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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

WRITER’S BLOCKED

This morning I woke up feeling rather good about myself and after having a shower in my accessible cubicle, I proceeded to check whether I could write something for the blog. As Thursday was the day we had to move back to our winter residence, I thought that I should give some time before I could settle down. But of course, given that I still don’t have my usual internet connection ready I realised that I had to make do with dialup… So things are pretty disordered over here and I should have about a week to deal with my old environment again. And really there’s nothing that pretty about my state of order. Right now.

And disorder isn’t only out there in my physical world... that’s because I realised more and more how I have felt rather let down by something I read. But first a little background.

When I was in my teens, I was particularly interested in the rise of the black civil rights movements in the us, whilst following with interest the development in gender inequalities. True, I might have known at the time but perhaps I was seeking an answer to the question of my own exclusion. What these movements had in common was that they opposed the tradition that upheld the white man as the centre of the universe. And of course, ‘man’ here refers to the male of the species only. I won’t pretend to have been in any way a feminist or spokesperson for black power, but I felt that the message of these social movements touched me in some way.

Although my family and friends (and some other people of course) treated me as any brother/friend/acquaintance, there was a problem when someone outside that circle met me. Admittedly, it was easy to make new friends as I’m usually good company (should put a disclaimer there) but when it came to people, especially from traditional backgrounds (i.e., Christian/medical/charity), things got rather ugly …

Things that would make it to the top five things I hated as a child:

1. Being talked down to as if I had been promoted four classes – ahead of my friends.

2. Being talked to as if I’m kind of a shadow to my friends, not unlike an imaginary friend...

3. Being showered with praise and flattery as if I had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

4. Being told that I was a ‘special’ kid.

5. Being asked awkward questions about my 'condition' and personal life.

As I was saying, I felt that my reality was not quite like that of the other kids not because I was different but because people perceived me differently. The thing is these ways of viewing people with impairments persist and I am still embarrassed to have to say that I am at still at risk of receiving money to buy myself an ice cream cone.

What upset me however was the more I read about these social movements, the more I realise how ‘disability’ has been totally removed from their agenda. Indeed, in an article I link to above, not only was proof that one was non-disabled part of the lobby to gain equal civil rights but ‘disability’ in other social movements, remains intrinsically a personal problem. To illustrate:

1. Suffragettes (early feminists) did not want to be thrown in the same category of “lunatics, feeble-minded people, crippled, etc” as they argued that being a ‘woman’ was a ‘normal’ thing.

2. The justification for slavery and abolition of black civil rights was traditionally linked to the argument that blacks were intellectually ‘inferior’. This meant that one of the tasks was to disassociate oneself with disabled people.

This is quite a simple sketch of the arguments but you get the idea. Disability was not a political issue but it was indeed bad luck and reasonable cause to deny civil rights.

I now firmly believe that disability is a socio-political issue meaning that my impairment is not a tragedy that justifies my exclusion from the world. Indeed, give me access and what I require and you’ll see me get on with it. But when you are constantly categorised, analysed, scrutinised and largely misunderstood, you start asking yourself whether they are right or not after all. But in truth, when I find myself with friends I cherish and doing the things that I am good at, I realise that it’s not me who they are talking about. But people still scare themselves by saying the most awful of things. These I heard being said about myself and some of my friends:

- It’s a dull life being blind.

- It must be so sad being unable to hear.

- It’s terrible not being able to walk isn’t it?

- Those people cannot speak for themselves (referring to intellectually disabled people)

- He should be locked up somewhere (mental health system users)

All I want to say is that despite whom I really am what I have achieved, or what is to come; the fact remains I am still judged by my impairments. And it is in that I feel strongly attached to other people with impairments. Not because we are all similar or alike but rather because as far as society is concerned, we are all equally excluded.

To read more about the bias in social movement history visit:

DISABILITY AND THE SOCIAL MOVEMENT

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