So, today I wanted to re-visit my OTonWheels blog, as today is a day when people with disabilities and their loved ones are sharing their experiences as a way of combating disablism.
But which peachy aspect of disablist attitudes encountered over the past month do I choose to share?
- How about the insistence of a close family member that I should “just leave my wheelchair behind” one day? We were planning to go out, and the car doesn’t fit both wheelchair and dog, you see.
- How about the doctor who insisted on helping me get down a slope? Because the slope was slippy in the rain and he was wearing leather soled shoes, he managed to slip, lose control of the chair, and kick me in the back for good measure. And I thanked him. And I didn’t “make a fuss”.
- How about my own attitude that I can do whatever anyone else (or indeed what I used to do) and pile on far too many tasks to be achieved, causing me to cancel things I was looking forward to when I inevitably crash? My own lack of kindness and compassion towards myself and my limits?
Any of these examples could be seen as disablist. But, I’m also aware of layers of privilege that exist within the group “people with disabilities”. Compared to battles fought every day by some people with disabilities, who may not share the same privilege, my problems are minor.
I’m fortunate to have a partner whose job pays the bills, allowing me to focus on getting my business to grow. I’m fortunate to have an education, which equips me to change direction in life in response to changing circumstances. I’m lucky to have a profession that I love, and an occupation that I intend to follow. I’m lucky to have personal characteristics of resilience and an understanding of the mental struggles I have to fight to keep motivated. I’m lucky to have children who still love me, even if it’s years since we went to the park together. I’m lucky to have a secure tenancy (even if the housing isn’t suitable for my needs). I’m lucky to have family who still care for me and try their best to make sure I’m not missing out on family events. I’m lucky to have a wide circle of friends in real life and online who I can turn to for emotional support when I need to. And I’m cis, and white, and middle class, all of which means I miss out on lots of chunks of prejudice from other people I meet.
Compare this with people who have just had their ESA removed, as they have been in receipt of it for a year. Compare this with a woman who is now totally dependent on her partner for every penny, and yet may be experiencing domestic violence, emotional abuse, or other issues. Compare with someone who never had the opportunity to achieve at school. They may have been placed in a “special school” that made no attempt to ensure they gained the qualifications needed to enter the job market. Compare to all the people unable to complete a qualification that they started, because their educational environment either couldn’t or wouldn’t meet their needs as a person with a disability. Compare with the person with no ready-made mental health strategies, who has never faced this kind of challenge and just doesn’t have the tools to deal with it. Compare with the person deep in depression. Compare with those unable to have children. Or who have had their children removed, or worse. Compare to the people with disabilities who are homeless, or in insecure bed and breakfast accommodation. Compare to all the people in receipt of housing benefit who now have to leave their homes to find cheaper accommodation in unfamiliar areas. Compare to the people whose family and friends haven’t been able to stay the distance, or who have been hurtful, or abusive to the person with a disability. Compare to people who are hit with a double-whammy- who may be trans, or black, or working class.
When I think in these terms about the daily struggles faced by people with disabilities I know that my struggles, my complaints, they are minor. They still affect my life, of course, and I shouldn’t have to put up with them, but I am (so far) managing them. They don’t defeat me.
But, just remove a few of my strengths, and they could.
Please spare a moment to think about the impact of our words and deeds on others. Let’s add disablism to the other injustices we fight against, today and every day.
Edit: some excellent #BADD blogs from today- please read them if you haven’t already.
Diary of a Goldfish with the overview of the whole day http://blobolobolob.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/blogging-against-disablism-day-2012.html
BendyGirl on why blogging does not mean able to work. This made me cry. http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/do-you-know-what-youre-asking-badd.
The f-word on disablist language. What we say influences how we think. http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2012/05/calling_out_dis
Funky Mango Muses about recent disablism influencing hate crimes against people with disabilities http://funkymangosmusings.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/badd-dead-happy-derek-and-disablism.html?spref=tw
Fibrogirl talks about abuse she has experienced when using her Blue Badge http://but-you-dont-look-sick.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/blue-badge-battles.html?spref=tw