When I had trouble shopping with my daughter, May, I had no idea it would change shopping for families across Britain.
I was just one frustrated mama trying push my daughter’s wheelchair with one hand and a massive shopping trolley with the other.
May has severe disabilities, both cognitive and physical—but she always loved our weekly food shop. I don’t know if it was the colours, sounds or smells but it seemed to engage her. Up until about a year ago that is, and then it all went wrong. The problem was the shopping trolley. Up until that point she fit into one of those shopping trolleys with the baby cradle seats. Yes, her legs hung off it but she was very small for her age and the harness straps still secured her.
The vibrations of the trolley calmed her and, after we shopped, we’d wheel her around the bumpy car park encouraged by her squeals and giggles. And, then she was too big to fit in those seats. Shopping was no longer a joy but a real chore. May hated it. It won’t surprise you to learn that we still needed to eat. We ordered more and more of our food shops online. But, nothing compares to actually picking out the food yourself. Plus, we didn’t want to be cut from this part of our lives, a normal activity that is shared by all people and all families. Disability can be very isolating —did I want our family to be even more cut off from everyday life?
So, I wrote our local supermarket and asked if they’d consider purchasing a disabled trolley for May. After all, the end result would be us spending more money with them and the cost of the trolley was less than our weekly shop. They refused. And, that was the start of the campaign.
Their response seemed completely counterintuitive to me so, using what limited resources I had—my blog and my Facebook friends— I wrote a post that went viral. I don’t have any great campaigning skills honed over time. I don’t have influence in high places. I don’t know the first thing about getting the word out. I just spelled out how insane it seemed to me that a supermarket didn’t want me to spend money in their shop and people agreed.
You don’t have to be the parent of a disabled child to be angered by the corporate and public institutions that have such an influence over children’s lives. But, when it is pointed out that a family cannot do something as simple as their weekly food shop that seems like insanity.
Or, as in the Space to Change campaign, when it is pointed out that disabled children have to be laid down on the floors of toilets to be changed when they are out and about – everyone feels repulsed. Families who don’t have disabled children may not realise how dire these situations are, but when they are made aware, they stand in solidarity with us. These are the kind of things we can change.
And, I’m proud to be part the Firefly Garden’s community to raise these issues together. I only had my blog and a handful of Facebook friends, but here we can come together and make a difference on a larger scale. I won’t have to ask, as I did: “Okay, so you will try to find something for May, but what of the other 800,000 families across Britain who have a child with disability? What about them?” Because here, those families will be represented. Together we are stronger and our campaigns will be stronger.
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