In an otherwise interesting column for Stuff on Sunday, Polly Gillespie began her piece by labeling herself as disabled. An interesting way to start a column indeed, and being disabled myself, I was intrigued to find out what Polly meant by her interpretation and was fully willing to provide some advice based on lived experience.
Sadly, Polly’s interpretation of being disabled is far different than mine. Shock horror, this lovely lady has had her Facebook AND Instagram page disabled! Apparently, she had posted some explicit content.
Far be it from me, an outspoken AND disabled blogger turned journalist to get terribly upset over language, because I’ve written on multiple occasions about my thoughts on how the disability community spends far too much time bickering about the proper term to describe ourselves.
It’s a tired conversation that originally started out as very important but got turned into something else. But I digress.
I really wish I could tell you that the definition of being disabled was determined by a presence on social media, and while I’m sure that we should take the assessment by Polly with something of a humorous eye roll, this is also no laughing matter.
Disabled people and their families are faced with many challenges on a daily basis just to achieve something in the ballpark of equality. Whether it be inaccessible housing and transport, under-funded support systems that continue to be rationed by Government wherever possible, or a lack of fair access to mainstream education, these are all issues that the disability community passionately fight to rectify every single day.
They aren’t just disability issues but basic human rights going unmet in many well-documented examples which are just the tip of an ever-growing iceberg.
I am quite sure that Polly has no such issue with any of these fascists in her daily life if her primary complaint of the week is the suspension of her social media account. Either that or we’ve sadly gotten to a place where we value our social media platforms and abilities to use them as a sort of measuring stick to what accessibility truly is.
This might come across as a bit of an angry reaction to a simple sentence in what I’ve already described as an interesting column otherwise, but it shows a complete lack of understanding of what disability actually.
Furthermore, as a few of us disabled writers pointed out on Twitter, Stuff would be better suited using their platform for a more intelligent assessment of disability and the myriad of sub-normal barriers that is presents.
Such coverage is needed far more in mainstream media, and it needs to come in large part from disabled people like us. Being into my fifth year in this industry, opinion writing is going nowhere any time soon, but news companies need to do it in a better way when it comes to disabled people, and any other marginalised community for that matter.
So please, do better. And a bit of advice for fellow writers out there, think carefully about labelling yourself as one thing without doing the proper research to find out what is actually is.