Part 2 Emma Vogelmann: Living With A Disability In The UK Versus The USA
Thank you for coming back for part two. Please scroll back and listen to part one if you haven't already.
Connect with Emma:
Her website: https://www.thewheelchairactivist.com
Her Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/emma.vogelmann/
Her podcast The Wheelchair Activist: https://www.thewheelchairactivist.com/wheelchair-activist-podcast
Connect with Peta:
Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to the Icons podcast. The podcast, answering your questions on what life is like when you have a disability. My name is Peta. I have cerebral palsy and I'm your host. We're back for part two of my chat with Emma Vogelmann because I know you've waited a full week. I'm not going to delay any longer. Let's hand back over to Emma.
Peta [00:00:40] I'm so fascinated with how you've grown up, Emma. I haven't spoken to many people before that have moved countries with a disability. Can you talk to me about that? How is that?
Emma [00:00:53] I'm half-American and I'm half English British. And I grew up living in America. I grew up in the suburb just outside of Chicago. When I was 15, I caught the swine flu. And I ended up spending three months in hospital, and I nearly died a couple of times. Most of my extended family is in the UK and at that point my brother was already in the UK, aunts and uncles and so many others. We really felt that like a family support when things were really difficult for us in the States. And so when I got a little bit better, we moved about a year after I came out of hospital. Gear is definitely a big adjustment. You would think that those two countries are fairly similar in a similar language like that to the cultures. The same manner they ties. I'm so grateful that I was a kid in America because America is a much narrower country obviously, than the UK and I never. Was excluded from anything in the States, but there was no activity that I wanted to do that I couldn't do. It was no question. I mean, not being in a mainstream school and in mainstream classes and. I never experienced discrimination in the States. Like, I don't think ever I was able to go anywhere that I wanted to go. Yes, America has a lot of negatives when it comes to disability in terms of welfare, health care and things like that. I don't want to paint it as this like disability haven. It's not. But. I'm so grateful that I was a child there and I'm an adult here in the U.K. and appreciate the things that the U.K. does do in terms of providing welfare support for disabled people, free health care and things like that.
Peta [00:03:27] And you might have already answered my question partly, but I was going to ask you if you were going to create your own little island between America and Britain, and you took all the good things about America and all the good things about the U.K.. What? Do each of those countries offer that the other doesn't and vice versa?
Emma [00:03:49] Yeah, that's a great question. So what I would take from America is physical access. I can only speak from my perspective as an electric wheelchair user. But like I said, there is nowhere that I can go. And I would say that I would take the education system because, like I said, I would said mainstream everything. I mean, so much so that in like P.E. or gym wouldn't be able to call it like I had to do everything that my non-disabled friends did everything in a slightly different way. But like, if they were running laps, I was driving laps. You're trying to do what everybody else does. And looking back, I'm incredibly grateful for that push and for that integration because it made me see myself as no different to my non-disabled friends. And to my nondisabled classmates, they never saw me as different either. You know, I think that that's huge. And, you know, in the U.K., it's been working not too long ago on a campaign focussing on disabled children and hearing about the experiences that they have had with accessing education, access and play it. And it breaks my heart. I think public advocate droit disability is better in the U.S. And again, I was a child there. And from the UK, I would take obviously the welfare support for disabled people because disabled people do face so many additional costs that many said would, people don't. And to get support with meeting some of those costs is invaluable. I would also take the opportunity to influence national government. And I say that because it's a smaller country. So if you can try and influence your MP in theory, you can try and influence national policy. Setting that really important. And then the biggest thing that the UK has that the US doesn't is the NHS. So National Health Service because, you know, not having to pay for health care and for carers or paging at home is just it's still mind boggling to me as someone who grew up in America where. You have to pay for everything. And that just takes such a weight off of anyone. I can't be high enough for it.
Peta [00:07:24] So I always ask these questions of every guest that I have on the pod. So I'm going to ask you first, is there anything you like or even love about having a disability.
Emma [00:07:36] All the way? Good question. I like what it has taught me about. Myself well as I lead me to develop that myself. And I think I have a different level of empathy than most people. And by that I mean most non-disabled people, because I have known what it is to struggle with things and to be discriminated against for physical pain or poor mental health. All of those things that. Can can having a disability. So I'm I consider myself a very and empathic person that I really like about myself. It teaches us to be amazing problem solvers and real creative thinking problem solvers because we have to adapt. So much of what we do and so much of society or the physical world, whatever it is to make it work for us. I like that my disability taught me what's really important in life and what isn't. And, you know, I. I turned it into a good way to articulate it, but like being appreciative for what you have and also not wasting your time on the things that don't matter and really valuing time. Because I remember when I was out of uni, I struggled to find a job and I was going to know stress and just applied for anything that is remotely applicable. And I remember my mom saying to me, Do you really want to do that? Like, do you really want to work for this organisation doing this thing? Like, I know life's too short to be doing something you don't want to do. And that was my mom telling me that I had the experience and perspective because you know what? She's right. Like, we don't know what's going to happen to us and mean they're dying of swine flu at the age of 15 or so really taught me that, like, you never know what's going to come. So don't waste your time and things that don't matter. Don't waste time. And people that don't matter. That's what I like about disability.
Peta [00:10:28] And is there anything you don't like about having a disability?
Emma [00:10:32] There definitely is. And. I like that you've asked that because I think disabled people can get into this like toxic positivity space. I don't know if that's what you like relate to, but I mean, like the people that say that their disability is. I don't know. I don't want to admit. Quiet people, but for people who only see the positive side of disability. And don't get me wrong, that is really important to point out, particularly to non-disabled people. But disability is hard. Like every day, just a different challenge, whether that's physical pain discrimination or like just this week alone, I've had to spend so much time on the phone because one of my prescriptions has been discontinued and no one knew I had to find an alternative for Roger if it's suitable. So it was on me to figure out. And I work full time. I am embedded into my life and I resented that I was out of a job that much time out of my daily life to sort that out. So I don't like. A lot of things about disability. The admin. The challenges. The discrimination. The discrimination i. Most. You know, it's people treating me poorly because of something I have no control over. It's. It's wrong. It's frustrating. And I hate that I have to do with their.
Peta [00:12:41] It's a real shame that this podcast isn't a visual medium, because I've just been noting the whole time we've been talking about it. I think you can totally relate. What do you wish people better understood?
Emma [00:12:56] I wish people better understood. The little things that. I put in place to make things more difficult for disabled people. So I always say this that like a non disabled person, if they go to the post office, for example, and they go in there, stamps come out and they don't notice that there was a stamp to get up in that person. That's right. They don't notice because it's a barrier for them. I go to that same post sharpish. I can't get in and. To me. I wish people better realised or acknowledged little things like that. I know the other affected me a lot. Pre-COVID was if you get on a train and you see that disabled space is free, but there are other spaces for you as well. Don't take my spot because I don't want to have to ask you to move. You don't want to move. I don't want you to get huffy with me or shitty with me. I think about the little decisions that. Affect us and make it a bit easier.
Peta [00:14:25] Final question what do you hope the future will be like for people with disabilities?
Emma [00:14:32] Ultimately, I want there to be a barrier free society. I want the future. To have that equal access to everything and everyone. And it's going to take a hell of a long time to get there. But I think I always come back to this example. So in the UK we have these Roman barracks that, you know, it's like a bath as it got by the Romans 2000 years ago. Right. And you would think, well, what could be less accessible to a wheelchair user? I went there. They had recently been contacted by our best visitors. It was completely accessible. There were staring left. It was like Plexiglas. You could drive on. So you're going on the ancient coppers. If they can make that accessible, if they can do it while preserving the history and the integrity of that space, why can't my local post office? So I hope it's barrier free in the future. God, I hope. Yes.
Peta [00:15:58] Thank you so much for your time and I thoroughly enjoyed talking to you.
Emma [00:16:03] Now, my pleasure. Thank you for asking me. And I feel the need to say if your listeners want to hear the reverse of this conversation. You also appeared on my podcast episode. Should be out soon already when this comes out. Oh yeah. Go check out your amazing host on my podcast guest.
Peta [00:16:32] I hope you enjoyed the episode. I certainly did. Talking to Emma was such a joy and I really struggled to edit it down, hence why it was in two parts. If you'd like to support the show, please leave a rating and review. If you listen on Apple Podcasts or follow the show on whatever platform you're listening on, share it with a friend or share it on social media. It'll helps more people find the pot. So until next week. Have a good one, guys. Bye.