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

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tinker, Tailor, Disability Extremist ... ?

Imagine that you had to find a phrase or a set of words to describe yourself… what would they be? This might seem like a trivial exercise but over the last weeks, I had to come up with a suitable response. I cannot chronicle all the events that happened since I wrote that last entry on my graduation experience. The truth of the matter is that things change with time. And I did too!


Yes, I have temporarily moved to my summer house as I do every summer. That meant adjusting, once again, to a more disabling environment and adapt to the new routine. However, hard as it might be, this wasn’t the real problem. The reality was that I felt the need to examine my life in light of the changes happening with my personal and work life.


Ah, there was that other event… Indeed, I was commenting about a local (disabled people-led) organisation conducting a charity event. And I pointed out to the organisers that putting forward the image of disabled people as ‘capable of doing more than our non-disabled peers’ in spite ‘of our ‘physical or intellectual limitations’ (paraphrase) was wrong because it seems to suggest that disabled people, unlike others, must ‘earn’ their rights. Or worse that our value is only guaranteed as long as we are of use to others.


I admit that my criticism could have been worded better. But – in answering my remarks – someone called me a ‘disability extremist’! Now, I would very gladly joke about this adjective. But I don’t see myself as an extremist; unless that means that I am committed to seeing every child and adult, irrespective of any impairment, given equal rights in our society. And to insist that, for this to happen, our societies must adapt in one way or another. That is all I wish and believe in.


So, I cannot agree with images that negate the role of society in perpetuating exclusion and disability in its proper sense. After all, if disabled people remain silent on the way our life is projected, as if our only goal in life was to ‘prove our worth’, then I might as well shut up and prove my worth alone – possibly avoiding any contact with another disabled person (as I used to do).



However, inn spite of the momentary diatribe above, I know that I can offer more than disability activism. The fact is that one doesn’t exclude the other. But even there, we cannot ignore that disability (as social exclusion) permeates itself in all we do:


• in how our art is interpreted,


• in how we do our work and even


• In the simplest of options such as choosing a restaurant!



The last one applies At least for me, when I have to ask in advance whether my wheelchair would get in the venue or not… or if I would be able to use the WC facilities… But I digress…


My question was: How would I describe myself in a few words, then?


Yesterday, my colleagues bought me a mug with the words “Caution: Disability Extremist” printed on the front… yes, as a joke and as one of the presents for my graduation... It had a skull and two crutches replacing the cross bones. Thoughtful…you say? OK, I was a bit irritated. But, alas, this wasn’t the much sought out answer to my question.


I guess that I have to dig deeper into my life as I try to find a meaning to all this. Not to the question, “am I a disability extremist? “But to have an adequate response to the question, “What is the point of it all?” A hard one for the day but it is Sunday...

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