A couple of events recently have got me thinking;
A speaker confessed to a room that when uploading his profile on dating sites that he wrote about his bipolar first to get the “sympathy vote”.
The second event that disturbed my peaceful mind happened just the other day in a department shop when I approached a sales assistant in my electric wheelchair to ask where the changing room was. Instead of looking at me, she directed her response at my PA. I instantly felt hurt and that hurt quickly turned to anger.
Unfortunately, these events are not uncommon for me and whilst I was churning them over in my mind, it occurred to me that this is not how it has to be and that I could do something about it.
But firstly, I needed to think about why these things are happening and not just happening occasionally but becoming regular occurrences. I am talking from personal experience but I’m wondering how many other disabled people have their own experiences of subtle inequality. Because that’s exactly what it is, subtle but there.
And where does it come from?
I have my theories about where it comes from; unconscious bias lives in us all. Unconscious bias does not discriminate and it doesn’t have an obvious off switch. It’s what made the speaker feel that in order to make his audience laugh, he had to make light of serious disability and it’s what made the sales assistant feel that she needed to talk to the person on their feet.
Celebrating Disability exists to acknowledge the society we live in and to work closely with groups and individuals to help them grow their confidence and knowledge around disability. Because the only way to beat that unconscious bias that tells us to make light of disability, or to speak to the person standing (because brains are obviously in our feet), is to be aware of it.