What you see – and who I am

Natalie Wade - not at her regular coffee place. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily
Natalie Wade - not at her regular coffee place. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Adelaide | The name scrawled on Natalie Wade’s take-away coffee cup by the cafe’s cashier wasn’t her own – and the young lawyer wants everyone to know why this troubles her, and why it matters.

Most Saturday mornings Natalie Wade heads out for a caffeine fix at her local coffee shop a couple of kilometers from Adelaide’s CBD.

It’s a time to relax, clear the hangover maybe or perhaps just chill. It’s a break whatever for the 23-year-old lawyer with the State Government where she deals daily with all manner of housing, arbitration and litigation matters.

She goes to the same coffee house every weekend as it has wi-fi and the weekend’s newspapers are spread out on the tables for everyone to grab. That’s important for Nat. Papers stacked in ascending shelves can put a block on her reading before it’s begun.

Her local isn’t the comfy, ultra familiar Central Perk we’ve seen in ‘Friends’ over the years but it’s a decent enough spot. Two weeks ago she called in as usual, chose her skinny cappuccino and gave her name to the cashier while the barista made up her order.

Nat stayed and enjoyed the drink until she chanced to look at her cup, a standard brown takeaway type with a detachable plastic lid. The side of the cup lists a dozen different choices of coffee and above this there’s a space for the name of each customer.

‘Nat’ or ‘Natalie’ would have identified her perfectly while a misspelling or even a complete mistaking of the order with another customer would have gone unremarked.

Only the name on her cup didn’t say Natalie or Natasha or Norman or Ned. It read simply ‘wheelchair’.

A skinny cappuccino for 'wheelchair'.

A skinny cappuccino for ‘wheelchair’.

Nat has been in a wheelchair all her life. She’s never walked, not even a step. Her mode of transport is an electric powered thing, low level, nifty and it does the trick. It gets her places -to the bus stop each day, to classes at Adelaide Uni when she was a student there, and early every morning it gets her to work.

“The cashier obviously didn’t hear or understand me and so instead of asking for clarification wrote this,” says Nat. “I didn’t realise until I left – I had sat there reading the entire Saturday morning paper drinking a cup naming me as an object.”

Twenty-three-year-old Nat was born with an undiagnosed medical condition, a congenital muscular myopathy.

In her 23 years, she has never made a single official complaint about education, services or living arrangements. She’s fought for funding, to be able to live alone and for the help she needs to get ready every day. She has a great best friend, Jess, who is always there for her, many other mates too and a dedicated and supportive family.

“I’m not sure that the name on my coffee cup could be any more misleading,” Nat smiles.

“The wheelchair component occupies really none of my life – arguably there could be an exception of approximately three hours of my day where the reason behind the wheelchair causes me to have assistance but beyond that…..”

For those three hours, Nat needs full support to achieve the most fundamental of tasks, like getting dressed and going to the toilet. But by positioning these supports around her work and social commitments, she manages a full and independent life virtually uninhibited by her physical disability.

She reckons there are two or three incidences each day when the wheelchair is the vehicle for her to be treated differently to the average person on the street. Small slights often, many unintentional, people speaking to her carefully and loudly, always loudly, the nutter on the bus targeting her with sympathy and words of advice.

She told her friends and work colleagues about the Saturday coffee, stuck it on social media to an overwhelming response of “it’s mean and rude with comparisons to calling Aboriginal people black or writing gay on someone’s coffee cup.”

So she wrote to the coffee people – it’s an international company, you’ll know it – and got a phone call from a customer services operative. A pleasant call. They’d look into it, he said, and conduct an internal investigation. Oh, and have a free coffee on us.

“I do not want anyone suspended or sacked,” says Nat. “If that happens I’ll defend them myself.”

She doesn’t want to name the cafe – it could become the object of a campaign, which Nat believes would miss the point.

What she’d really like is to make the smallest dint in a general outlook towards people with disabilities of all kinds. A wholesale re-evaluation of corporate attitudes might be more appropriate given the initial company response. She knows the scrawling was thoughtless and nothing more but it’s a worry that this big, international company sees little wrong that a gratis cappuccino or two won’t fix.

This is what Nat first said when she got in touch with me about the story.

“The most peculiar thing happened to me yesterday so I thought I would drop you a line. I could explain this peculiar moment to you in play by play detail but a picture speaks a thousand words…. Yes, you are seeing that right. It’s a coffee cup that says my name is ‘wheelchair’.”

Perception clearly can be everything but if you’ve read this all the way through, it might lead to a move, however small, in the right direction.

 Next
 Prev

Highlights

It’s futile to “fix” complex English spelling
It’s futile to “fix” complex English spelling

Comment | We need better teaching methods rather than attempts to simplify the spelling of English words, argues Nathanial Swan.

My 11-year-old student sighs. How can the same letters make so many different sounds? We are looking at the letter combination “ough”, which can be read in seven diffe Full Story »

Falling under the spell of Nufonia
Falling under the spell of Nufonia

ADELAIDE FESTIVAL REVIEW | This enchanting show is a sweet tonic in an entertainment world that seems increasingly dominated by loud, audacious productions that over-stimulate and under-nourish.

That’s not to say there’s anything simple about the production; quite the opposite. Nufonia Must Fall Full Story »

Simon Bryant’s smoked Coorong mullet
Simon Bryant’s smoked Coorong mullet

RECIPE | South Australian chef and ethical food advocate Simon Bryant is a supporter of the continued sustainable Coorong mullet fishery and shares his recipe for smoking the fillets on the barbecue over native knobby club rush reeds “sort of a la nicoise”.

Bryant will be taking part Full Story »

A smack of France in the Clare Valley
A smack of France in the Clare Valley

PHILIP WHITE REVIEWS | Philip White finds disparate regions of France in two inexpensive reds from east of Clare in the Polish Valley.

Paulett Polish Hill River Clare Valley Cabernet Merlot 2010
$24; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 88+ points

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are both varieties that came from Full Story »

Titty Bar Ha Ha: good clean dirty fun
Titty Bar Ha Ha: good clean dirty fun

ADELAIDE FRINGE REVIEW | Gloria and Hope are doing hard time in Titty Bar Ha Ha. These murderous vixens have done away with Hope’s husband, who also happened to be Gloria’s lover, and the two are now incarcerated in Wiggin’s Women’s Correctional Prison with only you, the audi Full Story »

Adelaide Writers’ Week
Adelaide Writers’ Week

Readers and writers have enjoyed perfect weather and a glorious setting in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden at the 30th Adelaide Writers’ Week this week.

Full Story »
Crafers
Crafers

This modern residence is set within almost four hectares of country land just 20 minutes drive from the CBD. The property slopes down into the valley through carefully managed open woodland and two terraced ponds in the gully. The home features a fully integrated audio-visual system throughout, wi Full Story »

2015 Adelaide Festival hub
2015 Adelaide Festival hub

ADELAIDE FESTIVAL | The 2015 Adelaide Festival features 42 music, theatre, dance and visual arts events, and this hub is where you will find all InDaily’s Festival stories and reviews.

This year’s Adelaide Festival continues until March 15, with highlights including a concert of composer Danny E Full Story »

2015 Adelaide Fringe hub
2015 Adelaide Fringe hub

ADELAIDE FRINGE | This hub is where you will find all InDaily’s 2015 Adelaide Fringe interviews and reviews.

Over the four weeks of the Fringe (from February 13 to March 15), we’ll be covering the comedians, cabaret acts, circus shows, musicians, theatre, dance and special events making up the m Full Story »

Partners

Daniel Connell: Xenosceptica 3
Daniel Connell: Xenosceptica 3

CONTENT SUPPLIED BY HAWKE CENTRE | Xenosceptica 3 is the next manifestation of visual artist Daniel Connell’s exploration of and challenges to notions of difference via the encounter generated by the hand-made portrait.

His work draws together a group of Tamil women who are working as migrant labo Full Story »

If there is a must-see attraction in Vietnam, this is it!
If there is a must-see attraction in Vietnam, this is it!

CONTENT SUPPLIED BY RAA | Conical hats aside, some the most recognisable images of Vietnam feature the limestone outcrops of Halong Bay. Around 1600 islands and towering rock pillars of various shapes and sizes make up this World Heritage listed marvel, which has also been included among the seven  Full Story »

Insurance – keeping it relevant
Insurance – keeping it relevant

CONTENT SUPPLIED BY RAA | So your car, home and contents are insured and have been for years. But have you been lulled into a false sense of security by the mere fact that you pay your premium every year? When did you last check that your insurance coverage still meets your needs and provides adequa Full Story »