Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

GUEST BLOGGER JODIE OWEN Swans v Crows AFL Game

17 Oct 2012Since leaving my job in May, as Disability Social Facilitator for NOVA Employment, and moving to Adelaide in South Australia, a lot of elements of my life have changed. Not only have I had to slow down and relax a little more, escaping the rat-race of the bustling Sydney lifestyle into the peaceful environment of Adelaide, but I have had a lot of adjustments to my way of living as well.

For those who aren’t aware, I was compelled to move to SA with my husband Todd, so we could join my father-in-law – Todd’s father, as he sadly lost his 2nd wife to cancer in April of this year. He was not coping too well, and with the absence of any other family in the state, I felt he needed the support of some loved ones around him, at such a distressing time.

Todd and I moved in with him, into a granny flat, which in itself has been interesting for me, as I have had to use two wheelchairs to navigate around the house. One upstairs, when I am in the kitchen, or going to my car, and one downstairs, to get around in the granny flat. To travel in between the chairs, I use crutches, to assist me with walking between the two floors.

When arriving here in SA, I was so excited to live near to the beach, and I had many plans of taking my fur-kids for walks by the water, and enjoying the sea life, but unfortunately for me, since our big move, there has only been a handful of pleasant days, as it seems I’ve arrived during the wettest Winter in years, so getting out and about has been the last thing on the agenda. Keeping myself warm and dry has been a much bigger priority for me.

As the days warm up, flowers start to bloom, and spring begins to fill the air, so too, will come more opportunities to get out into this stunning city, and explore what it has to offer. September not only brings one of my favourite times of the year; spring, it is also accompanied by football finals; one of my least favourite times of the year. Or so it used to be…

Having such a sports mad husband as I do, it is difficult to avoid finals of any sort, but as we are now residing in Adelaide, the final of choice that I am being subjected to, is AFL (Aussie Rules Football); a uniquely Australian game.

As I’m a Sydney girl through and through, I have never been interested in AFL whatsoever, as it exists predominantly in SA and Victoria, but this year, I have seen my fair share of games, and am even proud to say that I’m beginning to understand the rules a little!

Todd has lived in both SA and NSW, so his two favourite teams that he has always barracked for, are the Adelaide Crows, and the Sydney Swans. This finals season, we were lucky enough to witness a match between both of them at the Crows’ home ground, and when in Rome….

The time to purchase tickets had arrived, and with such a large amount of Crows supporters in Adelaide, it was going to be tough trying to obtain some tickets. When I called the ticketing office shortly after tickets went on sale, I advised that I was in a wheelchair, and was told that the game was almost sold out already, and my chances of getting three seats in a row, for Todd, his mate, and myself, was quite impossible.

Thankfully, my phone call was taken by a lovely lady, who went above and beyond to get three tickets for me. She placed me on hold for almost ten minutes and just as I was starting to get slightly annoyed, she came back to me with the great news that she secured three excellent seats all in a row, in the wheelchair bay, so of course, I was sold.

The game was on Saturday the 8th August, at Aami Stadium in Westlakes, and was in the afternoon. I was pre-warned by the boys (Todd and his mate), that the traffic and parking would be horrendous, so we allowed plenty of time to get there before kick-off.

Amazingly, we arrived at the stadium almost two hours early, and because of my disabled parking permit, were allowed to park in a car-park, right near the stadiums entrance, that had previously been closed to other patrons.

I was fairly nervous about the potential sports-crazy mob that I was about to face, as I tend to get nervous around large crowds, and with an estimated 44,000 spectators expected to attend, I had my reasons. When we entered the ground however, I was pleasantly surprised at how calm and orderly the crowd were behaving, and was instantly put at ease. Although I have been told that not all AFL clubs have such composed supporters, so I guess I’m lucky that hubby goes for these two.

Our seats were at the 50 metre mark, which gave us an excellent view. The boys were giving me tips throughout the match, so I could get the gist of what people were yelling out, what the rules were, and the meanings of some footy terms. Although I didn’t fully comprehend the rules by the end of the two hour game, I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere, and loved watching the talented, well-built players leap high into the air like kangaroos, as they attempted to take a ‘mark’ (footy speak for catching the ball).

During the half-time break, I took a visit to the bathroom, which I always find interesting in new public places, as there is a huge variation of what constitutes as a ‘handicapped toilet’. I was pleased to see that instead of there being an accessible toilet on its own, away from the ladies, there was an entrance inside the entrance of the ladies, which made me feel safer, and as though there was a sense of inclusion. The toilet door opened outwards and had to be pulled closed once inside. As it can be difficult doing this from a wheelchair, I was astonished to see that there was a piece of rope, attached to the door handle, to assist with its closing. This is something that many people in wheelchairs do around their home, but I’ve never seen it a public toilet, and commend the stadium staff for applying such a helpful tool for their disabled patrons.

The Swans finished up with 71 points, smashing The Crows, who ended up on 42 points. Both teams will get a second chance to make it to the grand final, which will be held at the end of the month. I wouldn’t say I’m an AFL convert now, but I would definitely say that I enjoyed my first live AFL experience, and would recommend it to anyone else who hasn’t been to watch an AFL game before.

I hope you enjoyed my update here from SA, and I hope to bring you more of my adventures, as I experience them. I have included some photos of the day, as well as the handicapped toilet that I discussed. Catch you next time!

Jodie Owen AKA Jo Blogs


Disabled seating

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