EveryDay Living with Joel Sardi - Forward Ability Support

EveryDay Living with Joel Sardi

This month, we’re introducing a new segment to our Newsletter called EveryDay Living. Here, we will highlight the voices of people in the SCI community who share some of their experiences, insights, and knowledge. We are kicking off this segment with ambassador Joel Sardi who talks about his experiences in restaurants, how to handle tricky situations and tips on how to be prepared.

Hear from Joel:

Preparation has always been high on my priority list. After my accident, it became my number one priority. Down to the minute details regarding the width of the doorways of a venue, I’m attending, steps, ledges, indoor/outdoor, temperature, and clothes to wear to best suit the environment. The list goes on….

Some of the things I always leave the house with are:

  • At a minimum, four catheters
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Baby wipes
  • Mask
  • Spare pants/jocks (Ya never know when you need em!!)
  • Water bottle
  • Muesli bar
  • Headphones for taking calls whilst on the move.
  • The obvious, phone, wallet, keys, Esme + and Elisa.
  • Portable ramp (stays in the van at all times)

It’s quite interesting what becomes the new normal. These days if I am heading out to an event with friends or family, out of courtesy, I will contact the venue to let them know I’m in a wheelchair so they can make an allocation or accommodate for my needs (remove the dining chair at the table or place my table away from a thoroughfare). There aren’t too many more things that need to change when I make a booking. Unfortunately, I had an experience recently that was not so positive or encouraging. As this was not the first time I had been made to feel uncomfortable due to my injury, I decided to voice my frustration and disappointment. It definitely came at a cost for everybody involved, but the bigger picture of understanding disability and what is right/wrong was spread to over 2 million people.

In the past, when situations have arisen where staff or people are unaware of disability and how to accommodate, having a respectful, quiet conversation perhaps in private with them, explaining the intricacies of my disability, not only educates them but allows for a smoother process for the next person entering the premises with a disability. 90% of the time, people are willing to listen, take it on board and apply this knowledge to their practice. Given that disability makes up 20% of the Victorian demographic, it would be foolish for business owners not to educate or listen to ensure they are better equipped moving forward.

When visiting a cafe or restaurant, I will always find the warmest corner, or place myself in front of the air-conditioner, depending on what time of the year it is! I try to find a table where I can roll my wheelchair under so that I can bring my chest all the way up to the edge of the table, select a takeaway coffee or tea regardless if I’m staying or not, as it is easier to hold than some mugs, if I am eating alone I will choose food that doesn’t require being chopped up if I order toast I ask the kitchen to butter my bread before it comes out. Sometimes when I’m being really picky, I bring my favourite fork (it has a very wide handle at the base and fits in my palm perfectly!) I request my salad, if possible, to be put into a bowl; the side of the bowl makes it easier to stab the food. Food always seems to fall off my fork, so extra napkins are always a must; I bloody hate spilling food on my clothes!

The most important thing to remember is patience. A conversation costs $0.00, sometimes all it takes is 2 minutes to explain ‘why or what’, and you can change someone’s life.

If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell, please reach out to us at editor@paraquad.org.au; we’d love to hear from you!