Blogging against disablism – what a fabulous idea. Could this be the way to bring about the unity of purpose that we need to properly challenge the wrong-thinking and blatant prejudice that keeps disabled people (in the UK at least) out of mainstream society?
Because that’s what we need to do: come together into a single force to challenge wrong wherever it is found. The law won’t do it for us – those of us who try to apply the flawed concepts of the Disability Discrimination Act know that something is lacking – an understanding, by employers, by the judiciary and by the legislators of what disablism really is and where it comes from.
And it comes from years and years of oppression, of being dismissed as stupid, or as worth less because of some ‘difference’ in the way a part of the body or mind works, or looks or sounds. And being thought now too expensive or difficult to ‘include’.
We are taught to fear those who are ‘different’ from a very early age: if you doubt this, please read the very clear explanation of images of disability here . Or go to the British Film Institute website.
The world (especially the medical world) is still trying to make us conform to their notions of ‘normality’ – and if they can’t manage that they want to wipe us out before we are born, with testing reasoned for with messages for prospective parents of the horrors of trying to bring up a ‘disabled child’ – whisper it – what if the neighbours find out? In some cultures within the UK and worldwide, the birth of a disabled child still brings a disgrace on the family: what did they ‘do’ to deserve that? Why is god (or whatever his/her name may be in that culture) punishing them? Which means parents are encouraged to hide ‘their shame’ by isolation at home or in an institution. Or to pass responsibility over to others, whoever they may be. We must reach out to these people with education and opportunity. We must challenge the prejudices fostered into religions by lack of knowledge in past history and bring things up to date.
Why do we fear the word or of being labelled as ‘disabled’? – could it be because so many of us refuse to see that word for what it means and to rail against it as we should: we are too ready to accept the meaning given it by the rest of society: of someone to be pitied, who will be excluded and seen as different, where for different read ‘wrong’.
We need to reclaim the word; to assert a pride in being ‘disabled’ people – because disability (as the social model teaches us) is not about us, it is about what is done to us, it is about the way that ‘society’ ignores us, belittles us and excludes us.
For more on this concept, link here.
I was horrified to read that the most recent British Social Attitudes survey showed, among many things, that over 70 per cent of people would not feel very comfortable were a person with schizophrenia to move in next door and over 50 per cent would not be very comfortable were a person with depression to become a neighbour. But to my mind, the most horrifying statistic in the DRC’s press release on this survey was the one that revealed the difference that ‘knowledge of disability’ made:
“82 per cent of people who don’t know anyone who is disabled say that they would not feel very comfortable with someone with schizophrenia moving in next door, compared with 71 per cent of people who know someone who is disabled and 62 per cent of people who are themselves disabled.”
62% of people who consider themselves to be disabled people have this same prejudice against others. Where are we going wrong?
So, lets put a stop to it:
Lets campaign and challenge the wrong portrayal of disabled people in old texts and plays – Noddy no longer has Golly to play with, so it can be done, if the outrage is strong enough.
Lets challenge the mis-portrayal of disabled people in the media: lets swamp the television stations and newspapers every time they print a ‘super-crip’ story; every time they report our ‘heroic’ exploits, such as making a journey or raising a family.
Lets challenge exclusion – from anything.
And most of all, let us challenge the concept that any impairment that is different to one’s own is a suitable target for disablism – especially by those who ought to know better.