'I have a disability and always miss New Year's Eve parties, just like a Cinderella locked in an attic'

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Illustration by Getty Images
Illustration by Getty Images
Igor Alecsander
  • Going home during the festive season can be quite daunting because there is a lot to consider.
  • Jema Whiley, a disabled woman, is forced to stay at home when friends go out to New Year's Eve parties.
  • She walks with a limp and has weak muscles, so she can't stand for long at festivals and clubs. Over the years, she's had to learn to appreciate her time at home while missing the festivities.

I can partly relate to how Cinderella must have felt when she was locked in the attic and could not go to the parties. Being at home with the knowledge that other people are out having a good time goes beyond any feeling of missing out on a night out.

While no-one is preventing me from leaving the house and joining the party at a hot spot, my disability makes going out challenging. Needless to say with the biggest party night of the year looming, on 31 December I cannot wait for the clock to strike midnight. 

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Given that New Years’ Eve celebrations often consist of parties and concerts at nightclubs and other public venues, I often can't join my friends and ring in the new year with them because I walk with a limp and my muscles are weak, making long periods of time on my feet physically demanding.

Going to nightclubs has always been more tiring than a visit to the gym. Outside concerts where people have to sit on a field to watch the show is too uncomfortable due to my poor posture. Camping at a festival is too daunting for me to even consider attempting.

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These challenges are made worse by the lack of accessibility at these venues. Making a venue accessible is expensive. It often involves structural changes to a building, such as putting in a ramp so that a wheelchair-user can access the different floors of a building or a bathroom that has the space to accommodate a wheelchair, among many other things.

In the meantime while venues are inaccessible, disabled people cannot enjoy that line-up of DJs who are advertised on those venues’ social media feeds. And it feels like we are being left out of the party of the year.

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I have often felt depressed when I find myself alone on New Year’s Eve. I’m left questioning my self-worth, which is fueled by my feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Like adding salt to my wound, I’ve heard loud music and people cheering, and seen firework displays from my house. I do not want to be at home on a night when people, especially my friends, are out having the time of their lives.

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There is a consolation, though. As the years have come and gone and I have grown into a woman in her thirties, going to the biggest parties to bring in the new year now means less to me. I have realised that spending the night with loved ones and watching a movie can be just as fun.

While I still feel a pang of sadness on this hyped-up night of the year, I know that my circumstances could be a lot worse: I could be locked away in an attic like Cinderella, while everyone else enjoyed a fun night out.

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