Friday, 22 August 2014

Twenty Five Years of Lessons Learnt

I'll start with a question I have been asked regularly, this year. What have I learnt in twenty five years as a Disability Rights campaigner?

I think I've learnt lots of things, and I hope I'm a stronger and  better person, through learning them. 

Every single 'lesson' has helped me come to terms with my Cerebral Palsy, and the limitations placed on my life. They have also allowed me to help others at the same time. That's all I have ever wanted to do.

I know now, that If I can't change minds, (or get things done) one way, then I must find another.

I always do my research, and try to make damn sure I know more than they do! 

Also, I have learnt be very tough when it is needed, but I never become abusive. That would get me nowhere! Instead, when I get angry, my voice, (apparently), becomes like ice!

I hope I have had more successes than failures, and  have (somehow managed) to make people understand disability better. 

I find It is useful to try and use analogies in order to get a point across, if someone is having difficulty understanding it.

My articles, blogs, and poetry can be very handy, because if I feel I am getting nowhere, I can say, ‘if you have time, please read this, and think about it.’

If I have a success, or someone sorts something, I always ring, or email them back to say ‘thank you’, and say what a difference it’s going to make. Politeness doesn't cost anything, and it means a lot to people.

Also, just because someone says ‘no’ to something, it does not mean I’ll give up straight away. Sometimes I leave it, and give them time to think again, (it does happen), or I try another route.

Unfortunately, now more than ever,'money talks', so if I can, I always explain why making the required changes is financial, economic, or public relations, sense!

There are times when I am scared. Scared of failing, and scared of the hole we are in. I do my best not to show it. I have even been known to hide my hands, so no one can see that they are shaking!

One thing that is very important to me is that If I was to find myself in a position where I was gaining financially, (or otherwise), from campaigning, I would feel immediately compromised. I will never do it. 

If I did, then I would have to start thinking about my real motives for doing this. Am I in it for myself, or the cause?! I do this because I care and I want to help, not for any other reason.

Even though it’s difficult, tiring, frustrating, and I often deal with egotistical, out of touch, clueless people, (and I quite regularly want to give it up), I try and remember why I do it. 

If I gave it up, could I live with myself? I know I could not. Not when I know I might be able to help make things better. 

I hate selfishness, and injustice. I always have. Why shouldn’t I try and change things? I started campaigning as an eight year old girl, and it is that hatred of injustice, and a wish to help, that is still with me.

If I don’t stand up for what is right, against what is wrong, unfair, divisive, and cruel – very few others will! It's a sad state of affairs, but it's true.

Things won’t get better unless we change them! It’s not a matter of choice, now that people are being stripped of their rights, being left destitute, suffering, and dying. It’s necessity!

We shouldn't have to  fight our government for basics and rights, the way we do at the moment. We shouldn't have to justify our very existence as disabled people, and we shouldn't be labelled as 'scroungers' and 'frauds' by default, but we are, now. 

At this point in time we are guilty until we are proven innocent, and not the other way around. That breaks my heart, because disability and illness are not a choice. 

I'm also learning that I need to think about my own health more too, and the way I campaign, means that I can take rests, or sleep when I need to. I am usually very tired, in pain, or feeling ill, so I do what I am able to do.

I know that whatever happens, this is part of who I am, and I won't give up!



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