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  • Dougie

So -- the glass that is my day. Today.

Last October -- the 2nd of October to be exact -- I received an invitation to appear as a keynote speaker at the annual conference of the New Zealand Disability Support Network (NZDSN). On Wednesday, 11th April 2018 or -- to be exact -- less than 48 hours from this very moment.

Dr Garth Bennie, Chief Executive of the NZDSN, wrote that the conference wanted to know more about the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, particularly viewed from the perspective of people with disability. He'd been told that I had a variety of interesting and different connections to the NDIS.

And he'd been told that I can speak. Well ... is the Pope a Roman Catholic and do bears shit in the woods? (Answers on a postcard to ...)

I was surprised to receive the invitation entirely out of the blue. And flattered, of course. I cannot tell a lie. Who would not want to say yes to such an unexpected, interesting request? So I said yes, booked our flights and made plans to depart six hours ago:

  • drive to Sydney,

  • stay overnight in the flat with my friend Sharon,

  • big silver bird to Wellington,

  • speak to the conference about the NDIS,

  • enjoy a weekend in New Zealand.

  • Come home.

What could go wrong?

The hand controls on my modified car. That's what could go wrong.

  • As we were leaving our driveway,

  • in Canberra,

  • at 4:30 p.m.

  • Before the 3 hour drive to Sydney,

  • the short night's sleep in the Ashfield apartment

  • then the check-in at the QANTAS desk on Tuesday morning,

  • at 7:30 a.m.

Or .... NOT HAPPENING ... as we sometimes call it.

Option 1: use the 'F' word. More than once.

Option 2: emergency call to the excellent Sean at Capital Specialist Vehicles in Dandenong (the vehicle modifiers) to see if there was a do-it-yourself, hand control repair job Spike could put in place. But no. These are GuidoSimplex hand controls, not the old-fashioned push/pull, three metal rods arrangement. So no. There's an hour of our lives we're never getting back.

Option 3: seek out a friendly neighbour to drive the car back onto the driveway. (Spike has many talents but she is not a driver).

Option 4: frantic dash to the railway station to catch the last train of the day to Sydney? Choo choo! Long gone.

Option 5: frantic dash to the bus station to catch a late bus to Sydney? Not if you're a wheelchair user. Not unless you give 24 hours notice. Despite Julie Haraksin winning an anti-discrimination case against one of the coach companies a couple of years back.

Option 6: weep. Then more of the 'F' word more than once.

Option 7: first flight out of Canberra in the morning? 6:30 a.m. lands at 7:30 a.m. (as long as the notorious Canberra airport fog doesn't keep us on the ground). Transfer bags, wheelchair, wheelchair user and Spike from Domestic to International in time to board the 9:30 a.m. to Wellington. Should be do-able says the nice QANTAS lady on the phone. And that'll be fourteen hundred bucks for the round trip for two (on top off the $1,000 the conference organisers have already forked out). Or --- as it's known where I come from --- not even if Hell freezes over.

Option 8: weep.

Option 9: how about we change the morning flight to Wellington to the afternoon flight? That we can do, says the QANTAS lady. And only $260 to change the booking (which teaches me not to buy the cheap red-deal QANTAS tickets). Sold! To the gentleman with the broken hand controls and very few options left.

All this leads to an altered itinerary:

  • rise from bed no later than five o'clock tomorrow.

  • wheelchair accessible taxi booked for 6:00 a.m.

  • wheelchair space on the 6:45 a.m. train from Canberra to Sydney booked.

  • (sort of) wheelchair accessible train from Central to the airport. We'll catch the first one that comes along.

  • QF163 Sydney to Wellington departs 6:45 p.m. and arrives 11:55 p.m. (time difference).

  • wheelchair accessible taxi at 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning in Wellington ... we'll see what my hosts can come up with.

Some hours later, fresh as a daisy, roll onto the stage as if nothing ever happened. Or -- knowing my vaulting narcissism -- make a drama out of my crisis and work it into my speech. Prizes to the first 15,000 people who guess correctly which option Dougie will choose. (NB: there are no prizes cos it's not a competition).

Which brings me to my question. Is my glass half empty or half full?

On the downside --- I have a car going nowhere and a repair job that will not be cheap.

On the upside --- not so very long ago almost none of those transport modes called into service in an emergency would have been available to me as a wheelchair user. Decades of advocacy and campaigning have on this day equalised my opportunity (but we still have more to do)

And tomorrow night I shall fall asleep (at a very late or early hour depending on your point of view) in Wellington, New Zealand. A few hours after waking up I'll have the enormous privilege of speaking about my perspective on the NDIS to a room full of several hundred strangers. And they will listen to this old man from Glasgow.

Half empty? Half full?

Neither. As always -- til the day I fall off my perch -- overflowing.

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