The Angry Cripple
This week’s Angry Cripple column is by Tom Bridge, who graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with a Bachelor of Arts, completing a double major in Ethics and Human Rights and Political Studies. He was born with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus and blogs at Aussie Pollies...
Most people run a mile from the idea of the government regulating too many aspects of their lives. But in light of the way people with a disability have been dealt with - or not dealt with - particularly since de-institutionalisation, a strong argument exists for much more government interference. It would be beneficial if the three different levels of government ran interference and legislated for much stronger, even mandatory accessibility provisions.
Governments of both political persuasions at the local state and federal level have baulked at any major action on accessibility for some years now and that is not good considering the growing number of people with a disability, including the ageing population who will also face accessibility issues.
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Sue O’Reilly, who has guest written today’s column on The Angry Cripple, is a freelance journalist. She is is a parent and raised her son with cerebral palsy until last year, when he died at the age of 21. She co-founded Australians Mad as Hell 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.
When does any form of disability turn into a “disease” to be eradicated?
When it is being discussed by doctors and medical researchers seeking money from governments, corporate donors and members of the public to fund research aimed at finding ways to prevent and/or cure some form of disability.
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If elected PM, Tony Abbott told the National Press Club the other day, “I will spend at least a week every year in a remote indigenous community, because if these places are good enough for Australians to live in, they should be good enough for a PM and senior officials to stay in”.
What intrigues me about this pledge is the contrast it poses with Tony Abbott’s reaction when I invited him last year to spend just one day out of his entire life with an Australian with severe disabilities.
Last May, with both major political parties then beginning to consider their responses to the Productivity Commission’s call for a National Disability Insurance Scheme, it seemed to me – both as a journalist and the mother of a son with severe disabilities – that it would be helpful for various key federal decision-makers to actually spend some face time with a severely disabled Australian.
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How would you feel if you found out that your mere existence is such a burden on your parents they want $10 million compensation?
It’s not clear whether 11-year-old Keeden, who has severe brain damage after a rare genetic condition caused a massive stroke, will ever understand what his parents are doing.
Debbie and Lawrence Waller are suing their IVF specialist for “wrongful birth”, claiming he breached his duty of care by failing to take proper care that Lawrence’s genetic blood clotting condition would not be passed on. They say they love Keeden, but wouldn’t have gone ahead with the birth if they’d known because of his suffering.
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ABC TV’s new series, The Slap, is getting a lot of attention, and deservedly so. It’s Australian drama that’s true to life, featuring all the stereotypical folk we see in backyard barbeques any weekend across suburban Australia, but featuring real-life dialogue. There’s the wog, the hippy, the slob, the cheater, and the cute young thing. But no backyard barbeque these days would be complete without a kid with autism.
So I’m calling it. Hugo’s family is one of the half a million Australian families who live with Autism or one of its variants – known as being “on the spectrum”. I’m no psych, but that’s not gonna stop me from flinging around my experience and attitude.
My ears pricked up in the opening scenes where the adorable looking kid with the mop of hair was banging around on the cupboards with wooden spoons. Kids on the spectrum often seek input by making their own noises, and ones that the rest of us find obnoxious, repetitive and annoying fit the bill (I know of a family who has to listen The Wiggles “Big Red Car” at Every. Single. Mealtime).
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An email pinged into the inbox, asking if I could write a short blog for a new website – Mindshare – an online mental health community.
The email went to the ‘think about later’ folder. And I sort of did think about it later, but my mind kept skittering over the surface of it, like a beetle on a shiny floor. Touching it but leaving it untouched.
When that happens it’s because there’s something I’m a little bit afraid of. When I got a follow up email, I sighed and had a proper think about it. And what I thought was that I’m afraid of the language of mental health: I don’t want to write an opinion piece on it because the language is cold, and fills me with dismay. The language I know goes something like this: Mental health in crisis. Psychotic abandoned by failing system. Children with mental illness left years without treatment. Suicide cluster. Depression epidemic. Neglect. Danger.
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Three weeks ago I found myself in a situation that I hoped would never happen, but always suspected would one day.
On a recent Saturday night I went to catch the train home after a pleasant evening out. I hurried to the station as I needed to go and arrived at the access toilet to find it occupied.
There used to be another further up the hall which has been labelled “closed” since some time in 2008. Getting desperate, I went to see if it was open now. It wasn’t.
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This week’s Angry Cripple column is brought to you by Simon J. Green, a Melbourne producer and writer. He has cystic fibrosis and all his limbs. Reach out to him at simonjgreen.com. NOTE: There’s some naughty words and stuff in this column.
Cripples have sex.
That’s what I discovered the other week when I published an article for US-based online lit journal The Nervous Breakdown. In the article, I explained that I’m technically a cripple, and that I’ve also had sex. I wrote:
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Spin the wheel, throw the coins, double down… This week looks to have been pretty big for people with disabilities.
Monday marked day one of the first National Disability and Carer Congress (NDCC), with more than 1000 interested folk paying to hear about how lousy their lives are now, and how much better a National Disability Insurance Scheme will be for everyone.
On Tuesday we heard that not only had the Victorian Government pledged a $210 million boost to disability-related education and supported accommodation places, but also that the PM (who declined to speak at the NDCC and sent Shorten instead) has announced, while kneeling at the desks of children with special needs at a local primary school, an extra $200 million to support kids with disabilities in schools.
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Andrew Devenish-Meares, who has written this week’s Angry Cripple guest column, has been slowly losing his sight for the past 14 years, and has been described as “pretty bloody blind”. He works as IT Coordinator for a peak not-for-profit body.
Last week my morning train pulled into Redfern station as normal. There was the usual struggle to get off the train, dodging and weaving around the people who just stand there and won’t move. I got out and followed the noise to somewhere near the bottom of the stairs, which I managed to miss. When my cane hit the side of the lower stairs, I realised my mistake and doubled back.
I trudge up the stairs with the throngs and enter the concourse. I reach the stairs to platforms four and five, which are set back. While listening for people coming up the stairs, the background noise makes it impossible to work out if the path is clear, if people are standing in the way, or if there’s actually traffic there. Slowing down, I pass the entrance to the platform as the cane finds only empty space. I take two steps forward before I’m hit first on my left side and, as I bounce off him, spin slightly and try to move forward, I’m hit from the right. Double whammy.
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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.
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Welcome to The Angry Cripple. Not very PC, is it?
As a person with a deep and personal interest in disability issues, I’m remaining anonymous so I can post not only my opinions, leaked documents and stuff that might otherwise get me in trouble, but also the opinions of other people with an interest. There will be guest columns by famous Australians, as well as ones written by my neighbours.
But mostly, the columns will feature me writing about things that make me angry, and why I reckon they should make you angry, too.
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