We have been watching a lot of netball in New Zealand this year and the team we follow, the Mystics, had advanced to the Grand Final. I was on a course but my husband Gareth wanted to take Isla to the Grand Final to experience the occasion. She likes the big occasions but can also get overwhelmed easily due to her being autistic. Sometimes she lies down to sleep instead of processing all the stimulation from her senses, lying on her assistance dog, Bo.
When booking tickets he thought that it would be a better experience if they could have some space for Bo and for her to lie down on the floor. Instead of booking on the internet he phoned to get some accessibility tickets. The booking agents were helpful and asked if they had a wheelchair but when he explained that they would have an assistance dog they said that they would have to send an e-mail request to the event organisers. He expressed to me that he had feelings of guilt because he didn’t want to take up the space for a wheelchair bound person. He also knew that being seated in a crowded section would not work and would not be safe from a fire or emergency point of view. So, in the e-mail and in further correspondence he referred to Isla’s assistance dog as a guide dog because he felt that was more acceptable to event organisers.
Eventually he managed to get two tickets and some space for Bo and went along to the event. Isla was very excited and looked forward to seeing the arena, getting some hot chips and cheering for the Mystics. True to form after watching the first quarter, she decided to lie down on the floor and slept for the next two quarters. She woke up for the last quarter to see the Mystics win and pick up the trophy.
It was another occasion where, despite not having a physical disability, the need for more space in an event like this is very real for us to participate as a family. He admitted he found it hard to get over his inhibitions to request an accessibility ticket. This was partly because he needed to accept that considerations will always have to be made for Isla so she can enjoy events like everyone else in her unique way. But also realising that invisible disabilities are still not accepted entirely unless visible with a wheelchair.