Oh yeah, that time I was stopped in a shopping mall to have the demons prayed away from my soul. True story. Probably my favorite if I’m going for shock value. There is a few more of a similar ilk. Part of the cripple job description.
Being different can often make you a public curiosity, and people interacting with you as in the above somehow seems permissible. Partly because, I think, the concept that disabled people should lead a ‘normal’ daily life, not segregated from able-bodied society, is still fairly new in the scheme of things. And it hasn’t been something we like to talk about.
If I’d been born 100 years ago it’d have been into a world experiencing disability en masse for the first time—the fittest and most revered of their citizens returning from war disabled and embittered—and scrambling to cope with what that meant. If I’d been born in the 1950’s my parents would have faced pressure to institutionalize me. Only in 1989 would the Education Act enshrine (with certain restrictions) my right to an education.
Luckily, I’m a 90’s baby—there is a photograph of three-year old me in a multi-colored jumper and denim dungarees yelling along to a cassette Walkman that proves this unequivocally. While I played Barbies, learnt to write my name, and saw in the millennium disability policy shifted. In 2001 the New Zealand Disability Strategy further supported my right to live in the social world. To paraphrase, disability is a process that happens when, as a person with impairments, there are barriers to my participation in society. Progressive legislation when I was seven.
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Now? Well, we’re getting a chance to talk about that. Us crips and any of our people. Through April and May there will be a campaign around revisions to the strategy and the government will be inviting our input, through online surveys and submissions largely. So, let’s speak up. And then, let’s go out in force and live with our lives, give curios able-bods something to gawk at.
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