Why Is It Harder For A Disabled Person To Meet People?
Hi guys! This month I’m going to share my experiences of making friends with you, while trying to answer this question.
As I’ve grown up, I have realised that how hard, or how easy, it has been, and will be, for me to meet new people, and make new friends, will depend on one very important thing. That is, where I look for my friends.
I have realised through my own experiences of trying to make friends that of course it is harder for disabled people to meet new people. Of course, there are barriers to our social lives – things that stop us making friends of our own age.
We need a lot of support from our parents and/or carers. My parents, and any carers I’ve had, have up until now been much older than me. So in school, most children kept away from me because, well, have you ever met a child who actually wanted a teacher to follow them around the playground? (I didn’t want teachers following me around the playground either – after all no one else had one! But they were there and they were just a part of my life.)
The other thing is that we don’t find it easy to use public transport. At least not without a carer, so, same problem when wanting to go out with a group of able-bodied kids on a weekend. They knew that if they invited me to go to Harrow on a bus, my mum would come along. And, naturally, the idea probably embarrassed them. I know it embarrassed me!
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not much good on a dance floor, especially in a crowd. So as much as I wanted to go as a teenager, I’ve never been to a nightclub in my life. Anyway, if anyone had ever invited me to one, I would have needed one of my parents to drive me there. To a teenage girl, that was a very embarrassing idea!
That’s not to say I’ve never had any able-bodied friends of my own age. I did have a few in school. But over the years, I lost touch with most of them. Because the biggest barrier to disabled people making able-bodied friends is that it is very difficult to find able-bodied people who actually want to stay in touch with us after we leave the school (or the job.)
I do have a few close able-bodied friends now who I hope I will never lose touch with.
But guys, here’s the thing. All my real friends are disabled. They have CP, just like me. We met through therapy centres. Knowing I would meet my friends during therapy sessions had another benefit for me, too – it helped make therapy fun.
We didn’t meet each other as often as able-bodied kids meet their friends, but we met often enough to have very special friendships that have lasted, and that I hope will last, all our lives.
Sadly, we didn’t have PACE, or anything like it, to meet at and socialise with each other when we were younger. I wish we had. Maybe if PACE had opened in my early teenage years, I would have had more friends of my own age today.
So, my tip for disabled young people trying to make friends is – try to meet other disabled young people. Able bodied friends will come and go from your life. But if you can make friends who have a disability, they will be much more likely to stay in your life for longer. So make the most of PACE and try to get to know all its current members!