Lucy Daniel is the Advocacy and Policy Officer at CBM Australia, a development organisation working with people with disabilities in the world’s poorest places.
It could be the plot of a great Hollywood movie. A political drama. With George Clooney or Matt Damon as male lead. And a young, feisty, female journalist who gets caught up in it all.
The opening scene pans to a meeting room, high up in skyscraper land, with a marble round table, iced water jugs and leaders of a big global development Bank.
“Gentlemen, you should be proud,” says the silver fox, “This policy forges the path to education for the poorest of the poor.” Clapping and shaking hands all around.
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This week’s Angry Cripple column is written by Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes. It’s a celebration of all the great work done for, by and on behalf of the disability sector as well as a slap across the face for all those who could and should have done more for the cause.
Disability is the reality for one in five Australians. But despite those numbers, it flies under the radar. So let’s look at the best and the worst in disability for 2011.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme wins the award for the outstanding announcement of the year. As confirmed by the Prime Minister at the National Disability Awards last week, the government is firmly committed to making this happen, and the opposition is on-board as well.
According to world-renowned expert in child abuse Dr Freda Briggs, paedophile websites frequently recommend to their filthy readers that they target children with Down syndrome because they are “willing to please” and “easy to manipulate”.
I have a young son with Down syndrome.
He is a national treasure who won the 25 metre freestyle at the State Special Olympics Swimming carnival on Saturday. I know I don’t hold the trademark on parental love, but when I am with him, I’m confident that I could at least try to register it. He is loving, trusting, and has velvet soft skin.
No cigars for guessing my deepest fear.
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There has been a fair bit of media coverage in the last few weeks around the education of children with disabilities. The latest round concerned the reporting of another discrimination case against the Victorian Department of Education (DoE) by a young woman with a learning disability and a language disorder.
Fifty years ago, there was little expectation that people with disabilities would gain functional literacy and numeracy skills.
However, these days, with what we know, all that is required is best practice programs, the attention of the relevant professionals, and intensive structured teaching. All apparently beyond the abilities of the DoE.
Today’s Angry Cripple column was inspired by Christine Bigby’s ABC Ramp Up column that argued the success of the National Insurance Disability Scheme depends on the type and quality of support and disability services available for purchase. The author is Max Jackson (full bio below).
Mahatma Gandhi, one of the twentieth century’s greatest freedom fighters, once said of freedom, and I quote: “Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err. It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right.”
As emphasised by Gandhi, freedom is a right. However, despite Gandhi’s pronouncement all those decades ago, freedom as a right represents a shadowy illusion on the outer circle of disability rights.
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Carl Thompson is a 21-year-old with cerebral palsy and scoliosis who is undertaking honours in marketing. He writes for ABC’s Ramp Up, DiVine Victoria and blogs here.
My right hand was yanked from my wheelchair control stick by a serious looking plastic surgeon.
“He has severely deformed hands,” she remarked, as an older gentleman professor reeking of poorly concealed cigarettes grabbed my left hand and agreed, “yes, he indeed has a pronounced deformity.” Boy, I’m glad they got the pleasantries out of the way.
Yeah, I get it. Surgeons want to talk about surgery, not chat about the weather over tea and biscuits. They have limited time available to spend with their prospective patients, and normally I wouldn’t mind. I suck at small talk - I’m scared of appointments at the hairdresser. But even I expect some warmth to be shown by the surgeon.
This week The Punch features two Angry Cripples, both anonymous. It’s fair to say they have somewhat opposing points of view to say the least. We recommend reading this one first.
I am an angry cripple. No, I do not have a disability, but as the mother of a young woman with severe and multiple disabilities, I am as crippled by the cruel Australian disability support system as much as – and sometimes more than - many people with a disability themselves.
I have been the sole primary carer of my daughter since my divorce more than 20 years ago, with the result that - like hundreds of thousands of other sole primary carers - I subsist on the poverty line.
During the global financial crisis, when the government was throwing cash at families earning up to $110,000 a year and the widescreen TVs and handbags were rolling out shop doors, I looked at my life, my old and decrepit furniture, my second hand clothes and all the things about my health and life that desperately need work but which I have not been able to attend to because of lack of support services and/or my inability to pay.
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And now, here’s this week’s second anonymous Angry Cripple, who as you’ll see, is none too impressed with the first one
I am an angry cripple. A real one. Not someone who claims they are “crippled by the system” or gets all euphemistic about it.
I’m an actual cripple. I use a wheelchair for 98 per cent of my waking life. I have physical ‘deformities’, or so the medical profession has told me since I was old enough to understand. I’m one of those people you see on the street that makes you shift uncomfortably in your coat. I’m stared at, I’m patronised, I’m told I don’t belong among you normal people.
But none of these things are the reason that I’m angry. I’m an Angry Cripple today because, usually, I’m a Proud Cripple. I’m well practiced at ignoring the stares, at challenging the patronising tone, at standing my ground in a world that doesn’t welcome me. I’m not alone. We’re a pretty common breed us Proud Cripples. Sometimes people like to call us activists.
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A couple of South Australian politicians were featured in the paper this weekend, parking their government cars in very clearly marked disabled parking spaces. The photos were published and, judging by the comments on The Advertiser’s website, people were really, really angry that a pollie would do such a heinous thing.
The MPs were suitably reprimanded by public opinion, and the Dignity for Disability MLC, the Hon Kelly Vincent, who uses a wheelchair herself, demanded that they each cough up the equivalent of the fine to a disability related charity, which they did, heads hanging low. They admitted their shameful and embarrassing “crime” and no doubt, no other MP in South Australia at least, will park in a disabled space without a permit for a very long time. But how can people who truly need those spaces get that message through to the “ablebods”?
I put a call out for a contribution to this column about disabled parking spaces and received stories from Nicola Stratford and Kate Jenian, over the jump, this week’s piece of angry. Their stories are not unusual. They do remind us, however, that stupidity and arrogance are not disabilities which qualify for a disability parking permit.
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We in Australia always follow the English. This makes sense, I suppose, from a historical viewpoint as many of us are descendants of convicts from the mother country.
We share many cultural similarities; most TV broadcast in Australia on the ABC is British. We both sensibly drive on the left hand side of the road, and the beautiful game of cricket is the national sport in both countries.
We have a penchant for chips (not fries), kebabs and curries, as do the English. And finally, our political systems and structures are also quite similar - we even share the same Queen.
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Sue O’Reilly, who has guest written today’s column on The Angry Cripple is a freelance journalist and the mother of a 21-year-old son with cerebral palsy. She co-founded Australians Mad as Hell last year with Fiona Porter to campaign for an NDIS and established a charity called Fighting Chance to help people with disabilities pay for essential therapy services.
The other day, amid all the reactions to the Productivity Commission report recommending a radical new national disability care and support scheme, a reader of this column made what struck me as a
most intriguing comment.
Somebody calling him/herself NEFFA wrote: “Why don’t you all move to Cambodia and see how much government support you get there? Sometimes you need perspective to understand just how good you have it.”
Personally, I can see the appeal of this notion for all those many Aussies who fail to understand why their hard-earned dollars should help fund decent care and support services for fellow citizens with profound disabilities and their families. Put all us whingers and ingrates on rickety boats and push us off to sea, heading north! Problem solved.
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There’s the Business Council, a deaf guy, a guy with autism, and a quadriplegic at a café filled with people with disabilities. The Government walks into the room with a fresh homemade apple pie cut into twelve pieces, the scent making everyone salivate with desire.
So the Business Council takes eleven slices, leans down to the guy in the wheelchair and says “Watch out, that bloke with autism wants a piece of your pie”.
The deaf guy, of course, doesn’t hear, so he licks the crumbs off the floor, because that’s all that’s left, while the Productivity Commission walks in, full of enthusiasm and ready to get baking the best pie ever.
Last week, The Punch introduced you to The Angry Cripple, a new anonymous contributor. This week, AC explains that despite the complaints of some, s/he will remain anonymous, and reveals the source of the name.
I’m angry for good reason. I’ve used the word cripple for good reason. And I’m anonymous because I have to be…
Whatever I write, some will agree and others will disagree. Some will be downright nasty. I read on another forum that if I turn out not to be a person who uses a wheelchair, there will be blood.
So, my anonymity will remain. It doesn’t matter who I am. I could be a parent or carer of a person with a disability, a deaf-blind actor, a teacher at a special school, a student with MS, or a person with a severed spinal column.
So get over it. There are plenty of more important things to worry about.
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