Stella’s editorial on Ramp Up is spot on. We tolerate being just tolerated. We talk about respect, we might ask for it. We don’t expect equality . Therefore logically we don’t get it as often as we tell ourselves privately we should.
We tolerate really bad weather. We tolerate that annoying person who sits next to us in an exam clicking their pen incessantly. We tolerate a cold, a sore throat, that strange outbreak of warts on our left foot. When asking people to be tolerant of disability in our society, are we asking them to put up with us, to endure our existence?
Our unwillingness to expect more than mere tolerence might in fact have something to do with our individual situations and the individualness of our situations. I know that there are many days when I for one merely tolerate my impairment quite apart from any disabling effect that leaving my house might produce. This might as others are starting to argue, be the main weakness of the Social Model of Disability, that we don’t take enough notice of the individual effects of our impairments.
But regardless of why we have tolerated mere tolerance this is a vital call, and a timely one. We all seem to be getting less tolerate of each other. So the time to make do with tolerance of people with disabilities is over. We need full acceptance and incorporation. Is it too much to ask that we be um … er…. citizens?
We can expect to get bruised and battered, but we’ve been there done that, haven’t we? We need to do that again, as individuals and agencies. Together. United. For ourselves.
Last word to Stella:
The time has come for disabled people show zero tolerance for discrimination, for transport we can’t use, for information that’s not accessible to us. We need to show zero tolerance for the restriction and denial of our human rights.
Despite the mood then I admitted to doing my earlier post, the Human Rights Lunch and Awards ceremony was not only a highlight for the Human Rights Commission’s year but mine as well.
It was an interesting mix of people from all community and social spheres in Australia, ranging from what I could see, the full gamut from refugee soccer players who had been the subject of a winning documentary to politicians and journalists.
The situation that indigenous Australians have found themselves in this year, especially since the Northern Territory intervention imposed by the federal government was present and was a recurring theme. Refugee issues were also prominent in award recipients, while Catherine Branson QC spoke on bullying and violence and harassment and the tendency of the rest of us to be innocent bystanders and ignore these kinds of human rights violations.
My highlight came when Therese Rein, the wife of the former PM was awarded the Human Rights Medal. In announcing the winner Ms Branson talked about a whole range of Ms Rein’s well-informed and lifelong community service activities; such as her work with homelessness issues, youth issues women’s issues and several others. In her acceptance speech she could have spoken with eloquence on any of these topics. Instead she talked quite personally and very profoundly about the real challenges faced by people with disability. Unfortunately she was unable to attend in person, but regardless my cynicism about whether people actually get what it is like to participate in daily life with a disability softened to tears. I think she gets it, in a way that I’ve not heard politicians or community members, or indeed even some family members get it.
I’m touched by the fact that she acknowledges and expects participation. I’m touched by the fact that she engages with the family members in a real and direct manner. I’m touched that of all the issues she could have covered with a captive audience of 3 1/2 thousand people or so this was the topic of choice to a sympathetic audience of folks that can remember it.
I’m noticing that she talked about marginalisation in a way that has rarely been done effectively except in relation to race matters.
Gay rights to marriage is the topic de jour nationally at the moment and we are debating it for good or ill. That’s ok, great in fact.
A New South Wales Senator Doug Cameron from Australia’s house of review made an an interesting couple of comments in an interview in favour of what “we” are calling “equal marriage rights legislation”. I was listening tonight via podcast.
He talked of discrimination against people on the basis of sexual “preference” as legalised apartheid. I’m just saying that I think the lack of choice offered to other groups, other minorities in the country might also be seen as the same thing, but if you’ll pardon the pun it might be a little less sexy perhaps to argue on the basis of limitation or age. Remind people of weakness and the inevitable ageing process?
He argued that we shouldn’t be discriminating against gay people because they are ordinary people. “People are people”. Indeed again not the only minority with that argument.
“We don’t just live in a economy, we live in a society and society means you have to build a good society (my emphasis) and ending discrimination is one way to build a good society”
Meaning it takes moral leadership to equalise the playing field and perhaps the ability and courage to take a stand, and perhaps heaven forbid say ummm no to some things?
“I don’t think human rights are ever a fringe issues.