I don’t need fixing.

On the 7th of November, 2016 the a United Nations committee declared that the United Kingdom was in breach of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Disabled People (UNCRPD), after a two year investigation. What should have ideally been a turning point, to positively change the “grim reality” of life for disabled people, was quickly snubbed by the current government as “offensive”. The government reassured the public it was “continuously seeking improvements for disabled people” and the findings were soon dismissed and forgotten. However, disabled people continue to face the human rights abuses the UN report outlines. It’s 3 months later, apart from the promise of reassessing a lot of people’s Personal Independence Payment claims, not much has happened. I’m angry about that.

Since starting my MA in disability studies in September, Ableism is the concept that I’ve come across, and one I like to use. In a similar way to racism or sexism, ableism is the idea that disabled people are part of a disabled: non-disabled dichotomy. Being disabled is seen as inherently negative as a result. Ableism permeates all aspects of the social world, from social policy, to everyday interactions with others. The UNCRPD aims to combat ableism, by regularly following each signatory country to ensure they are doing more and more to meet all the articles.

Raised in the UN report into the UK violations, were 11 recommendations, many of which centred on the changes to the welfare state, that hugely affect disabled people, infringing on their human rights. Many of the UN’s concerns are about the changes to welfare, adopted since 2010, as well as the rights to independent living and to be included in the community, social protection and employment of persons with disabilities.

 

I cannot stress how important this report should have been, in changing the government’s policies towards welfare for society’s most vulnerable.

 

But, since much of what we see in the media and from our government centres on ableism: where disabled people are ‘scroungers’ and hear things like ‘Oh I wish I didn’t have to work and get free money’ – is it really a surprise?

There has been an alarming rise in this sort of rhetoric across all areas of life. What society needs to do is recognise that disabled people have a lot to give. We need to move on from the poles of ‘inspiration overcomes disability’ and ‘tragically suffers from disability’ – what happens to all of us who fall somewhere in between? Is disability really as scary and negative as society thinks it is?

As a woman with a chronic pain, joint problems and dyspraxia, I don’t necessarily suffer. I know that’s hard for many people to understand. I still go to university, see my friends, and live my life. Shocking.

What I suffer from is a society that would prefer if I were ‘normal’

That I should attempt to continually ‘fix’ myself, to pass as able bodied / non-disabled.

My answer to that is, no.

Fix society’s attitude.

Fix the welfare system.

Fix the access issues

Fix the pathology and medicalisation.

Fix the lack of awareness and understanding.

I do not need fixing.

Becca

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“But it’s not the same!” – chronic illness, learning disabilities, and continuity 

So on the 5th of September 2017, I failed my driving theory test. 

Now, at first glance, that’s not a massive problem- lots of people fail first time.

Until you ask me what I failed on. My friend’s response was ‘How did you fail hazard perception?’

My driving instructor’s response was that at least I did well on the ‘hard’ section.

And at first I didn’t understand either. I worked out eventually that dyspraxia, the introduction of yet another new drug to my body, and a typical bad flare day (pun unintended) were to blame. 

I should have passed. I got a pretty high score on the multiple choice test section (47/50)…..On the hazard perception, I got trigger happy in a blind panic. I can, almost every time (still learning) can spot and react to developing hazards whilst I’m actually driving.

But the past week or so has been a tough one to start with: my GP decided a few weeks back, I should give amitriptaline another go.

What a huge mistake.

I’d been in ‘limping-walking-stick-zombie-mode’ ever since.

Safe to say they soon got canceled as a bad idea.
I’ve been learning to drive for a while now- a while being 3 1/2 years- and only now is me taking my driving test actually a possibly. 

I passed my theory test on 19th of October. This was after it was explained to me that looking for hazards wasn’t just my understanding of physical objects like cars and people walking in the road. Oh!

This time I wasn’t trailing new medication, and it was a relatively good day pain wise, so my brain wasn’t hugely pre-occupied. I still had to work really hard to ignore the clicking of other people around me (when I’ve had uni exams I’ve always been in a separate room)

I feel that there should be better training for Hazard perception tests. There’s hardly any prep for them.

I suppose something I have learnt is that, even with all possible barriers taken away, some things will always be difficult. But that also doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.

I’ve been learning to drive a manual car for almost 3 1/2 years now.

I’ve literally completed my degree in less time.

And yet I persist.

Maybe next year I’ll be driving for real, instead of watching the hazard perception videos?

A girl can dream.

Driving as a dyspraxic human being 

So I’ve been learning to drive for a while now (3 and a bit years- yes- I know)

And I see it pop up a lot in dyspraxia forums ‘will I ever be able to learn to drive?’
I suppose one of the key things to be remember here is that driving is learning a new skill.

Some new skills take longer time to learn than others.

This isn’t just true of those with learning difficulties but true of everyone.

Some people are better at learning some types of skills than others.

Poem: priorities 

This morning when I got up

My main priority was to finish off those few tweaks to my assignment

Tonight, I have achieved  the following: showered, fed, and dressed myself

This morning when I got up

My main priority was what I would wear to go out with friends in the evening

Tonight, I sit with a hot water bottle, drugged up to cold undead eye sockets, on prescription medication

This morning when I got up 

My main priority was to make it to my lecture 

Tonight, I come in from a hospital dash- it was one of those days when my perscribed medication was doing nothing 

This morning when I got up

I watched the able students of the student body pass my window without a care

This evening I am wiping the dirt off of my walking aid, and hobbling to the kitchen 

That morning, just after my 21st birthday, my priority was to be treated for my pain 

This evening, 4 years later, I still wait

The answer is no: A poem (I think it’s a poem?) about how fucked up the world is.

If I stopped you in the street. Would you stop and help me?

I’m not begging, but there’s some issues that the world needs to address.

At what point did our society, in search of progress and innovation,

Turn the calm sea that washed away impurity, to one that washes away the bodies of those broken by war?

The sun beating down on the poverty stricken is the same sun, regardless of if you have access to a food bank or not.

Regardless, of if you have a job or not. 

Poverty lives.

Never has been truer, the Shakespearean phrase ‘there are daggers in men’s smiles’

Than those gleaming daggers in the mouths of politicians.

Bombing for peace.

An oxymoron of propoganda and distain for fellow human beings.

But they aren’t like us, you tell me.

Forgive me, sir, 

But the last time I checked, 

they breathed and their hearts beat like ours.

The daggers gleam once more, as they separate the people in their land into those who are worthy and those who are not.

But I can tell you sir. All human beings are worthy of life.

This is a disability assessment 

This is a disability assessment
This is for Personal Independence Payment
This is death
This is humiliation 
This is judgement day 
This is the fine line between scrounger and innocent 
This is the difference between food bank or a food shop
This is being able to heat your home
This is the key your freedom 
This is the key your destitution
This is your fate- decided
This is a prompt for a UN enquiry
This is a test 

This is a trial 

This is ‘yes’ ‘no’ ‘sometimes’

This is the way the government defines disability
This is wrong 
This needs to stop 
This kills disabled people
When will that be enough?

Image credit: http://www.scriptonitedaily.com/2013/03/29/our-last-good-friday-easter-monday-beginning-of-the-end-for-uk-poor/

An open letter to myself about Manchester and the university I actually love 💜

I still have my final third year exams to sit on Friday and Tuesday at the university of Manchester, and a concert to go to at the ethiad stadium on the 3rd (it’s Robbie Williams- my mum loves him). 
I’m still attending all of them.
Yes, I will be careful and as safe as I can be.

Some students have asked the university to postpone the exams, and I’m glad they haven’t.

To lock yourselves away, and not go to the things you’ve planned to go to, is to give terrorists and their organisations what they want- for us to be so terrified of them that we don’t live our lives.

I’m still getting my degree, and I’m still going to go enjoy a gig at the ethiad- albeit tainted with some somber thoughts of the attack at Manchester arena- regardless of whether extremists or ISIS or whoever would rather have me cowering in fear at home. 

That’s not to say I’m not a little anxious about going back to Manchester (I’ve been back home to revise) but to not go back is to let fear win.

Manchester is a place I frequently found myself as a young person, with countless gigs, in various venues, some comedians, a good few theatre shows, shopping trips, museum and art gallery outings, and university lectures under my belt at this point. 

Approaching the end of my three years at UOM, I now know the witch way and magic bus routes like the back of my hand. If you asked me in an ordinary week about my university, I’d probably lament how stressed and sleep deprived I am. But I love my university, and the city, all the same.

My first gig was the Take That reunion tour at the Ethiad when I was about 11

My first theatre show was Grease at the palace theatre when I was about 9

Manchester is where the majority of my greatest memories were made.

It was a no brainer when it came to which university I wanted to go to. Either the University of, or Manchester Met. Because either way I was going to my second home in the city.
It makes me angry to think people’s own memory making was ruined or that lives were taken away before they could even have those number of experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have.

The last couple of days, my anxiety has been sky high (as documented in a previous post, I have struggled with my mental health since I was 15) so it’s made trying to focus on my actual exam tough, because all I can think about is it’s location and the “What if?”. What made it most unsettling is that I’m now a disabled person. How do I go on about getting out in a terrorist attack? Which staircase on the 4th floor is the safest? Is the university even a safe place? Will there be police and armed forces personnel hovering around the beloved ‘tin can’ that is University Place?

But, despite all the uncertainty, I have to carry on. To not go back to Manchester would be like never going home again.

University of Manchester- I’m coming home again, one last time before I set off into the big wide world with all the “Knowledge, wisdom, [and] Humanity” I can possibly muster.