Recently I was contacted by Ring and Ride, my local disability transport service. You tell them where you want to go and a bus turns up at your home and takes you there. That’s the theory. It sounds really good. I signed up for the service quite a while ago, before Covid struck. I didn’t use it then, and I haven’t used it since. I still think it would be a brilliant way to go and visit my sister.
A lovely lady asked if I would mind taking part in a short survey about the service they provide and how I felt about using it. Unusually for me, I agreed. The questions were not particularly difficult to answer, not in a superficial way. How often do I use the service? What sort of things would I use the service for eg to go shopping, to visit family and friends, to socialise? Had lockdown made a difference to the way I use the service? Why didn’t I use it?
I completed the survey, then spent most of the day reviewing my answers, delving deeper into what I had said. The impact of my disabilities was revisited and clarified as the day went on.
I would like to use the service. I have mobility problems from arthritis. A stroke left me sight impaired to the extent my driving licence was revoked. The part of my brain that enables me to learn new places doesn’t work too well – I get lost easily. To use a service such as this would be comforting, to know that someone will pick me up from home and drop me at my destination.
So why did I not use it before Covid? When I was still leaving the house and going places? Well, when I first had the stroke I had to learn coping strategies. I was at rehab which helped, and I found ways to compensate for what I had lost. Travelling on public transport was a huge issue. If I didn’t do it, I would be isolated, unable to enjoy what I had before.
So I found out how to navigate the city using apps on my phone. I found out how many bus stops there were until I had to get off the bus, anxiously counting every stop as the bus sailed past. I took pics of landmarks to re-assure myself I was on the right bus in the right direction.
I settled into a comfortable routine. So much so that even though a better alternative was put in front of me, I was afraid to move from the comfortable place I was in.
I find myself in the same place with lockdown. I have become used to staying indoors. I have found activities in my home that keep me occupied and entertained. I am busy most of the day. The activities I used to leave the house for have become memories. My home is my new comfortable place.
As lockdown is about to ease, as our world returns to an approximation of what it was, how will I push myself back out into that world? Small steps I think is the order of the day. I have joined a group – on Facebook – that takes care of our local beauty spot. I can’t take part in litter picks or similar but I have offered up my services to help organise meetings for volunteers. This entails mainly sending emails and other admin tasks. However it will at least involve me with other people with a common purpose.
As I say, baby steps but every step in the right direction is a step closer to the destination.
Written by Portland Jones, PF Disabilities Liaison for the Midlands