@BendyGirl has asked: “Disabled tweeps. What was the defining event which made you become an activist or campaigner?”
Following is my answer.
The defining event which made me become an activist or campaigner was becoming disabled 2 years ago & having to face the realities of needing help & not getting it.
Twitter was invaluable in connecting me with people like The Broken of Britain Co-Founder & Director Kaliya Franklin aka @BendyGirl of the Benefit Scrounging Scum Blog who have lived this life for far longer, many from birth. The things that I was fighting for personally were the same things that other disabled people were fighting for. The things already in place were there no thanks to the past efforts of campaigners and activists.
I had already had bitter experience and lessons learned about the arduous fight for assistance in the aftermath of my marriage breaking down eight years ago, losing the investment banking job that I had at the time shortly afterwards and becoming homeless off the back of both. It was one thing to have to deal with all of that whilst able-bodied. It is quite another to have to deal with the “you’re breathing, you’re fit for work” attitude by governments past and especially present as someone who is most definitely not fit for anything approximating my old life because of my physical and mental health concerns.
What I managed to achieve helping with The Broken of Britain campaign gave me a reason for staying alive and went some way towards finding the tiniest bit of the “old me” who managed to be useful and productive in spite of any disadvantages. On the surface I’ve always given people the impression that I’m very confident; that I’m a woman who knows exactly what she wants and exactly how to achieve it. Nothing could be further from the truth, and especially since I’ve become disabled.
As I said before, what I’ve had to endure in the workplace absolutely destroyed me. It is fair to say that I am quite far from being able to just “get over it”. It is those experiences which, my disabilities aside, sounded the death-knell for as far as working for other people and outside the home are concerned. But try telling that to the coalition government and opposition, the jobsworth drones at the Job Centre or private profiteers of unemployed and disabled misery A4E and ATOS. It’s a textbook exercise in futility. Even self-employment is like trying to scale Mt. Everest on rollerblades. Everything, and I do mean absolutely EVERYTHING, is a battle when you are disabled.
I was, and still am, acutely aware that I am particularly lucky to be a very strong person in many respects: I am not afraid to be open, direct and searingly honest; qualities that have worked against me as much as they have for me. So, as with other things I’ve been involved with, disability campaigning enables me to give a voice to the unheard. Whatever I do to help myself also benefits other people and vice-versa. We really “are all in it together” at the grass roots level.
As Kaliya always says, “alone we whisper, together we shout”.