Today is the UNs annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities. That’s a very medical model term (although I suspect it was changed because it’s “people first language”) and I’m much more of a social model girl so I shall henceforth refer to it as a day of Disabled People.
The UN statistics state that 1 billion people worldwide have a disability or approximately 15% of the population. I don’t know how they’ve classified disability but I have to say whilst the 1 billion figure feels right to me based on previous figures I’ve heard, I was a little surprised it was so low as 15%. I realise this makes no sense!
I wanted to write something and I wasn’t sure what. And then I got to thinking that somewhere, right about now, there are new parents with a brand new baby, maybe even in the hospital where I was born. We’ll assume they had a baby girl and they named her Emma, like me. She was born today. And one day her parents will be sat down and told by the doctors “your child has Cerebral Palsy”. Perhaps she was born prematurely and deprived of oxygen like I was. She might end up a wheelchair user or she might end up walking with crutches. Regardless they are now carers and she is disabled. She’s still their baby girl, their Emma, and they love her but she’s not the what they planned for when they said as all expectant parents seem to “as long as it’s healthy”
Tonight, another family will sit down to tea together. It’ll be Dad and his young kids sharing a pizza and laughing and joking. None of them knowing that when Dad wakes up tomorrow he won’t be the same guy, he’ll have had a stroke while he slept. Guess what? He’s disabled now too. Amongst other things he’s lost use of his mouth and now needs tube feeding and a communication device. He’s still Dad… but he’s different.
And there’s a young woman somewhere – rushing off to work a little bit late because on this cold morning her warm bed was just too comfortable to get out of when the alarm rang. She’s driving, maybe a little bit faster than she should but at 18 she only just passed her test and thinks she’s invincible. But the roads are icy and her car skids. She survives but has to have an arm amputated and her life is never the same again. But she’s still her.
You might wonder what disability has to do with you or why you should care but the fact of the matter is – we are the worlds largest minority group. And chances are one day you or someone you love will be part it too.
I’ve always thought that I was very lucky to live in the UK and that I’m accepted and I live a brilliant life. A lot of things could be better but we weren’t doing too badly. But things have changed here in the UK and I don’t feel as accepted. This is something Kali has written about much better than I could in her post When Did We Forget?
So what do I want on this International Day of Disabled People in 2012? I want people to realise that there is no us and them. We are all in this together because there is no magic spell or shield you can use to prevent you becoming one of us – a disabled person or as we are now more commonly know – scroungers.
I can just about cope with living in the world as it is now – although I dearly miss the community we had and the world we lived in pre coalition and scroungers. But my hope is that for baby Emma, born today and newly disabled things are different.
I hope that on 3rd December 2042 when she’s my age it’s simply just another day and she marvels that disability was ever such a different big deal of a thing that it had to have it’s own day. I have absolutely no idea how we can get to that point. But I know that by everyone working together and doing what they can we can definitely do it. Because we’re disabled. But we’re also awesome when we come together as a community.