Blogging against Disablism: Me vs Stephen Hawking

Tuesday, May 1, 2007 19:45 | Filed in Accessibility, Blogging, Disability, Life, Politics

A few days ago I pointed out that Crippled Monkey (of BBC Ouch! fame) was promoting Blogging Against Disablism Day 2007. While I may be late, at least according to my time zone I’ve got a few hours left to spare.

I plan to keep this as simple as possible, so here goes:

How do I define disablism?

I understand this to mean bias or discrimination against someone on the basis of disability, a bit like racism is the same on the grounds of race, sexism is the same on the grounds of sex, and jingoism is the same on the grounds of erm… jingo.

Why is it wrong?

Because disabled people are just the same as everyone else, except that they are disabled. Similarly to the way that brown-eyed people are the same as everyone else, except that they’ve got brown eyes. Or that right-handed people are almost as good as the obviously superior left handers but there’s no outright bias against them either.

Because it’s unfair. Life may not be fair, but civilised society ought to be.

So you’re saying disabled people are normal, then?

Goodness me no, I’m not saying that. I’m saying that if you take a sufficiently large group of disabled people and a sufficiently large group of non-disabled people, you’ll find a lot of similarities. You’ll find goths and geeks, neds and nerds, alongside Trekkies, trainspotters and the mind-boggling “people who watch soap operas”. You’ll find people who are rude, and crude: you’ll find prudes — and maybe nudes. You’ll also find happy, friendly, fresh-smelling people too: they are the ones you want to keep an eye on. You’ll find conspiracy theorists, religious zealots, animal libbers, pro-lifers, pro-choicers, boozers, cruisers, schmoozers and losers.

You’ll probably not find anyone that is seen as “normal” as regards all of society’s values in either one of the groups. And that’s something we should celebrate. We’re diverse, we’re thriving, we’re interesting. Who needs normal anyway?

So you’re saying disabled people aren’t normal, then?

Were you even listening? I’m saying “normality” is a category that doesn’t really exist. Everyone, bar nobody has their only little eccentricities and foibles. Being a blogger automatically sets me apart from the “normal”. Everyone has something…

What about accessibility?

Jeez, can’t an accessibility nerd be allowed to talk about the fact he’s against “disablism” without covering accessibility. Oh, all right. We should make websites accessible, because it’s the right thing to do, it’s not difficult to do, it brings lots of side benefits. No, really, you should. Take a look around my accessibility category sometime.

What do you think about disabled role models?

Not much. Like pretty much all role models, they give us something to be a failure in comparison with. I mean, take Stephen Hawking. When it comes to cosmology and physics, I think it’s fair to say he’s more knowledgable than me. But — and while I don’t have any evidence to confirm this, I’ve not seen any to refute it either — I’m better at pub quizzes than he is.

Or did you read about Miles Hilton Barber? He’s that guy who’s completed the Marathon des Sables across 150 miles of the Sahara, climbed to 17,500 feet in the Himalayas, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Blanc, flown from England to Australia and set the Malaysian Grand Prix Lap Record for a blind driver. Sorry — had I not mentioned he was blind?

I mean, what a bastard. How on Earth is anyone supposed to match up to that? I mean, I’m not disabled but I still consider it a reasonable achievement if I have to climb several flights of stairs in one go.

Stephen and Miles have achieved an awful lot. I’m not going to be patronising and say “despite their disability”, because they deserve a bit more than a pat on the head with their “does he take sugar?” They’ve done fantastic things, beyond the realms of normal people. But there you have it — they aren’t “normal people” — they are both extraordinary people.

But that’s precisely my point. Most people — disabled or not — are just ordinary people. The same as anyone else. With the same hopes, goals, and ambitions. It’s important to remember that disabled people can be rude, unpleasant and obnoxious, just the same as other people can. Because we’re all “just people”, and ought to be judged on our own merits, not on the colour of our skin, our sexual preference or by the name of some unpronouncable syndrome.

Okay: that’s the end of the moral. Now we return to our normal scheduling…

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5 Comments to Blogging against Disablism: Me vs Stephen Hawking

  1. Lady Bracknell's Editor says:

    May 2nd, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Love it.

  2. Attila the Mom says:

    May 2nd, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Yep, yep and yep! Loved this post!

  3. The Goldfish says:

    May 2nd, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    This was great. Thank you. :-)

  4. Gill says:

    May 3rd, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Nice one Jack, even with the rhyming. Ever thought of taking up Rap? We could call you Jazzy P ;-)

  5. Matt says:

    May 17th, 2007 at 8:32 am

    Well we already have a Dazzy D

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