Ramandeep’s Independence Journey
It’s been a little over two weeks since the last of the restrictions were lifted – with the general public dubbing it “Freedom Day”. It’s been a long, hard 16 months or so, and perhaps understandably, many people are still adjusting back to their pre-pandemic lives, especially in the disabled community.
Ramandeep Mann has been on a similar journey – in terms of taking the time to reflect. during lockdown and taking the brave decision to – for want of a better word – re-claim her independence.
Ramandeep joined PACE in 2005. During her 16 years (and counting), at PACE, she has played a key part in the many successes PACE have had, particularly within PACE Boccia. Ramandeep played the crucial, winning shot in the tie-break final in the National Boccia League competition in 2017, securing the PACE A Team’s greatest achievement within boccia to date, along with qualification to the Super League.
During lockdown, Ramandeep attended almost all of our online sessions, ranging from physical activity with PACE Your Body, or participating in our creative art, poetry and henna workshops with PACE Presents. With restrictions lifted Ramandeep has continued her dedication to PACE, coming to our first in-person meet up in almost a year and a half at Gunnersbury Park – and she came independently, with no support from parents or personal assistants. PACE sat down with Ramandeep to discuss her independence journey, the positive impact it has had on her life, the different challenges she has faced, and where she wants to take her independent journey next.
Hello Ramandeep! Thank you for taking the time to talk to PACE. First off, how have you been? And how do you feel about Freedom Day?
I’m good, thank you! I’ve been fully vaccinated for a couple of months now so I feel confident enough to resume the activities I love doing – such as the work I do with Speak Out, and, of course, PACE. It was really lovely to meet up with my PACE friends at Gunnersbury Park.
That’s great! I’m glad you brought up the Gunnersbury Park outing because the first thing you said to many people, with a beaming smile on your face, was that you came on the bus by yourself. How was the journey? And what made you take the step to go on the bus by yourself?
Well, I first started going on public transport in 2018. At that stage I was being accompanied by someone. Keep in mind that I’ve never had any travel training – I’ve learnt it all from first-hand experience. I went on the Internet and just searched my local bus routes and continued from there – it was far less daunting than I thought. I started by planning out the journey just around my local area. I began with short trips, one and two stops, and while on the bus I memorised interesting buildings so that I could easily remember the important bus stops. Every journey I’ve been on since I slowly grew in confidence. Fast forward to today and I felt confident enough to take the trip to Gunnersbury Park by myself. Luckily, I live very near to the park so it took about 15 minutes to get there with only one bus.
That’s amazing! When did you make the decision to travel on the bus independently? And why?
I took the decision to travel independently in the first lockdown! Like many people, the lockdown was a chance to reflect on certain aspects of my life. Being more independent and confident in myself was near the top of my list and something I could tackle in the short-term. And I’m glad I did. It has been very liberating.
That’s great to hear! Have there been any challenges with going on busses by yourself?
Yes, I have. I have various appointments during the week and sometimes I have to allocate more time for my journey because the disabled space might be occupied. Thankfully, I only have to wait 10-15 minutes max. It can be quite demoralizing especially in bad weather. Also, there has been a case of the ramp not working – but thankfully I wasn’t on the bus! That is always the worry though and that’s part of the reason I’ve stayed local for the time being. When I do finally start travelling further out, I may have to think about getting a PA, but I’m comfortable staying local for now.
What advice do you give people who might be reluctant to go on public transport? And what’s the next stop (pun intended) on your journey?
I’ll definitely carry on going around my local area. When PACE sessions begin again, I’ll definitely try and plan a journey to get there on transport. In the future, underground trains are something I’d like to tackle. For people who are hesitant – have a go. Take the plunge. There are many different resources available online, such as TFL (Transport for London) route map – which has a detailed, helpful guide to every bus route. This really helped me in building my confidence. But definitely at least try public transport once, it’s great!