Tom Shakespeare

Ignorant people talk a lot of nonsense about disabled people being brave.  In fact, patience is the one essential virtue that every person with disability requires.

Patience, while you are waiting for your hospital appointment.  Patience, while you are exercising in physiotherapy, slowly regaining function.  Patience, while you are waiting for the painkillers to take effect.  Patience, while you are waiting for your care worker to arrive. Patience, while you are trying to communicate your needs (or lack of them) to the people who are trying to help you. Patience, while you are waiting for your pressure sore to heal. Patience, while you are waiting for the delivery of your new wheelchair.  Patience, while you are waiting for someone to get you on or off the train.  Patience, while you are waiting for the non-disabled person to finish in the only wheelchair-accessible toilet.  Patience, while you are waiting for the state to decide whether you are eligible for welfare benefits.

Swiss people are lucky to live in an efficient country. When I lived across the border, it took the French municipal authorities four months to process my straightforward application for a parking badge. When I returned to Geneva, it took the city one week to issue the equivalent badge. In many countries of the world, bureaucratic complications mean that the disabled person has to be very patient indeed. Dependency is produced by social situations, as much as by our health problems.

Before I became paralysed, I was an impatient man: always in a hurry, eager to get things done.  In recent years, I have had no choice but learn to be patient.  Apologies if this month’s column is repetitive and boring. But perhaps you can now imagine daily life for so many of your disabled fellow citizens.