I was wondering what to write about for my first ‘proper’ blog entry. I’d had a few ideas and stuck them up as a way of getting started, giving myself something to focus on. Then yesterday I took part in The Hardest Hit march in London and it became obvious what I should write about.
This was my first ‘big’ protest. I’d marched in Norwich in December as part of Norfolk’s general protests about the impending cuts but this was different. I’d seen all the media coverage of the student protests and the March for the Alternative and, to be honest, I was a little apprehensive. I don’t like crowds and the thought of being ‘kettled’ was a worry at the back of my mind. I also knew that it’d take quite a physical toll on me, standing before the march set off, walking the route, then back to the transport. After summing all these things up I felt that I should go because what needs to be said, to be brought to the attention of our elected representatives is so important that apprehension and discomfort are a price worth paying.
I’m not going to cover the reasons for the day, the issues behind it and the nature of the current government’s attacks on disabled people as other blogs and sites have done it far better than I ever can. I’ll stick some links in at the end for those interested.
Instead I thought I’d write about how the day made me feel, the effect it had on me.
My first impression and one that stuck with me all day was how wonderful it was to be surrounded by so many other disabled people. This is quite a rarity as we are normally dispersed throughout the country, often invisible. I felt I was part of a community, people with similar values, hopes and fears. Having nearly every possible kind of impairment there was amazing too as ‘disability events’ are so often segregated into those with physical impairments, learning disabilities, sensory disabilities and (often forgotten) those with mental health issues. As the media said in all their reports, this number of disabled people in one place like this was unprecedented and something that will stay with me forever.
My second key thought was an anger that disabled people feel so isolated, attacked and threatened by the very people that should be protecting them. Like me, a number will be suffering today as a result of yesterday’s exertions. I’m not too bad, painkillers and a quiet day will see me back to ‘normal’ but for others it will take days or even weeks to recover. It’s an indicator of how strong the feelings are amongst disabled people that so many are willing to put themselves through that suffering to show out, take to the streets and express their feelings on the matter. I’m left with a fear, however, that the politicians will ignore us. We are easily ‘demonised’ in the press as lazy scroungers, wanting everything on a plate. All we want is a level playing field, a chance to live our own lives, making our own choices about when we get up, what we eat, seeing our friends, having relationships just like non-disabled people do. That’s not too much to ask in the 21st century is it?
Finally it was great to see ‘famous’ disabled people and to catch up with disabled friends from around the country that I’d not seen for years, to have the sort of conversations that only disabled people can have together, to share the absurdities of life with an impairment without having to overcome the sense of shock and disbelief that often happens when talking with non-disabled people. We were cheeky to each other, bitched about politics and had a beer or two. All stuff everyone else gets to do with their friends but it’s much rarer for disabled people as we are scattered and often isolated.
As promised here are a couple of links about the background to the day. If it makes you as angry/passionate as it does me, feel free to badger your MP. It’s about time they earned their pay.