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What's Stopping You?

Posted by Kristina Veasey, Thursday 19th April, 2012

What’s stopping you?

This was the question posed to me on arrival at The Orpheus Centre on 29th March. Actually, my welcome was far warmer than that, but on introduction to the students, it was the first thing they wanted to know! In fact, I was asked to log my answer, as an entry in their book.

The question was being asked as a part of Campaign! A project delivered in partnership with Creative Junction. It aims to work with young disabled people to build campaigns raising awareness on issues that affect them and young disabled people in other countries.

Whilst the question was innocent enough, I actually found it quite exposing. I scanned the previous entries to see what others before me had put, and it was quite an interesting list: loud noises, no money, fear of failure, tiredness, nothing, not being old enough, dissertation word counts, red lights, social services, a beautiful sunset, people making fun of me, and kryptonite to name but a few. There were over 300 entries in the book. The students had asked the same question of people in Australia, USA, Germany and other countries around the globe. The connections had been made through the friends and families of students and overseas workers from the Centre.

I was keen to know whether there had been any noticeable differences between the answers coming out of different countries; do different things stop you in different culture settings and political climates? I was told there were no noticeable differences; “having no money in one country stops you just the same as it does in any country”. But, perhaps a wider and more thorough survey would give different results? It would make quite an interesting project, I think.

It is a question that I have pondered on a lot over recent years. What does stop me? What are the barriers? We have talked a lot in Our View about the benefits and limitations of the Social Model. Making my entry in the log book was again getting me to address this issue. On the one hand I wanted to say ‘nothing’ stops me. That’s the Paralympian in me speaking. It is also the voice of someone determined to push through the boundaries of marginalisation, as both a woman, and as a disabled person. But then I think again, and recognise that sometimes I am too fatigued to keep pushing. There are some things I just cannot physically do, and the biggest thing stopping me from doing anything, is severe and chronic pain.

There are lots of ways to change working practices, and be more flexible to accommodate the debilitating effects the pain has on my life, but even when all the external barriers are removed, the pain is still there. It still sometimes stops me from doing things: sleeping, concentrating, and laughing, for example. So it was interesting for me to see all the different entries people had made. It left me wondering how hard had other people thought about what they would choose as their entry? What message were they trying to relate, or point did they want to make?

I guess as a provocative project, this has really worked. I would like to thank the students at Orpheus for really inspiring me to think on a more international basis, about the similarities and differences faced by disabled people. In an earlier blog, Room 101, I referred to Dr Soldatic’s findings that disabled people in the UK are far better connected and better at sharing information with each other, than in Australia. It seems that there is a growing interest in the motivations, practices and cultures of disabled people around the world, and how they compare. I think it would be really interesting to record the progress, and heritage of the disabled movement in an international context. I know we have touched on this in our Our View meetings before, but I think Accentuate would be very well-placed as a cross sector organisation linking in with international events like London 2012 and Rio 2016, to instigate such a project...

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