Pity, quiet asides, fakers… and ‘microaggressions’


newslatestPity, “microagressions”, sheltered workshops and iphones were just some of the subjects of blogs from around the world that were published as part of the ninth annual Blogging Against Disablism Day (BADD).

The aim of the day – created by disabled activist D H Kelly and held every year on 1 May – is to allow disabled and non-disabled people to “blog about their experiences, observations and thoughts about disability discrimination” and so “raise awareness of inequality, promote equality and celebrate the progress we’ve made”.

Kelly said she was delighted with the quality and number of blogs submitted this year – 93, compared to a peak of nearly 200 in a previous year – the ninth time she has organised the event.

She said: “There are fewer contributions now than there were some years ago but only because fewer people are blogging; perhaps the bulk of on-line activism has shifted from personal blogs onto Twitter.

“Because fewer people blog, they tend to be more conscientious writers; most of the contributions are very well thought-out, some extremely personal and brave.”

One year, there was a string of blogs by American non-disabled mothers of disabled children, she said, “some of whom were quite startling in the contrast between the cutesie look of their blogs and the radical aspirations they had for their kids’ future independence and autonomy”.

Another year, almost all of the British blogs focused on social security cuts, she said.

In her own blog for BADD, Kelly wrote about why campaigns raising awareness of health conditions and impairments promote the idea that disabled people should be pitied, and “if they can’t be pitied, they must be hated”.

“The idea that having medical information will improve the way disabled people are treated rests entirely on a view of disabled people as charity cases who effectively need to justify their difference with medical information before they will be treated decently,” she wrote.

Philippa Willitts wrote on the f word blog about “microagressions”, the almost constant indignities, slights and insults that demean and dehumanise disabled people.

“Quiet ‘asides’, stares and whispered judgements may not put us in hospital,” she wrote, “but they contribute to an oppressive and discriminatory environment that should be as unacceptable to feminists as any other form of oppression.”

Guide dog-user “melg1804” wrote about how attitudes to disabled people were changing, but not in a positive way.

She wrote: “I was called a scrounger when I accidentally walked into an open car door, even though I was on my way home from work at the time. I was accused of faking because I was using an iPhone on a bus.”

Dr Sarah Campbell described the importance of care and support in her blog.

“The fact I need help with basic tasks simply means I require support in order to remain in control of my life,” she wrote. “And that is what I consider independence to be about: control, rather than trying to do every little thing all on my own.”

Kaliya Franklin looked back on seven years of blogging, the importance of finally receiving a direct payments package big enough to allow her to employ a personal assistant, and starting her first paid job since 2003.

“Because what isn’t discussed by politicians, or the huge welfare to work industry,” she wrote, “is that even with the right attitudes and the right support, managing to maintain employment with a fluctuating and significantly disabling condition which also causes pain, fatigue and illness is like walking a knife edge whilst juggling.”

“Lucy Bottomface” blogged about how to tell if someone is disablist. “Disablism is everywhere, but too few non-disabled people even realise it exists.

“Disablism is something we with disabilities must live with every day, because we live in a world which is only designed for non-disabled people.”

Emily Birkinshaw, who works for Scope supporting young disabled people into work, wrote about the barriers her clients face, such as complex application forms and the disablist perceptions of employers.

She wrote: “You have got so much stacked against you, if you’re a young disabled person looking for a job. Your confidence is just knocked over and over again.

“We see a lot of people who have reached a stage of ‘I will never work, there’s nothing for me; no-one wants me’.”

Louise Watch described the degrading challenges faced by many wheelchair-users who need to use accessible toilets.

“To deny someone appropriate toilet facilities is a huge black mark in the book of human dignity and rights,” she wrote.

Another disabled blogger wrote about the reality of being disabled in the UK, including their inaccessible local surgery.

“This happens time and time again. I can’t get into the vast majority of the shops in the town I live in. Those I can have difficulties – narrow sections, steps, are too packed, put displays in the aisles, don’t have a lift, and so on.”

And S E Smith, from California, blogged about sheltered workshops. “As it turns out,” she wrote, “evidence suggests that being employed in sheltered workshops actually offers no real benefits; people with a history of working in sheltered workshops need to be ‘untrained‘ before they can enter the broader work force, for example.”

7 May 2014