We visit my mum in the USA every year staying for up to a month on occasions.
Our annual trip to Florida is one I look forward to all year.
It helps overcome the deep depression I’m at risk of sinking in to on our arrival back to the UK.
You see, I love America.
In another life, I would live there.
But I don’t and probably never will because of William’s disability and his needs.
That makes me sad but I try to focus on the positives of living in the UK with a child with special needs.
America may be the land of freedom and opportunity. A country the rest of the world looks up to for its advances in technology, medicine and science.
For a start getting out and about is made so much easier by simple things like doors, curbs and pavements.
Yes, you read it right – Doors, Pavements & Curbs!
Simple things I’d taken for granted until we began visiting the States on a regular basis.
The majority of stores here in the UK have automatic doors making manoeuvring a wheelchair so much easier. In Florida, most stores have air conditioning but it’s rare to find one with an automatic door.
Added to this the fact that very few people would think to hold open the door for anyone following behind, a lot of the time I find myself struggling to hold open a door and push a bulky, heavy wheelchair in to the stores.
Pavements (sidewalks in the US) are commonplace in the UK. We’d be surprised if there wasn’t one but in the US they are very uncommon.
Almost everyone drives everywhere. Which is fine but sometimes with a wheelchair in tow it’s easier to walk to the next set of shops or mall rather than load up the car again.
Don’t get me started on crossing the road, you literally take your life in your hands trying to negotiate the drain gully, the raised curbs, the cars allowed to turn on red and still make it across a 6 lane highway in what feels like 10 seconds.
I’ve read blogs written by American parents for a number of years about their disabled child being stared at when out and about in their local communities.
I must admit I never fully understood what these parents were writing about until we experienced it ourselves.
Of course, children in the UK stare some adults do too but only for a short period of time. In America, the staring was on another level.
Children and adults alike would stop right in front of William’s chair and stare, properly stare, open mouthed like they’d never seen ‘anything’ like it before.
I found it very uncomfortable and it makes me thankful for our more accepting local communities here in the UK, where a little boy in a wheelchair out with his family doesn’t cause quite such a commotion.
I’m usually better known for complaining about the lack of accessible toilets that include bench and hoist equipment but in comparison to the US we are leaps and bounds ahead.
A common reason not to install Changing Places or Space to Change toilets in the UK is the lack of space in existing buildings. This is not an excuse in the US when everywhere is massive!
An obvious benefit to living in the UK is of course the NHS – free at point of use for those who need it.
Yes, we complain about waiting lists, appointment times, equipment choice, therapy access but in comparison to the American system we are extremely fortunate.
And finally, many of our most popular family and visitor attractions have adopted carer or disability discounts.
They acknowledge the fact that a person with a disability can’t always access all that the venue has to offer or that the person may need one or two carers to accompany them on a visit.
Discounted entry prices or one carer goes free offers reflect this.
In our experience, this is not the case in the US, we recently paid £200 for William’s child pass to Universal Studios despite the fact he wasn’t able to access a single ride in his wheelchair.
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