I was going to write about disablism on a national, nay, global scale today.
I've decided not to.
Then I decided to write about disablism in my own life, but I'm not going to do that either.
I'm going to write about Charlotte Wyatt again, instead.
No I'm not. I am going to write about me.
I'm going to duck and weave and not really write about disablism, though. I'm going to write about inclusion. My inclusion. I reckon inclusion's the opposite of disablism, really. I don't mean just at school - that most well-known desert of segregation and discrimination - but after.
Especially after, for me.
Being included to me means being welcomed and valued and while that contrasts particularly strongly with the kind of overt disablism that saw me sitting swearing at a bus stop outside Oxford Road train station the other week while my bus accelerated away from me, it also comes up pretty sharply against the insipid, pervasive ignorance and negativity that produce a great many equally serious but somewhat less obvious barriers in my life.
The thing is, when you're valued, when you matter to someone, in however tiny a way, your needs magically get met. I spend a lot of my time in an environment that has good physical access, but my access needs aren't just about where wheelchairs can and cannot go. And that's where having friends that know where to find a coffee that comes without unasked-for piped muzak, or will cheerfully make a 10-mile detour so that you can relax on a sofa for a scant 20 minutes before charging off for a rehearsal again, or will risk life and limb fighting a wheelchair that really doesn't want to be folded, or wait out your emergence, gibbering, from bad news and an unpleasant brush with a brace of phlebotomists with nothing more than a smile and half a pizza, come in very important indeed.
It percolates through all of our lives, this inclusiveness. It affects, hugely, those beginning- and end-of-life decisions. I would like to think - to hope - that maybe, just maybe, those all too often heard "I wouldn't like to live like that" or "It would be unfair to put him through that" will gradually be replaced, bit by bit, by seeing how this could work, not just learning but knowing on a deep, primaeval, instinctive level that disability is part of the deal with life, that it's not optional, or avoidable by playing one's prenatal cards right or writing oneself a get-out clause in the event of something drastic happening.
Feeling safe and wanted and welcomed is something truly universal, and all too often people seem to forget it, in their rush to assess (at a glance, in the queue in Withington post office) someone's quality of life. Those poor fools pity me. I pity them - they are so narrow and shallow and ignorant that they're missing out on all sorts of life's wonders and should they through chance or misadventure join the varied, bickering ranks of disabled people, they will be so busy thinking their lives over that they'll miss out on even more.
In my wheelchair, in Manchester and elsewhere I fly and whizz and spin. I make friends jog, run even to keep pace with me. I shoot down ramps and jump up kerbs, rejoicing in daredevil rush-hour dashes across Wilmslow Road and pondering whether I'm fit enough to do the Great Manchester Run yet. (I'm not.) I puff and swear up steep hills and try to trigger the ever-present speed camera going down them. I haven't been on Hampstead Heath in over a year, and it must be nearer five since I last passed through the gates of Highgate Wood. They're my childhood green spaces and members of my family spend a fair old bit of time there, but walking with stick or crutches my range is now less than a hundred metres and so I sit in the house in my visits to London, craving open space and exercise and playing with the computer, too much of a coward to confront the elephant in the living room. I wonder whose disablism is that's really holding me back, there? I suspect it is my own, really, and that's where it's hardest to reach and challenge.
BADD ground zero.
The almighty Sarah's contribution.