Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Life Update I Didn't Think I'd Be Writing

I'm not entirely sure how to start this post, being speechless seems to have been a common theme this week as the most surprising of events have unfolded. If you follow me on social media then I imagine you probably have some idea of what I got myself involved in this week but in case you don't, let's start at the very beginning.

The Life Update I Didn't Think I'd Be Writing

On Wednesday I saw a tweet shaming an M&S food product called 'cauliflower steak', which to you and me is sliced cauliflower. People weren't happy about cauliflower, a food item you can buy without packaging, being wrapped up in so much plastic and for more money than a whole cauliflower. Now, that's okay. We should be cutting down on plastic usage and these kinds of pre-cut products (especially ones created to cash in on January heath trends) are expensive but what followed was not okay. Suddenly my feed was full of ableism, full of tweets saying 'just buy a cauliflower yourself and cut it up, simple'. Simple to you perhaps, but for a disabled person it's often not that simple. I physically cannot cut up a cauliflower due to my disability so sliced cauliflower is perfect for me to stay independent. This was a really accessible product that got removed because of a knee-jerk reaction that didn't consider disabled people (as well as elderly people, busy parents, single people etc.).

The conversations surrounding it should have been about finding alternative packaging (recyclable or biodegradable) and lowering prices but instead the conversations were ableist and shamed people who bought prepared and packaged food, the conversation became more general and the Huffington Post UK posted what I can only describe to be one of the most ableist responses out there. They reeled off a list of prepared food items, everything from diced onions to butternut squash slices, and proceeded to shame anyone and everyone who uses them. A website that has been so supportive of disabled people completely disregarded our needs and shamed us for wanting independence. I won't link to it, as firstly I don't want to give them the views and secondly, after days of waiting they have made some slight (and these are ever so slight) changes to the piece, they toned down the ableism a little.

Metro Lifestyle, Channel 4 News, BBC Radio 2

By this point I was pretty fired up and I took to Twitter myself to try and inform people about how many disabled people rely on these accessible products that were being labelled as lazy and pointless. Well, it's been 4 days since that and right now one of my tweets about it has racked up nearly 1,000 retweets, not properly viral but people were listening. Since then I've written for Metro about it, had that very article mentioned on Graham Norton's BBC Radio 2 show on Saturday and on Friday Channel 4 News came round and filmed me for a piece about it for social media. That ended up being on the evening news on Saturday. I've also got interviews lined up for next week and posts to write for websites about the issue. And I'm not quite sure how it's all happened! None of it has sunk in yet.

This week has been a bit of a blur and I've been running on adrenaline for most of it, luckily I've been able to do most of the tweeting, writing etc from the comfort of my bed but I'm definitely expecting to crash after it all calms down. I don't intend on letting this conversation quieten down if I can help it though, I want to keep this going for as long as possible because you can guarantee we'll be back here again the next time someone finds an accessible prepared, packaged product that seems pointless to them. The truth is that many disabled people, myself included, would be relying on mostly unhealthy ready meals if we didn't have access to these products. The solution is to find alternative packaging, not to remove these products. That's the message I've been trying to get out there.

I have to say I've really enjoyed using my voice this week to shine a light on this issue, I've most definitely caught the activism bug. I remember the first time I did a radio piece, I was so nervous I had a panic attack and now look at me. On the TV, pitching to radio stations myself and popping up on social media more times than I can count. It feels amazing for people to finally be listening to what disabled people have to say. And for once I can confidently say that I'm proud of myself.
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4 comments

  1. Happy for you Shona. Great job you're doing. x

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  2. Loved this post Shona! Over the last week, you've been all over my Twitter feed and it's made me so happy. The work you do to raise awareness is amazing and so admirable. I'm so glad you feel proud of yourself and I think it's fair to say there's lots of other people who are feeling proud of you too! x

    Bekah - rbekhaj.com

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! It's been so weird seeing myself pop up on my own feed! x

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