anymore? I am a disabled woman who has a long term disability, that with no amount of magic wand waving will I be cured.
My anxiety started to creep in when I received a date that an assessor would come to my home. This person who in effect decide my fate. One of the main factors that I was worrying about was that I was being assessed for how I am RIGHT NOW. Currently, I have no broken bones, however, that could change in the next 10 minutes, 3 months or 8 years! My circumstances are always hanging by a thread. But because I’m currently ‘alive and kicking’ (not literally) then I may not get the higher rate of help. Note to self – I knew I should have put fake plaster casts on my legs and arms when she walked through the door…
I sat patiently on the sofa whilst she took me through how the assent would work. I don’t know about you, when I get really nervous, I try and crack a funny one. This is an example of how the conversation went:
Her: So, if I told you to walk to the end of the road and turn right, then right again, then left, then straight on, would you be able to remember that?
Me: Depends on how many gin and tonics I’ve had!
Me: Also, isn’t that what Google Maps is for?
Her: Can you please subtract from the following 90 – 8 – 4 – 10 – 9 =?
Me: I got a C in maths 9 years ago… this isn’t my strongest skill.
As fellow Brittle Bone advocate Samantha Renke states “Don’t insult us by sending someone with no knowledge of disability to asses us”. I know there are thousands of disabilities out there, but the government should have sent specialists in physical disabilities, to assess someone like myself. It’s a bit degrading when my whole life I have to prove that I can fit in to society and the one time I can be honest and show how vulnerable I am, only to be met with the idea that I might not be disabled enough, even though I use my wheelchair on a daily basis.
I’m still yet to hear what the results are on whether I passed this disability test. I get it though, the government are trying to cut down on people who wrongly claim disability benefits, but I think if you have been born with a condition, that isn’t going to get better, why should you be assessed on it?
Since I was 18, I taught myself how to walk and this gave me a huge chunk of independence. I still worry every day that if I break my legs, I’m back at square one. DLA allowed me the freedom of being able to pay for taxis in these circumstances and any aids I needed to help with everyday life. So here’s hoping that nothing changes, otherwise there’s going to be an angry short disabled woman knocking on a few doors!
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