During my time is hospital, I was told that I'd make 'new friends' now. Sounds exciting, but quite honestly, I was happy to keep the friends I had. Of course, I have made new friends over the past years but they don't have to be disabled or have any connection to disability.
I was also told that many relationships break down after an accident- they were right with this one but to be fair, I expect my boyfriend and I wouldn't have stayed together anyway. It was hard hearing all these things so early on. I actually needed to hear what my family told me and that was 'you are still you'.
It wasn't long ago that I read an article in a national paper about a woman who signed onto a dating website, to be told she would be better to join a 'dating website for disabled people' and that they think disabled dating is limited. They obviously thought we need our own 'category'. I know there are people who can't see past disability but many can- we don't need to be isolated. I met my husband a year after my accident on a dating site and guess what? ....he is able bodied!
The response from the dating site.
I was recently speaking on a panel with two other women with disabilities and we were discussing some of the struggles we face, what has helped us and continues to help us .
They mentioned how the disabled community has helped them and I know many people who have embraced being amongst others going through similar. Those who understand.
For me it was the reverse, I hated the thought of being part of the 'disabled' community after my injury- I guess I found it hard to accept the situation I was in. The thought of a dating website for disabled people would have been a definite 'no' from me. I want to be integrated into society not isolated or categorised. It was being included amongst able bodied people that really helped.
I can see how and why being around others going through similar can be a real positive and there were a one or two spinal cord injured people that influenced me in a massive way after my accident, but I struggled with feeling part of the disabled community.
I have changed a lot over the years but there is one thing that remains constant- I feel most happy and welcome either on a motorbike track day, go kart track, snowy mountain or airfield- amongst predominately able bodied people doing the same activity. I don't need a separate category, just a few adaptions to make things possible.
Whilst disability groups are essential for many different reasons it is also important we don't have to be separated all the time, I'd like to think we live in an inclusive world where we can fit in with able bodied people and the disability is a small part of a person in a big world full of opportunities.