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August 7, 2017 | by  | in Token Cripple |
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Token Cripple

With an election on the horizon I’ve been pondering how to vote as a disabled person. For me, my vote, and in some sense my political voice, are very much informed by this  experience. Access to democracy is a difficult thing; it requires people to have access not only to the ballot box but also the conversations around politics. It requires that our community be represented, be visible. As a disabled woman then, Mojo Mathers’ entry into politics was pretty significant to me.

More recently still, I was surprised by a Facebook message from a friend which read: Hey, Australia’s answer to Chloe Swarbrick has Cerebral Palsy! Opening the attached article, I read that in the wake of Scott Ludlam’s departure from the Australian Greens, Jordon Steele-John will take his seat. He is considered an unconventional candidate. At 22 he will be the youngest person ever elected to the Senate, as well as being a wheelchair user and having come to politics through disability activism. This is significant in more ways than one. However, it seems he is facing barriers right from the start, barriers which stem from our limited expectations of disabled people. I laughed through gritted teeth at his revelation that “throughout the day people came up to me and were putting silver coins on the table — they assumed I was fundraising for charity. They were surprised to find out I actually wanted to be their elected representative.”

It has me wondering what it will take to normalise disabled people as active participants in our society and democracy. Not as passive recipients of support, but as people equally as capable of shaping their world as their able-bodied peers. Not as people being spoken for and cared for, but as leaders in their own right.

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