Carers: Step off and let people with disabilities speak
Given the vigorous responses to last week’s column by Sue O’Reilly, when The Angry Cripple heard that Todd Winther was writing a response to run on the ABC’s Ramp Up website, the AC asked him if we could run it too. The Punch is running his column under Todd’s own byline rather than the Angry Cripple’s byline for reasons that will become clear.
Does it matter if the Angry Cripple is actually a cripple or not? You bet it does.
Others tell people with disabilities what their best interests are too often. For all of their good intentions, the people who look after us are the ones who do it the most. This is why The Angry Cripple’s identity is important. If he/she is a carer, then the column is doing itself no favours, and merely adding to the chorus of carers who already have their say in the mainstream media. If however, The Angry Cripple is disabled it represents an opportunity for a too often neglected voice to enter the mainstream.
Regardless of their background, The Angry Cripple has recently fallen into the trap of pandering to an ill-informed public. Yes, it is vital that a diverse range of stories is told, but what happens when you want to challenge the thinking of mainstream audiences?
Initially these were said to be the aims of The Angry Cripple, yet to date not one person with a disability has contributed to a guest column. In contrast Sue O’Reilly has penned two, with her very obvious agenda of pushing the plight of carers and her organisation Mad As Hell front and centre.
The second of these columns made my blood boil. Within the column she claims that funding organisations and governments should pay more attention to those with disabilities. Instantly I saw the latent hypocrisy in this argument. How can someone who does not have a disability suggest this?
O’Reilly’s argument lends itself to the carer-dominated thinking that the current debate on the disability sector is dominated by. I am aware that many people with a variety of disabilities cannot articulate their desires, but there are many who can and their thoughts deserve to be pushed to the forefront of the debate.
If you are disabled and dare to criticise the agenda of carer-focused organisations like Mad As Hell you are treated with disgust.
For example, my vocal opposition to an NDIS is well known for economic, political and practical reasons, but when I have voiced this opposition in public forums, I have been told that my arguments have no weight because ‘I have no idea of the processes involved’. My career as a political theorist, and my lifetime experience as a ‘client’ of a second-rate disability sector counts for nothing.
When I offered my services to many advocacy organisations, my offers were rejected because ‘we don’t want politicians to use your arguments against an NDIS as an excuse to not pursue reform’. Even if it is hopeless and entirely unworkable? It seems organisations in the sector only want you to have a say if you agree with them.
Hence, The Angry Cripple is remaining far too compliant. Here is some free advice for you, Angry: You have a privileged opportunity that many others would kill for. Use it to your advantage.
Make waves, take no prisoners. If you really want to help change an incompetent disability sector, move the goal posts. Don’t just play on the field. Be daring, be bold or go home.
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