Today is BADD.
No, I haven't woken up with amnesia thinking I'm stuck in the 80's
And, no, today hasn't been really shit, necessitating the extra "D" for emphasis.
Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day (The brainchild of The Goldfish, inspired by Blogging Against Sexism Day, Blogging Against Racism Day, Blogging Against Heteronormativity
Day and others).
You may be thinking "Why does Lisy need to participate in a designated day? All she seems to do is winge about the discrimination she faces." And you'd be right. I asked myself the same question many times. But, in the end, faced with a shiny, exciting bandwagon - I just had to jump on (the bandwagon had working ramps, how could I resist?).
It comes at an apt time for me, as I'm suddenly in a state of heightened awareness about being disabled. Why? Because, for the last fortnight, I haven't been disabled.
Did my Osteogenesis Imperfecta vanish for the duration of my holiday? No. Of course not. But, for the two weeks I spent in America, I was not disabled. There was nothing I was stopped from doing because America (or at least the state of California) has almost entirely ridded itself of disabling barriers.
During my holiday I found myself able to go wherever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to. All buses, trains, underground trains, trams, etc... are accessible. Whereas here in London of course, I'm disabled. Not by my Osteogenesis Imperfecta, but by the stairs/escalators on the underground and at train stations, by buses with ramps that don't work, etc.
And it wasn't just in the arena of getting around that my disability was removed. I could go into any bar, I could eat in any restaurant (well, not *any* because Americans just don't seem to "get" vegetarianism, but my impairment proved no disability), I could visit any tourist attraction, safe in the knowledge that there would be access, and I wouldn't be disabled.
Now I'm back in the UK and, whilst my impairment is at exactly the same level as it was on the other side of the Atlantic. But now, I'm so severely disabled I can't even get into my local organic food store - because it's their steps disabling me, not my impairment.
I even did two gigs in San Francisco. Both clubs were fully accessible from the point of view of audience members (and so, *gasp*, on both nights there were actually crips in the audience) and one, with it's level performance area, was even accessible to wheelie comics. That's a 50% rate of full access. I must've played in over 50 comedy clubs in the UK. And how many of those were fully accessible to a performer? 3 (incase you're wondering, my criteria is: access to the entrance, an accessible toilet and either level access to the performance area or a ramp up to the stage). And only a handful more have access for audience members too. It seems that only time you're going to hear the word "access" in conjunction with the words "comedy club" here in the UK is if you happen to overhear a conversation between me and Liz.
Attitudes in America are completely different too. During my trip, two whole weeks, only one small child pointed and stared at me like I was a freak of nature. That was at Universal Studios, so I'm assuming that she too was a British tourist.
As I said in a previous post - in California, wheelchair users can get everywhere - so we are everywhere. Here I know far too many people (my parents included) who, due to disabling barriers, leave their own homes far less often than is healthy. I'm guessing British tourists going to America for the first time probably think there's been some kind of plague because there are so many crips about - shopping, socialising, taking the bus to work. (I guess technically there has been a kind of plague - war veterans who've become disabled due to the Bush family's tendency to pick fights with countries they don't like).
Of course, disablism isn't only about the barriers preventing us from getting to public places. Many of us face discrimination the second we get out of bed in the morning, before we've left the house. Laurence, in this article points out that there is an estimated shortfall of 300,000 wheelchair accessible homes in the UK. I live in an inaccessible flat. There's 3 steps to get in (fortunately each far enough apart from the others for me to bump my chair up and then regain my balance before tackling the next one) and my flat is far too small to move my chair around in.
You may be wondering why a feisty character like me would accept such sub-standard accommodation. Simply, when I was offered the flat it was more accessible than where I was living, and I knew it was going to be the best I was going to find for a long time.
But, why is there such a shortfall of accessible accommodation? You guessed it - disablism. If architects, builders, local councils, etc could just bear in mind that building accessible houses would not only eliminate the discrimination disabled people face, but, more importantly from their point of view, would bring in a profit - cos, guess what, crips pay rent and even buy houses! Shock, horror!
That is of course the other side of disablism. Not only do disabled people face inequality, but also, landlords, shop owners, restauranteurs, etc, etc lose profits by excluding crips. Sadly, maintaining inequality and an unjust society seems more important to these people than raking in the profits. Which seems like bizarre business sense to me. You'd never see a pub with a sign outside saying "No blacks!", so why are steps at the door acceptable? It's tantamount to the same thing.
And, at the end of the day, while all prejudices are wrong, disablism is the least rational, yet the most rampant (though white, I am a woman, and I am gay. I never experience sexism or homophobia, yet, as I pointed out, I encounter disablism before I've even left my flat of a morning). Tomorrow you could get hit by a bus. You wouldn't wake up suddenly gay, you wouldn't wake up suddenly black, you wouldn't wake up suddenly female, but, it's highly likely that you might wake up disabled. And if you're a pub landlord I bet you'd really find yourself wishing you could still kick yourself for not making the place accessible when you spent all that money on refurbishing last year.
A friend recently suggested meeting up in this pub. Notice the access comment: "Disabled access (access only, no accessible toilets)". So, an accessible drinking establishment, as long as you don't want to drink anything. That'll bring in the £80 billion crips collectively have to spend every year.
Though many crips do have money, disablism is also an economic construct. Using my holiday as an example: A non-disabled person carrying a suitcase would have no difficulty at all walking from my flat, down to Euston station to get the 205 bus to Paddington, so they could get the Heathrow Express, no difficulty in getting the case onto the bus, and off the bus. I can't. With a case, I have to get a taxi. That 205 bus in London costs £1.50. Taxi's cost considerably more. Mobility impaired London residents can get a Taxicard, and that reasonably short journey to Paddington, with a Taxicard cost me £1.50. The same as the bus would cost a non-crip. See how the Taxicard eliminates the financial penalty for having a mobility impairment? I recently heard someone argue that Taxicard should be abolished because "Why should disabled people be able to travel however they want, whenever they want? If disabled people can have a Taxicard, I should be able to take a limousene to work on my monthly travelcard!"
Yes. Let's bring back the financial penalties for being disabled just cos you're jealous that you have to take the tube. At least you can take the tube.
That's a very small scale example of economic discrimination. This woman claims that her £110,000 compensation doesn't cover the extra living costs of being disabled for life. Quite rightly so.
Someone I used to know received over £1 million in compensation from the hospital trust responsible for causing her Cerebral Palsy to cover her extra living costs for being disabled.
Both these people are eligible for Disability Living Allowance. A benefit which is supposed to cover the extra costs of being disabled.
From these amounts of compensation, we can ascertain that, during the course of the average disabled person's life, they are underpaid between £110,000 and £1 million in DLA. I fully agree that where there is blame for an impairment, the "victim" should be compensated for the trauma. But, to include living costs in the compensation calculation? That shouldn't be neccessary. Surely we should *all* have our extra living costs met. But, no. We're financially penalised and economically discriminated against.
And someone can begrudge me paying a taxi fare equal to the bus fare they would pay.
All over London there are these Chinese Herbal Clinics, with displays in their window offering treatments and pain relief for impairments such as arthritis. Obviously, I'm not one of these people that believes that alternative medicine can provide cures, but I do firmly believe that many can offer some degree of pain relief. So, these clinics are offering to help crips ease their pain - but have I ever seen just *one* that didn't have steps at the door? No. Not even one. You'd think that if they're targeting their services at people with chronic pain, that they wouldn't exclude most of their potential clients by renting inaccessible premises. "Oh, hi. Yes, we can treat you. As long as there's nothing "wrong" with you to begin with of course."
Other places you'd think you wouldn't find disablism would be in services specifically for disabled people, right?
As I've mentioned before, my father went to a "special" college for disabled young men, when he was a disabled young man. The entry criteria? You had to be able to walk. I love all his old college photo's, full of people who should be wheelchair users, but were forced to prop themselves up with every walking aid going, just to get some semblance of an education (no-one taught my father to read until he was 21). When you look at the pictures you get to play "Guess who fell over just after the picture was taken!" I think it was Dad several times.
Sounds like something that wouldn't happen "in this day and age"? This evening I had a telephone conversation with an old school friend. He now lives in a segregated community specifically for disabled people (in a first floor flat with no lift up the stairs). He was saying that they're currently evicting all the residents who are *too* disabled and actually need any assistance with, anything.
It is now just before midnight, BADD is nearly over, and much like realising you've got three minutes left of your exam - I feel I should write a conclusion.
So, much like drugs, disablism is wrong. Just say no, kids.
This public information post was brought to you by vast quantities of tea and the letter "Ouch my arse hurts from sitting still at the computer for too long."