The weather is now warm, and the yearly war on those of us who use mobility scooters has once again begun. In the winter a scooter is more difficult to use because walkways and sidewalks are often not cleared properly, which forces the user onto the road. It is quite easy to get stuck in a snow drift in a scooter -- and I know this first hand.
A disabled woman from Ayr in south-west Scotland had her scooter seized by the police after falsely being informed that she needed to have some form of insurance, and that she was not allowed to take her scooter into shops. Realizing that the impounding of her scooter would leave her housebound she began to cry, but that did not stop the officer from hir path. This officer essentially stole her legs from her.
I don’t think that you can possibly understand what this means until it happens to you. In the winter I must fight depression, because even if I am able to negotiate the terrible road conditions, the cold is extremely painful to me as a person with fibromyalgia. Yesterday I took my scooter to a doctors appointment -- and I could not help but marvel at the beauty of nature, and my ability to be part of the world because I know that my time to enjoy this is incredibly limited. Being housebound is a terrifying prospect for anyone.
I am fortunate because I do not live alone, but that does not mean that spending all of ones time in the same space does not cause incredible pain. Being housebound makes you dependent upon others for even the most basic things. It also limits your ability to socialize with others – and while the internet can at times provide a great outlet, it is no replacement for sitting and chatting with other people. The internet can only give the smallest measure of release because ultimately we are social creatures and human contact is absolutely essential to our health and well being.
The police officer that stole Mia Spalvieri’s scooter did not think about the impact of immobility, because as an able bodied person the ability to be mobile can easily be taken for granted. I know this personally because I did not think about how important it was to me to move at will, until it was taken from me.
She explained: “He told me this would cause more hassle for him than it would for me because he’d get stick from the guys back at the office. I can’t walk but he felt the situation was worse for him.” [source]
Constructing scooter users as a threat is just one way in which we attack the disabled. We are not wanted on the road because we slow the progress of cars, and we are not wanted on the sidewalks because people who are walking have to be conscious of our presence. There is always some excuse as to why we are not welcome in public spaces, and this is a classic example of disableist behaviour.
According to My Mobility:
[T]he officer was wrong in his judgement and the Strathclyde Police, which is one of the biggest organisations of its kind in the UK, was required to ring her at home and apologise over the incident, as well as paying £300 to get the mobility aid back.
While I am quite sure that this brought a measure of relief to Ms. Spalvieri, it cannot undo the damage that was done to her. This was no minor mistake on the officers part, but often actions that are clearly disableist are seen as inconsequential, even though we function with the lie that society is kind and generally tolerant of the differently abled.
There have been several occasions where wheel chair users have been handcuffed and had their chairs taken away. This is not seen as the violation that it is because society expects to be able to control maginalized bodies at all times. The officer in question cannot know what it is to be differently abled, but at a very minimum ze should have been forced to attend some sort of sensitivity class, because if he can remove a scooter from a differently abled woman, heaven knows what other violations that he is capable of.