It’s Expensive Being a Crip!

When I hear people complaining about the cost of living, I empathize. Expensive commutes, paying for childcare, living in a city – you name it, it’s costly. But there’s an expense that disabled people incur on top of all of these things – the cost of being disabled itself. And unlike being able to move to a cheaper part of town, get a closer job, or coax your folks into a second run of parenthood, there’s little that can be done about the cost of disability. Only last week, I was out, minding my own business, when a crumbling pavement curb jolted my phone from my pocket and smashed on the ground. And to add insult to injury, as I leaned down to pick it up, my jacket caught on the wheels of my wheelchair and ripped. It was a good jacket.

Life requires a Good Set of Wheels 🙂

Of course, this is just a trifle annoyance (albeit an expensive one) compared to the often-exorbitant costs we deal with every day – all an inescapable part of living as a disabled person. Many of us might say, ‘No point in grumbling, it’s how it is. But it shouldn’t be, should it? We simply don’t have a choice in many of the costs we incur. And where there is a choice, going for the ‘cheaper’ option can have a devastating impact on our quality of life. As an example, imagine you’re looking to buy a car. If you just need something that will get you from A to B now and again, a cheap and cheerful set of wheels might be acceptable. But consider that you will practically live in that car, 12 hours a day, 365 days a year. Soon the uncomfortable seat, bad suspension and dodgy steering wheel will become more than a mere bugbear. You need something that will enable you to function without pain or stiffness, and which will not end up breaking down in the middle of nowhere. For disabled people, that is often the ‘car’ we are given. Decent, everyday wheelchairs are not funded by the NHS, and with only a voucher for around £1000, we need to find the rest ‘elsewhere’ (Elsewhere?!). A decent chair costs upwards of £7K. And the number of disabled people with that kind of money in their back pocket are few and far between.

Sport shouldn’t be a Luxury!

It’s the same for sports equipment. Now I don’t mean specialized Paralympian gear; I’m talking about ordinary activities, like cycling, football – even fishing (yes, it’s a sport – I looked it up 🙂 ). If it requires an adaptation, you will often find that the companies that make it, charge double or more than they do for a non-adapted version of the same thing. Just to bring that message home; in the picture above, the bike I’m sporting costs £4,500. Costing a little less is my wheelchair, coming in at £4000, although the wheels will set you back a further £999! Getting around in safety and comfort is anything but cheap for disabled people! In this regard, I particularly feel for young sports-loving people, who have often had access to adaptive sports equipment in their schools and are accustomed to enjoying engaging in sports with their friends. Sadly, when they leave school, the equipment often doesn’t go with them (even more commonly, left unused in a storeroom). And the priority of accessing vital adaptive equipment as an adult means that their sports and hobbies are just another pleasure they have to give up.

Costs and Benefits of Being Disabled

In a 2019 report by Scope, it was calculated that disabled people have an average of £583 in extra costs per month, with some having costs of over £1000 per month. This can leave disabled people and their families with impossible situations, where ‘normal’ purchases – like clothes, kitchen goods or even the monthly shop – are limited by the non-negotiable costs of living as a disabled person. At this point in my musings, I often try to find a positive bent on a situation. But, sadly, I haven’t got one. As the cost of living keeps rising, so does the cost of being disabled. No silver-lining there.

Where there’s a Will …

I can say, though, that I find many disabled people like myself often seek the silver lining in the small things they can enjoy. Many of those I know with a disability say that they are motivated to make the best of what they can in life, to compensate for the barriers set in their path by so much financial and emotional hardship. I suppose it’s part of being human to look for hope amidst the cracks in the (often badly maintained) pavements. However, even a positive outlook doesn’t soften the harsh reality that disabled people’s life quality is so severely impacted by how much their disability leaves in their pockets at the end of the month. And whilst I might just be one of those ‘no point in grumbling’ types, it doesn’t stop me from wanting more, or striving for better; for a life where disabled people can afford to traverse life’s bumps in the road …with some decent suspension and a comfortable seat.
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