Yesterday was the 4th annual Blogging Against Disablism Day, hosted by it's creator The Goldfish. In typical fashion I am a day late. I am claiming the extra day as a 'reasonable adjustment' under the Disability Discrimination Act. I'm confident of success as it's a dual claim on behalf of myself and the hamster which lives in my computer and makes it work. The hamster was buckling under the strain of a clogged hard drive and refusing to be evicted virus, so felt life was no longer worth living and booked it's flight to Switzerland. After some serious surgery and time in intensive care the hamster is still poorly but feels life is now worth living and has given me it's permission to apply for a care package and cancel the Dignitas trip.
When I've not been busy persuading the computer hamster that suicide is actually painful, I've also been wondering what I wanted to say about disablism; other than it's a rather cool internet invented word. It is though isn't it? What's less cool is that a bunch of cripples on the internet had to come up with our own word for the discrimination faced by disabled people every day because disablism is so far off the radar for most people that it didn't even have a proper 'politically correct' name. No wonder disablism is still struggling to take it's proper place amongst the other discriminisms. And yes, I did just make that word up too. I'm on a roll here. Well, I would be if the provision of wheelchairs on the NHS wasn't in and of itself disablist, but as it is you'll just have to imagine the rolling bit.
Being disabled is hard, not so much down to the obvious reasons such as physical limitations or mental health struggles; though they should be challenging enough, the invisible reasons are the really tough parts. It's one thing to have a poorly leg but quite another to be told by the world that that poorly leg makes you a lesser person, a person who can't go the same places as other people, not because you have a poorly leg but because those places don't see why they should enable poorly legged people to access them. There is a certain look which crosses the faces of the able when the differently able speak of the way the world treats them. A look which says you are over reacting, over sensitive, it's not as bad as you say, and after all, you are worth less than the able so you should satisfy yourself with what you have and be grateful for the concessions the able make for you.
And you know what? They're right, it's not as bad as we say. Actually, it's far, far worse. Just ask the wheelchair user refused access to a flight because he couldn't climb the stairs, even after he offered to use his arms to climb them; the mother who felt her only option in life was to end life for herself and her daughter, that death was the only way she could ensure the safety of her child; the man kept as a slave and tortured for his disability benefits; or the former marine** blown up in the service of his country then told his prosthetic leg would give him an unfair advantage.
*With apologies to Frank Turner for the blatant title song lyric theft
** Discussion about accusations of 'advantage' start at 02mins12seconds