Living with disability
I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis just before I went to university.
But for many years, the condition was stable and I lead a fairly normal life. I decided to come and live at St Cecilias in Bromley, a Leonard Cheshire Disability service, about 4 years ago, when I was 55. I’m glad I did – I absolutely love the place.
I realised that it was becoming impossible to do normal things like cook for myself, wash and dry up. In fact, I think I’ve become quite lazy because the staff do everything for me now!
I have a bit of a shopping fetish so I love going to the local shopping centre. Generally, the access for disabled people is very good and the staff are really friendly and helpful.
The one thing I’ve noticed is that the cashpoints are very high up, which proves quite difficult for a little person like me in a wheelchair.
I find that if you’re friendly and chatty, people will be chatty back.
When I’m out and about, I find that some people talk to the person pushing my wheelchair, rather than me. I think I’m quite approachable so I’ll start talking to them. I may not be able to use my legs, but my brain still works. If people bend down to talk to me at my level it makes such a difference.
I do like to go on jaunts. I adore France and went to Paris on Eurostar. I was offered a first-class ticket and the staff put a ramp in my carriage so I could get on and off easily. It was wonderful.
Next year, I’m going on a Mediterranean cruise with two friends I used to go to school with. It’s going to be fantastic.
I also help local primary school children with their reading, which I really enjoy. Some of them are quite cheeky to me, but they’re much more open about disability.
If I could make people understand one thing, it would be to treat me as a normal person and forget about the wheelchair.
Susan Williats is 59 and lives in Bromley, Kent
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Leonard Cheshire Disability supports more than 21,000 disabled people in the UK and works in 52 countries. For more information and support on living with disabilities, visit the Leonard Cheshire Disability website