Two things have come together in the past week which has encouraged me to write a bit more. Steven Bertrand, a younger advocate acquaintance of mine in Victoria, send me a note telling me he has been asked to write an operational manual for a service the City of Victoria provides. That speaks well to his ability as a writer and his profile within the disabled community. Here’s a kudos to him and it is good to see his generation becoming active. I hope to discuss that further with him (historical perspective) but well done Steve.
The second thing was a very good article from the The Star. It spoke to an issue I have argued to all of my life, that of the cute inspirational poster child needing everybody’s help. As a teenager with an attitude fuelled, in part by society’s attitude to disabled children, I spoke through my actions. Acting out became my early form of activism. I wanted to be seen as a person (even if that meant being a juvenile delinquent) rather than a cute disabled poster child.
As I aged, and matured, I discovered the power of words. I began joining committees, getting involved in causes (this was all pre-Charter time), take part in protests, work for non-profits, started becoming a more verbal activists with techniques learnt through the anti-Vietnam protest days. These were all transferable skills and I used them. According to some, very well. According to many others it just became “white-noise“!
However the article isn’t white noise and is well presented by Doctor Barbara Gibson. Having a disability isn’t necessarily tragic. You know what is tragic, the thousands being killed in Aleppo. That’s tragic so lets get our priorities straight. Every time you tell a child with a disability how “tragic” it is (and it gets whispered to parents more than one likes to believe, I’m in a wheelchair, not deaf) you lay seeds that can later sprout into a lot of self-doubt.
We are not poster children, we are people. Treat us accordingly. All of that “inspiration” and the tragedy of it all works for telethons’ but it doesn’t pay the bills later in life. I am me and I define my disability. My disability (your word not mine) does NOT define me. However the real disability is your perception of me!