Iyiola Olafimihan’s account
March 29, 2011
Saturday Match the 26th – it was the D-day, I was out the night before and had too much to drink so I was quite surprised when at 7AM sharp I awoke….( I pride myself on the ability to wake up early if I need to without setting an alarm). I got dressed and ready to rumble. My mate called me around 9pm to wake me up! (I had the day before begged her to wake me up at 8, just in case the alcohol knocked me out!) She apologised that she forgot and wanted to know how ready I was…I’m ready baby was my response.
9:40AM – My mate collected me and we headed for the march, I was feeling excited and at the same time apprehensive, the previous demos have been riddled with issues, the police being naughty and incompetent and all that, my mate also narrated how the night before she spent hours just trying to get info on which roads were closed and how f**ked the metropolitan online map was. To make matters worse the police operator wondered why she wanted to be near the demo – you guessed it – because according to her they were expecting trouble and a disabled woman should not be nowhere near Hyde Park.
10:30AM – We approached the meeting point and needed to ask for direction from 2 policemen. Surprise, surprise these officers were very friendly and even moved their cones from a blocked road to pass us through….my mate said she will drop an email praising these guys unlike the patronising woman who responded to her the day earlier. Anyway we made our way to the blue badge parking and set off on our wheelchairs – thank God my mate’s support worker was a special guy, he literally pushed me and luckily my mate was an efficient wheelchair user( unlike me…lazy bones!). We got to the front of the Ritz Hotel, and by that time that crazy guy called “hunger” was nudging at us; however I had another crazy guy to attend to….wee! so while the special one and my mate went to get sandwiches and coffee I went in search of a loo (I was at this time using my crutches so I thought I don’t need an accessible loo) The only place near enough (you would think I will go to the Ritz, I thought…black guy and disabled…nah!) was this old pub. The pub was full of fellow demonstrators having the odd drink and coffee, first of all if I had used my wheelchair there was no way I would have entered the pub, no wheelchair access here folks. I got in with some difficulties and guess what, no accessible loos and the only ones had steep steps that must be under grade 1 listing! So Mr wee had to remain with me for a little longer, I was still too scared to go to the Ritz!
12:30PM – the march had begun and reached where we were, so we joined…. hurrah we are going to be part of history and everything still looked rather like a carnival. Along the way a gentleman John from Norwich offered to push my mate’s wheelchair whilst the special one pushed me, soon Eleanor and her team caught up with us and we went with them. It was a long walk for those with functioning legs; I was being pushed so it felt more like a ride really…. (Cheeky)
We got to the park and TUC had provided several loos for the big crowd, at this time Mr wee just had to get out of my body so Eleanor’s daughter (another special one – the lady special one) offered to push me to the loos where so many people were queuing to attend to their Mr and Mrs Wees!
So back to the demo, I had a good time….the visibility DPAC and other organisations gave us was to me very empowering and this is not to make Eleanor and Linda blush. The speeches were rather too long and I felt disconnected but when the TUC disabled rep took the podium, boy what a speech…his narrative and what the cuts would mean captured the very essence of being at Hyde Park and finally I like the fact that at last the mainstream collaborated with us to sing from the same song sheet, inclusion can indeed be achieved.