What a wonderful week it has been to vent some well-justified crip fury!
Only a few days ago Sue Minter, former director of the Eden Project, stepped down for making negative comments about keeping disabled workers behind the scenes for 'the image of professional horticulture' You can read the full story in Horticulture Week here.
Then Tiger Woods makes a comment about 'putting like a spaz' and the media go to town.
So in summary, we are human weeds who shouldn't be seen in professional horticulture in case we lower the tone, and on top of that, it's a given that those of us who experience spasticity in our limbs are unlikely to be a success on the golf course.
Whilst I think professional horticulture needs a good kick up the arse (and am currently doing some research into why there is thought that learning disabled people working in horticulture devalues it), this Tiger Woods story has me in a much more optimistic mood. The poor sod. I bet what he's gone and done is just used a bit of slang he's probably heard all his life, without really thinking about what it means to a certain group in society. I am pleased there's been a furore about it though, because perhaps it means people are sitting up and taking notice of disability discrimination in language. The Eden Project story sank pretty fast, too fast for my liking, but the fuss over Woods has restored a little bit of optimism that the media think these issues are worth discussing.
I strongly believe disabled people are poor relations when it comes to equality, compared to some groups in society (not that I'm begrudging them anything, of course). Therefore, it doesn't surprise me that negative references to disability in everyday language are still very much in existence, and people use them, often without thinking. Despite glimmerings of hope over the reaction to Wood's comment, I do feel we're still very much in the dark ages.
For example, I no longer am prevented from entering places because I am female, and Rosa Parks, who defied segregation and got on the bus (alongside other prominent black campaigners) helped progress racial integration, ooo, back in 1955. The US Supreme Court ruled in November 1956 that segregation on transportation was unconstitutional. It's now 2006 and can I get on a bus yet in the UK? Nope, I bloody well can't. Can I go to cinema with a bunch of my wheelchair using mates? Can I arse. Or even cross the threshold of every place I'd like to visit. It will be 2020 before I have full (legal) rights and access to all public transport in the UK, and only last week I was in a little Cotswold village eating my lunch on the pavement because the establishment's entrance physically barred me from getting into the place. (And this is gospel - a black American woman stopped to commiserate my segregation and joined me in glaring through the window at the owner in a very satisfying manner).
I scoured the Sunday papers last weekend for a fuller dissection of the Eden Project row and found nothing. I'll scour them again next Sunday for articles discussing the Tiger Woods comment, possibly with more success - Woods is a global sports star, and the higher the pedestal, the greater the fall. But I wonder if those articles do appear, they'll largely be written by able-bodied journalists, from an able-bodied perspective?
There's just not enough of us to be seen out in public - yet.