For Blogging Against Disablism Day
There are closed captions (click the CC button) but if you have trouble playing the video, here's a transcript:
The disability movement saved my life.
In my hour of despair (a little more than an hour) the disability movement taught me that my problem had two parts.
One part was my illness, the suffering that causes and the things that stops me doing. The other part was people's attitudes and the way our society is set-up. Only one of those was something I had to deal with on my own.
Before then, whenever I met prejudice or poor access, I thought it was because I was broken. Whenever I read something in a newspaper condemning people like me or reducing people like me to a set of negative experiences, I thought it was because I was broken. I thought that I owed the world an explanation. I thought I had to explain why I couldn't do certain things, and explain how much I wanted to, and how I really really couldn't help it. Honest. I thought I had to constantly explain about being broken.
I am not broken. I am just not very well.
In recent years, the disability movement in the UK has been on the defensive. Being denied the financial and practical means to live a full and meaningful life, people have been scared. Some have been scared to death.
There's nothing wrong with talking about suffering, about poverty. There's nothing wrong about the things we've lost and the things we're going to lose. There's nothing wrong with people who are in fear of their lives expressing that fear. Sometimes, we owe it to ourselves to be honest with the world about what we're going through.
But essential benefits and services are not a matter of compassion. We don't need to persuade anyone that we're all good people who suffer dreadfully and are therefore deserving of charity. We don't need to express gratitude that we are allowed to exist. We don't need to constantly refer to ourselves as genuinely disabled, as if there's any other kind. These things only play into the hands of people who think that there are deserving and undeserving disabled people and no matter what happens, the most needy people are bound to be looked after.
Cuts to essential benefits and services are a matter of social justice. Whoever we are, whatever the nature of our impairments, whether or not we are good patients, whether or not we were ever hard-workers, tax-payers, whether or not we are suffering or actually get a lot of pleasure out of life, or both, we are entitled to respect and dignity and the means to survive.
Disability pride is not about saying, “Hooray, I'm disabled!” It is not about saying, I don't suffer or I wouldn't change this about my life.
Disability pride is about saying, we're often up against it but
I am proud of who I am.
I am proud of my friends.
I am proud of the disabled community, which like any family has a few eccentric aunts and that half-brother we must never ever speak about.
It's about saying,
I will not apologise.
I won't apologise for having these limitations.
I won't apologise for the medical events that happen to me.
I won't apologise if my presence embarrasses you
I won't apologise if you don't understand my situation. I don't need you to. I don't understand yours either, but you have my respect.
Disabled people never got anywhere by begging. Disabled people changed the world in which we live by recognising our own inherrent value.
This is why, collectively, we mustn't despair, however bleak things get. Because having equal or equivalent opportunities, having the dignity of being clean and fed and sheltered even if we need help from others, being treated with respect rather than abuse or condescension. These things are not a prize we won in a draw.
That's social justice. It's what everyone has a right to. And it's what we have a right to too. Too.
Which isn't always easy to recognise.
And that's why, when we do...
We should be proud.