Seasoned traveller Ruth Adorian tells Annie Makoff what she hopes to achieve with the recently established Association for the Independence of Disabled People…
Ruth Adorian isn’t your average charity founder. Not many people can boast that they’ve travelled across the Sudan on a camel, shot a crocodile in the Nile or got caught in a typhoon in the South China Seas.
But then, Ruth doesn’t come from an ordinary family. Her uncle, Edward Wakefield, pioneered ‘flying boats’ in 1913, which resulted in the creation of the Naval Air Services. Another uncle, Arthur Wakefield, was the expedition doctor on one of the early attempts to climb Mount Everest during the 1920s.
Much of Ruth’s teenage years and adult life was spent travelling, joining various relatives at their posts in old Commonwealth countries. Later, when she married her first husband – an officer in the Grenadier Guards – she accompanied him on several military postings overseas. Even her own professional life, as an active director of several tourism companies, was one of high activity.
Strength of character
Developing motor neurone disease (MND) – which resulted in her needing to use a wheelchair full time, and losing the ability to talk naturally – was therefore especially challenging for someone whose life revolved around extensive travel and business activities.
“It has been extremely difficult to accept the effects of this life-changing disease,” says Ruth, who was diagnosed with the condition in 2007. “I will never fully accept that this horrible disease will get the better of me.”
Ruth’s attitude is typical of her character. In fact, she attributes her earlier cultural experiences as providing her with the tools to deal with the challenges of today. “My experiences as a teenager, and later experiences in postwar West Berlin and Cyprus during the troubles, all had a major impact on my life,” she says. “They probably contributed greatly to my strength of character, which has enabled me to fight MND and to ensure that some good comes out of this particularly unpleasant experience in my life.”
The onset of her MND prompted her to set up the Association for the Independence of Disabled People (AID). Having experienced first-hand the difficulties and challenges she, her family and carers came up against in accessing public services, Ruth was determined to try and improve the situation – not just for herself, but for disabled people everywhere.
“I became increasingly concerned at the problems facing seriously disabled people gaining access to, or finding appropriate facilities in hotels and public buildings,” she recalls. “Even seemingly simple things, like booking a hotel room with disabled facilities, can be a nightmare.”
On one occasion, her husband spent six hours on the telephone trying to find a hotel room that was accessible for his wife, but not one hotel receptionist was able to clarify exactly what disabled access they could provide. AID aims to improve access for disabled people by encouraging hotel and business owners, as well as those within public services. to improve their disabled facilities and to take ‘more interest in the needs of disabled people’.
By approaching MPs, the military and members of the Royal family, as well as the wider general public via Twitter and Facebook for support, Ruth is hopeful that access and facilities for the disabled population can be dramatically improved. It’s not just about raising awareness; it’s about inciting positive change.
“There are just too many occasions when disabled access and facilities within buildings and services are non-existent. Yes, there are regulations covering disabled access, but these are poorly enforced. So unless someone gets up and make a noise about this, things are unlikely to change.”
Making a noise is exactly Ruth’s plan with the staging of AID’s first annual Disabled Day, intended to bring the problems disabled people face to wider public attention. “There is an International Day for Persons with Disabilities run by the United Nations, but this has little impact within the UK other than a few lectures given by learned people in a few parts of the country,” she says. “AID’s disabled day is about promoting the message that disabled people should be able to enjoy life to the full, and that every building should be equipped to a standard that is suitable for the needs of disabled people.”
She concludes, “Through the Association, I want to make a difference and make things better for other disabled people; even if it takes longer than I would wish.”
To find out more about the Association for the Independence of Disabled People, and its efforts at establishing an annual ‘Disabled Day’, contact 0203 4114 044 or visit www.disabledday.org