A couple of weeks ago I started my dream Job. And it wasn’t just for the fact that it was for only one day a week that it was my dream job. No, it was because I could help normalise attitudes to people with disabilities, and from a young age, when it counts. Ever since that rock landed on my head on the Totem Pole I have faced discrimination in my life, doctors telling me I shouldn’t be going on my adventures, people calling me Spaz and even physical beatings on two occasions by people who, I can only suppose, felt threatened by me. However, this only spurred me on.
However, I am aware this kind of discrimination does not spur the majority of people with disabilities on. That is why I am running workshops in schools and colleges as part of a team for ProjectAble. There are five of us on the team, all with different challenges. It is often extremely amusing running these workshops as the capacity for hilarity is limitless.
The workshops are about open and honest discussion. There are no wrong questions on these days so students can ask us anything - the more offensive the better. As it is early days there have not been any derogatory questions (not even ‘How do you have sex?’ or ‘How do you take a shit?’). Anyway, we have heard it all before and we want the students to be comfortable to ask. Disability shouldn’t be a socially unacceptable subject. Talking about disability and encouraging vigorous discussion leads to a healthy outlook and takes disability out of this taboo space. I wish we’d had workshops like this when I was at school: if we did I probably would have thought twice before calling Simon Hodgeson a spaz or Brian Warburton a cretin. I wouldn’t of made fun of that person with Downs syndrome or referred to people as retards or mongs or even handicapped (meaning beggars).
However, rather than getting caught up in how we should or shouldn’t talk about someones disability, we would be better off focusing on how those people are being treated, rather than the labels we use.