Let me state at the very beginning that I have a personal interest in Make Way Day (MWD). I have lived with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for more than 32 years and it has taken its toll on my body and I now use a wheelchair when outside my home. My wheelchair has removed my energy-sapping struggle in my attempts at walking and increased my independence; thus enters my personal interest in MWD. I believe that accessibility is a right, not a privilege and anything that interferes with that right should be highlighted and removed. Living with a disability is difficult enough without extra obstacles being placed in our way by uncaring and thoughtless individuals.
Make Way Day was established to raise awareness of the difficulties experienced daily by people living with a disability when outside their own homes. It is estimated that approximately 15% of Irish people live with a disability and remember that some disabilities are invisible and not easily recognised or acknowledged. Wheelchair users and users of other mobility aids are very visible, especially when they venture outdoors.
The obvious obstacles are the car or delivery van parked on the footpath, the wheelie bin or the overhanging hedge but please bear in mind that not all people living with a disability are wheelchair users; some have impaired vision and can't see the obstacle whilst others have impaired hearing and can’t hear the vehicle approaching. Other issues also make life difficult like badly dished footpaths and dog fouling and we all know how difficult it is to clean our shoes after stepping on dog-poop but cleaning our wheels is a nightmare and the transfer to our hands is absolutely disgusting.
Independence is important and the ability to get around unhindered is part of that equation. The ability to get around an obstacle is obviously easier if one is accompanied but that is not always possible or wanted and it diminishes my concept of independence. I certainly like and enjoy a bit of “me time”; just me, my wheels and my thoughts.
"Walk a mile in my shoes to experience my life" and while this old adage has an element of truth it doesn't tell the whole story; every so often a well-meaning politician or celebrity will attempt a blindfold walk or an assisted wheel around and it highlights the issue but it’s not the same.
Awareness days are important to raise awareness about specific issues and particularly about ongoing issues that seem to be so intractable and unsolvable that we need a day every year to highlight the issues but do we need days that trivialise important ‘DAYS’? Do we really need “World Chocolate Day”? which fell on July 7th this year.
Make Way Day falls on September 25th this year but is one day enough to make a long-lasting impact on the general population and particularly those who don’t want their awareness raised? It is a good start and In any event, having Make Way Day more frequently may be counterproductive and risk it fading into background noise because some messages get lost with repetition and the passage of time as all messages do and particularly today when people are used to short snappy soundbites.
Kindness, respect, thoughtfulness – at least not carelessness or recklessness should be the order of the day. Thoughtfulness is a mindset, a way of life and if isn’t it should be. This brings to mind a line from a Glen Campbell song; “you got to try a little kindness, yes show a little kindness”
For more information on how to get involved
Make Way Day: https://www.makewayday.com/
Disability Federation of Ireland: https://www.disability-federation.ie/