I was trying to think of something positive to say about 2016 for anyone, let alone disabled people. Each of us will I suspect have some highlights however bad we feel last year treated us. But to live thru a year when the British people inexplicably voted for Brexit (a really bad move for disabled people) and somehow the good folk of the USA saw fit to protest at, well I’m not sure, and vote Donald Trump into the Whitehouse, it was for many of us a genuinely aweful time.
So I was musing on what a blogger with disabilities might say in some kind of new year messaging when I came across the piece linked to below, by Martyn Sibley in the always readable Disability Horizons. It’s a balanced look at 2017 and what preceded it. I was struck by the fact that Martyn, recently voted in the top three of most influential disabled people in the country for 2017, almost casually made reference to the way disabled people have suddenly become a “burden” in our society, as painted by the media and some political parties who continue to seek to deflect from their own failings by attacking easy targets.
Should we be so relaxed almost about changing attitudes to disability and those who might need the support of benefits ? Can we continue to allow society and certain parts of the media to have a relatively free run in attacking disabled people with outrageous sound bytes that rely on scaremongering rather than fact and seek to feed on and off a so called “popularist” view of life that is harsh and based heavily on an approach that says “me and my family are healthy, comfortably off and decent types so we don’t care about anyone else” ?
Well Martyn Sibley and Disability Horizons won’t settle for sitting back and allowing the media in particular to paint their biased and politically influenced picture of disabled people. Neither should organisations representing disabled people and trust me that’s easy to say but less easy to action. These are hard times. Can anyone afford to be choosy who you take funds from to keep the doors open ? Can any local charity of any description really risk offending people in authority by speaking out against their actions / decisions ?
What do you think ? Well my view is that we cannot sit back and let the attacks of 2016 be repeated in 2017. Disabled organisations can be forthright and powerful without having to be tagged as left or right wing or supportive of any given political party of media outlet. We need to use our collective and factual life experience to counter the negative headlines, to explain, to emphasise, to SHOUT about the value brought into our lives by a diverse society that celebrates not denigrates “difference”.
Here’s what Martyn has to say and it’s another really good read.
DH MS NEW YEARS BLOG