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What we can do after COP26

71% of global emissions are produced by just 100 companies, so the most important decision we can make to protect our earth is deciding to engage with our political systems and advocate for system change.

COP26 is over, and to say it was disappointing is an understatement.

One minister was excluded from meetings due to being a wheelchair user- and I would like to note that using a wheelchair is not a particular access need. Especially when attending a modern conference building for world leaders. 1 billion people are disabled. It is not their responsibility to declare their medical condition in order to be treated like a human being. The media specialise in writing inflammatory headlines instead of focusing on progress we can make with the available solutions.

We cannot isolate these issues into accessibility and sustainability, the issue is exclusivity and an all round lack of compassion. Exclusivity not only in attendance, but in the attitude that world leaders are not responsible for those who are suffering from climate change right now. Lack of compassion not only towards vulnerable communities, but towards the earth.

It is not just disabled people who have been left out of this conference, but the people who are right now, as you read this, being impacted the most by climate change. Indigenous people, frontline activists, and vulnerable communities have not been given a platform. 

One thing is abundantly clear: our global purpose must be to limit Global Warming to 1.5ºC. In the coming months, and years, we must all be active in holding our leaders to account and ensuring they do all they can to prevent further destruction from the climate crisis. 

At a local level, it is easy to feel hopeless, like nothing we do can make a difference, but that is not true. We are not powerless within our systems, we are the system. There is so much we can do, and so much that needs to be done. Here are a few ideas.

💡Remember that ableism and climate change are connected issues, not separate. 

💰 British Banks finance 805M tonnes of CO2 production per year, so switching your bank account, investments, and pension to eco-friendly alternatives that don’t directly support the fossil fuel industry is not only the easiest lifestyle change you can make, but also the most impactful. For a list of ethical banks click here!

❓Question every headline you read, every promise you hear- are they backed up with fact-checked evidence and actionable, solid steps to move us forward? 

❗️Ask for access even if you’re not disabled, call out restaurants and buildings and venues for not being accessible, write to companies and your local representatives so that disabled people don’t have to be the only ones ‘making a fuss’ (AKA asking for their basic human rights.)

🦮 When creating an event think about access in the planning stages, not after a disabled person has been waiting 2 hours outside. 

👩‍💻 Include access information on your website, leaflets, and invitations.

📰 Don’t let divisive headlines from the media and distraction tactics from politicians make you forget the planet. 

🌍 Our global purpose is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Remind yourself and your friends that the focus is our planet’s future, not present politics. 

🛍 Buying second hand and mending our clothes instead of buying fast fashion is another good way to reduce our carbon footprint. Eating less meat, taking public transport, avoiding flights, reducing plastic and investing in reusable items like tote bags, or water bottles, as well as swapping every-day items to refillable/packaging free items. This can be done with deodorant, shampoo, toothbrushes, and many other body products as well as food items.

However, not all these options are always accessible or affordable since we don’t have policies to regulate them. They aren’t the most beneficial things we can do, because even if they were available to everybody, 71% of global emissions are produced by just 100 companies, so the most important decision we can make to protect our earth is deciding to engage with our political systems and advocate for system change. Because only plastic free, electrical vehicle friendly, affordable public transportation, and sustainable food policies can make the difference we need to stop climate change. Only the government can hold these companies to account and establish the laws needed to keep our environment safe!

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Ethical Banking

British Banks finance 805M tonnes of CO2 production per year, so switching your bank account, investments, and pension to eco-friendly alternatives that don’t directly support the fossil fuel industry is not only the easiest lifestyle change you can make, but also the most impactful.

Monzo, Starling Bank, Nationwide, Triodos
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Ableism

Ableism means discrimination against disabled people. 

Disabled people are the largest minority group in existence, making up 15% of the world’s population, and one day, that will include you. However, most people have never heard of… Ableism! This means discrimination against disabled people. 

The way society is structured to favour enabled people and exclude disabled people is systemic ableism, but not many people know what that is, let alone what to do about it. Disabled people themselves are sometimes unaware that they are experiencing prejudice, or that they have the option to do something about it. I have been disabled since I was 10 years old, and didn’t know the word ‘ableism’ until I was 17. I had no idea how to explain the injustice I was experiencing and so I couldn’t do anything about it. So please watch this video so we can change things for disabled children in the future:

Ableism | Tea with HB YouTube | Please SHARE with a friend!

Before the pandemic virtual alternatives weren’t an acceptable option, but now they have become helpful for enabled people, suddenly disabled people get the accommodations and access that we’ve been begging for for decades… Watch my YouTube video ‘Ableism’ to find out more!

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On the Internet, Ignorance is Malice

‘Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.’

Napoleon Bonaparte

On the Internet, ignorance is malice. 

Let me preface this, because nuance is critical. I am talking about online articles, documentaries, comments, posts, and any other media that wilfully ignore scientific evidence, refuse to do reliable research, and shut out those with lived experience or proper qualifications. 

Hanlon’s razor is a mental model that is summarised in the words of Napoleon Bonaparte: 

‘Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.’

I truly believe that bad intentions are rare. Rarer than incompetence and naivety, certainly. But not on the internet. Not when it is all too easy to take anger out on somebody from behind a keyboard. To anonymously hurt people, usually vulnerable people, is not thoughtless incompetence or understandable naivety, and it is all too common.

To be on the receiving end of these kinds of comments, or to stumble across this kind of media, is a difficult process. Assuming the worst in someone isn’t good for us, and acting on these assumptions doesn’t give the other person a chance to be better. We can never know the intentions of everyone we meet, and it is often sensible to question whether emotions like anger, frustration, and sadness are justified before we act on them. So, to respond in the hopes of an open discussion should be common practice, because it means we are giving people the chance to unlearn damaging narratives they might not have questioned before, whether they are malicious or not. Unfortunately it is not that simple, especially when vulnerable people are targeted. Even when responding to these comments in a sensible way, free from anger or upset or frustration, kindness and genuinely good intentions sometimes come across the web as condescension and disdain, and the interaction goes from bad to worse. It should not be up to individuals to spend time and energy educating strangers who, naive or not, present themselves with unkindness. It is not fair to expect the people most affected by this kind of abuse to be the ones to deal with it. 

Social Media sites like Instagram have technology to flag sensitive material, so why can’t they use that same technology to protect the creators that give their platforms a purpose? I heard Hank Green say that social media is no longer a place we visit, it is a place where we live. They have their own cultures, rules, they are as powerful as countries in their ability to influence, and yet they are not democratic. Instagram have acknowledged the fatphobia, ableism, racism, queerphobia, homophobia etc that their algorithm fosters. Many of their users have begged for change in the community guidelines to create a safer environment for themselves or, if they are creators, their audiences. Instagram has promised to do better- and yet? Here we are. I am a disabled woman volunteering my experiences and creating resources for free, in the hopes of helping others. Yet I am not protected from the ableist slurs, DMs, and comments I receive. 

In a time of the internet, where knowledge and education are quickly and easily accessible, to act on thoughtlessness, to comment or post without prior research, or to run a community based platform without enforcing safety guidelines… This is not ignorance or naivety. It is malice.

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A non-love letter to supermarkets

Food shopping is not the triumph I thought it would be. 🥫

I hadn’t been in a supermarket for almost two years. Colours, beeping, clothes, trolleys, people, lighting, rattling, it was all too overwhelming and I severely overestimated my ability to walk. Why don’t supermarkets have benches? Why is everything so bright? Why is nobody wearing masks? Feeling sick with a subluxed foot, I return home with only half my (very short) shopping list crossed off.

Big red letters line the path every time that I leave the house: ‘you are not welcome in this world!’

I lament to my mother that I belong in lockdown.

I sob to my boyfriend that I make everything worse.

I spiral down and down, with the thoughts of my friends moving on with life and leaving me behind.

Internalised ableism was less loud in lockdown.

Maybe it’s because they didn’t have the right gluten free bread, maybe it’s because I couldn’t find the crisp aisle… but re-entering the world was disappointing. 😔

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Being vs Being Seen

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes…

It is hard to know who we are without being influenced, let alone who we are without influencing others. 

‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ …but in order for that change to be enacted, people have to see you so they can copy you. In order to influence others, you must have some kind of audience. To be the change, you need a platform! It is unfortunately not as simple as being. To be the change you want to see, you have to be seen. 

Oversaturation of content makes ‘being’ that much harder. Especially when so much of our identity is formed and perceived online. It is hard to know who we are without being influenced, let alone who we are without influencing others. 

What kind of change do we want to see? Who do we want to be? How do we want to be seen? Each answer might be different! For instance we might want to see a world that’s climate is not crisis, but we want to be a person who isn’t worried about the future, and we want to be seen by others as easygoing and fashionable, which might include wearing non-sustainable clothing, or using animal products, or not talking about the climate crisis, in order to fit in. Aside from that, so much of the blame is placed on the individual consumer, when it is the government’s and companies’ responsibility to put policies and practices in place that don’t damage our environment. With all this in mind, it is no wonder change is so slow, and figuring out what kind of change we want to be in the world is so difficult.  

Perhaps it is time to consider just being in the world, rather than being the change we want to see. If we can figure out who we are first, amongst all this chaos, but with no expectations to change any of it… maybe then we will be able to build a solid foundation from which to create real, lasting change, without draining ourselves in the process. 

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Freedom Day

Disability is the only minority group that anybody can join at any time, the only one YOU will definitely join at some point in your life. 

‘Society is defined by how it treats its most vulnerable’

I know many are excited about Freedom Day but… What is freedom if 30% of the population are left behind? Not just disabled people, but the people they come into contact with, their families, friends, and carers. We are all connected. Our actions affect each other. 

So, I am begging you. Disabled people have suffered enough. We have all suffered enough! So many have been restricted from visiting loved ones in hospital. Some haven’t been able to see family at all in years. There have been far worse tragedies during these months than having to keep a distance or wear a mask. These restrictions are not infringing on your freedom. Forcing vulnerable people to lockdown and live in fear is infringing on their freedom. So, Freedom day is not freedom for a third of the country. 

Scrap Freedom Day, and use your voice to ask for the access that has been provided to be made permanent for the disabled people who have been pleading for it for decades: Online learning, remote working, virtual entertainment. Scrap Freedom day and spare a thought for the people who have been trapped in the same four walls all this time, no garden. Scrap whatever imagery you have or ‘returning to normal’ being positive when the NHS is still overwhelmed, and many are still dying because of it. 1,2000 scientists have labelled this move by the government ‘an unethical experiment’ and have advised against it on the grounds that easing restrictions makes England a threat to the world.

Yes, everyone’s suffering, but is it right to let 30% of the UK continue in even more fear, danger and difficulty, to give ‘freedom’ to the rest? What kind of freedom is that? It looks like eugenics to me.

We can make real life impact, so please, speak up for the ones left behind, and ask that restrictions be kept in place. If you are not disabled, we need your voice. Disability intersects with every other community, (30% of the LGBTQ+ Community are disabled) and it is the only minority group that anybody can join at any time, the only one YOU will definitely join at some point in your life. 

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Voting as an Invisibly Disabled Person

If I were in my wheelchair would they have said that? If my arm was in a sling, would they have said that?

We pulled into the polling station, parked in the disabled spot, put the blue badge up and as I put my mask on, my Mum tells me to  ‘walk carefully’. 

Walk carefully. Look a bit sad. Prove you are in as much pain as you feel. Wipe off that brave smile so we don’t have to deal with an argument. That’s the reality when you are invisibly ill. And as I walk up to the entrance I pause, wondering if I am putting on more of a limp than I really ‘need’ to, even though my hip is in agonising pain. I wonder if the person behind the desk will ask. I wonder what I will say. A year not having to deal with strangers, questioning, misunderstanding. A year of learning about ableism and advocacy and watching society ignore the most vulnerable. And I think, no, I am in pain. I don’t want to explain why it is wrong to ask. And maybe they won’t ask! And as I decide that I won’t answer, the person has walked out from behind the polling station desk to be as near as possible when they ask me: 

‘Do you need to use the disabled entrance?’ 

Tired. I sigh. ‘Yes.’ 

‘Okay!’

They hurry back. And I try to brush it off, well that wasn’t so bad, they weren’t rude, they didn’t argue. And I try not to think about my parents walking in behind me and I try not to assume that their assumption will be that I am using the disabled entrance for my parents, not that my parents are using it for me. If I were in my wheelchair would they have said that? If my arm was in a sling, would they have said that? If I was using a stick- if I looked less than perfectly healthy? 

I chastise myself for being offended- snowflake, you’ve had much worse, they didn’t argue with you. But it was the assumption. The reminder that even though I had a two hour seizure less than a week before, even though I couldn’t get out of bed just yesterday, nobody can see the excruciating pain I am struggling with.

There is no accessible polling booth that I can see, there is no stool or chair to use as I cross the box for the Green Party. If I were in my wheelchair I wouldn’t be able to reach the table to write my vote.

If I hadn’t recorded a podcast episode earlier today about this very thing, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed how bad it made me feel? No, I would have noticed. I just wouldn’t have understood why it made me feel bad.

Why didn’t they check our car for the blue badge? Why did they have to ask me? Why am I so upset about this- they didn’t say anything rude! Except… they did. And I am upset. 80% of disabled people are invisibly disabled. It is not okay to challenge someone for using access. You never know the full story, and most of the time, you shouldn’t need to. There was no queue, nobody behind us. What damage did they think they was preventing if her suspicion was correct, and I was a faker- has anyone actually ever met somebody who faked a disability? Why should the rest of us suffer for their deceitfulness? Why didn’t the person behind the desk, the person with a duty of care, think of the damage they’d do if they were wrong?

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NHS Staff Deserve Better

We clap for them, we praise them, but what are we actually doing to change things for them?

I have been in even more excruciating pain than usual, and I should have gone to hospital a lot sooner, but due to a history of medical gaslighting and dealing with constant pain, I find it hard to register when something hurting is ‘serious’. By which I mean, it is impossible to know when a hospital could actually help, especially if they usually make things worse. Not just if they are rude or if I experience a flare from sitting in the waiting room for hours, or if they don’t take my bloods properly and put me in more pain, but also because going to hospital when you’ve had bad experiences can be quite traumatic. Something happened. And for the first time in my life, when I went to hospital it showed up on a scan. It showed up in my blood tests. It showed up in the faces of the doctors who didn’t look at me like I was lying.

The doctors taking care of me on this occasion were very caring. It was my first inpatient stay as an adult rather than a child, and that changed how I was treated but also how I perceive the NHS. I now notice just how much is systemically wrong, how trapped the staff are in a system that is under so much strain, how new doctors are taken advantage of, and experienced doctors are desensitised. No matter how much these health professionals want to serve, they are often restricted by the pressures of bureaucracy and ‘efficiency’. For the majority of the doctors I have seen (note, the good ones, the kind ones) English is not their first language. And yet Brexit and our xenophobic laws mean we have created an unwelcoming environment for them, and we are limiting a great number of incredible healthcare professionals from coming to work in the UK by stopping freedom of movement. We clap for them, we praise them, but what are we actually doing to change things for them? Donations alone are not going to fix this system or change these laws. I hope in the next general election our votes reflect what our NHS workers deserve, because it is not this.

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Our Education System is Failing Our Children.

By forcing them to do exams that only serve the institutions and league tables, we are knowingly damaging the growth of their brains.

The education system is broken. Did you know this? If you’ve ever had a conversation with me, you know! The thing I am most passionate about is fixing it. By my friends, I am known for working education into any conversation. They mention it for fun to watch me get worked up about it. Why does this issue weigh so heavy on my heart? Aren’t I meant to be battling with the healthcare system? Tackling ableism? Climate change? Yes. That is exactly why.

Our education system is the root cause of all our problems. I believe this to the core of my being. It is not just what we are taught but how, our attitude towards learning, that is detrimental to our wellbeing in the long term. By treating creative subjects as less valuable we oppress whole groups of people. Nevermind creativity is considered the main thing that differentiates us from computers and nature, that makes us human. By not teaching ‘soft skills’ like communication and compassion our world lacks empathy and emotional intelligence. By segregating children using age we send the message that age dictates intelligence, we stagnate their abilities to form friendships, we do not prepare them for ‘the real world’. By keeping children in school we ignore their potential. By forcing them to do exams that only serve the institutions and league tables, we are knowingly damaging the growth of their brains.

We exclude education about sexuality, disability, philosophy and so much more, to the peril of our society.

This is the truth and it’s not comfortable to hear because it’s not ‘safe’. Creating a world in which grades are used to categorise and limit people seems better because we don’t have to look at the real problems. We can focus on the lie of school > exam > university > exam > job and be distracted from innovation. But this is not learning. This is brainwashing. 

Thankfully, education is also the route to every solution. If we change the education system, we can change society.

Education is the root of every problem.

Education is the route to every solution.

For more, listen to my podcast episode Accountabili-tea! with Dr Debra Kidd