02/10/2020

I'm Tired Of Fighting For My Rights As A Disabled Person

Inaccessible shops. Failed assistance on trains. Denied access to taxis. Strangers touching me in the street. The plastic straw ban. 59% of Covid deaths are disabled people. "You should complain about that". "You should report them". But why? I am exhausted from complaining, from ranting on Twitter, from fighting for scraps of accessibility. The responsibility is always on me, it's my problem to change. If I can't access the world then I'm the one who has to scream and shout to change that. If I'm too tired then the problem simply continues, no one else is going to protest in the street for me or start a campaign on their own time. Disabled people are running on empty though, and I can't keep up this pace forever. 

When I first became disabled I would complain about every barrier I came across, constantly sending emails to businesses, bus companies, train companies and more. It was almost a part time job. The small wins every now and then kept me going, shops buying a ramp and train companies providing more training, but it never stopped the frequency of which I was experiencing these things. So, I started writing. Surely education was the way to go, if I shared my story then people would want to help, right? I'm preaching to the choir when I do this though, speaking to the same people who already know about these issues, even when writing for mainstream media. And on those occasions where I manage to break through that wall there's simply a period of outrage from the public, followed by more complacency as they return to their lives and I return to the same inequality and discrimination. So, it's no surprise that I'm feeling drained. 

The photo is black and white. Shona, a young woman using a powerchair which is raised up to eye level height, is wheeling down an old cobbled road. Other people are out of focus walking near her.

Just recently I had a conversation with a taxi driver about taxis refusing to pick me up as a wheelchair user, and he emphasised the importance of reporting these drivers. But, why is it on me to solve this problem? When things go wrong for disabled people we're told to complain, but people already know these issues are happening, I'm not telling a train company anything new when I tell them that they failed to provide my assistance. So, what is it actually changing? Why is the responsibility on me to record and complain about every access problem and discrimination I face? There are some days where there are multiple incidences that I could complain about, but I do not want this to be my life. Sometimes I just want to move on from a bad situation, I don't want to relive it and consume myself in the negativity of it for weeks after. But, I'm told that if I want things to improve, that's what I must do. I must sacrifice my own wellbeing. 

Access and discrimination is not just disabled people's problem to solve though, in fact I go as far to say that very little responsibility sits with us. It's mostly non-disabled people making our lives difficult, so why aren't they the ones encouraged to complain and challenge the system? When non-disabled people put the responsibility on us what they're saying is 'I don't care enough to change things myself because it doesn't affect my daily life'. Disabled people are tired though. We don't all want to be activists, and we shouldn't be forced to be them. Human rights issues are the responsibility of every human to solve, and whilst this is an issue across the board it really feels like disability has been heavily left behind. Disabled people have accounted for 59% of Covid deaths here in the UK, so where is the uproar? I've seen hardly anyone non-disabled on my social media address this issue, get angry about this statistic. That is an astounding number and it terrifies me how easily this country has been able to brush it off, I truly feel like mine and other disabled people's lives don't matter as much. We're just collateral damage. It makes me wonder, if our deaths don't make people listen, what will? 

My instinct was to end this post with ideas and solutions of how you can help disabled people, but even the act of doing that is work I'm having to do as a disabled person to fight for my rights. I implore you to hunt out our voices and educate yourself, rather than relying on us to provide you with every tool and piece of information you need. Disabled people's emotional wellbeing matters and I will not stand to see it disrespected anymore. 

4 comments:

  1. I am able-bodied and just wrote to a coffee shop as their accessible toilets were blocked by furniture and the red cord was tucked away. I will do more for disabled people every day. Thanks for the post :)

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  2. You are absolutely right, Shona. I am saying this as a privileged white woman with no disabilities. Even though I knew this before it is your words that encourage me to do way more and help to break down barriers. Thank you.

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