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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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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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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

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Society is Dependent on…

Sir Ken Robinson died on 21st of August 2020 and he was one of my first ever heroes… I wanted to share this quote with you in the hopes that you will redefine your definitions of ability and intelligence.

Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability. And at the heart of the challenge is to reconstitute our sense of ability and intelligence.

Sir Ken Robinson

I want to address something I hear & read about a lot: that disabled people are disposable. Worth less. To say that disabled people are a ‘drain on society’ or resources or taxpayers or whatever else is to say that the success of society is measured by money. In actual fact, the word ‘society’ comes from the Latin socius (companion) and was first found in English in the mid-16th century meaning ‘companionship, friendly association with others.’ Society is thus defined by relationships. Just as everything in life is, really. A plant’s relationship with the sun is essential for its survival. Our relationships with each other is vital for our own wellbeing, as lockdown has taught us all too well.

Therefore, not only is this idea that disabled people are less productive, less capable or less worthy fundamentally untrue, it would also mean that every single one of us is a drain on society. Is a pregnant woman on maternity leave a drain on society because she has stopped working? Absolutely not. What about those who are battling cancer or depression? Both disabling illnesses but not the people you would immediately consider when you hear the term ‘disabled people’. Our capability to love makes us all inherently valuable. Worth is not something you earn or something that can be taken away. We, as disabled people, are no more a drain than anybody else. Given the right access and accommodation, given a society that did not disable us- the empathy, work ethic and fire we possess from being oppressed is one of the most valuable resources on earth!

We are society, so whatever we don’t like about it, we have the power to change. Diversity. Society depends upon us.

This blog post originated from a newsletter I sent out to the Communi-tea a few weeks ago, if you’d like to be the first to hear updates, or want some book, song, & film recommendations gracing your inbox each week, you can sign up here!