I rather sarcastically refer to International Day of People With Disability as 'Yay, I'm a Cripple Day!'.
This rather cynical 'differently abled person' fails to see the logic in such self congratulatory landmarks. Is it to commend the broader public for being tolerant of people with a disability? They are not. Is it to celebrate various people with a disability for coming together to achieve common goals? They are not common. Is it to celebrate the achievements of disability policy? They do not exist.
There is not much point in celebrating anything, beyond pointing out a noticeable difference in an individual's capability, which in my case happens to be 'Hey, I am in a wheelchair. Let's celebrate!'
I will not be snacking on party pies or wearing a funny hat tomorrow because to me, 'Yay, I'm a Cripple Day!' does nothing but highlight the inadequacies of everything described above.
Only when people with disabilities are recognised for their skills and talents alone will I be celebrating. When all sections of the public stop instinctively referring to a diverse group of people as a homogenised 'community', I will eat a party pie to celebrate.
Some day, too, I may just wear that funny hat when politicians recognise that complex problems in disability policy do not have easy solutions. That day has not yet come, and until these days arrive, I have nothing to celebrate.
I wrote those words three years ago today for the now defunct ABC Ramp Up, and not much has changed. Of course, I'll still be mourning rather than celebrating. Tomorrow is a day that still angers me like no other.
Though I now live a happy life, and am more content than at any other point, I still had a rather frank conversation with FRG the other night. I told her why the first five seconds of my day are always the best part of my day. Those seconds are when I'm still getting my bearings, and I temporarily forget I can't get out of bed on my own. The sixth second is always the worst. That's when it all comes flooding back. I can't move. I have to wait for someone to move first. Then I have to get their permission so that I can move.
Doubtless, when I said this FRG was as sad as I had ever seen her, but I knew she would appreciate, and perhaps even respect me, for another round of my characteristic bluntness.
You and she have to understand the four fundamental truths of my life:
1. This anger will never leave me.
2. Not for as long as I live.
3. Not if each day is better than the one before.
4. Not if I could get everything else I could ever want.
However my perspective has altered somewhat. Some of this may be as a result of my job. This year I've played a small part in helping hundreds of people with disabilities and their families. The confidence in actually contributing a cause, instead of pretending to be, has made an enormous difference.
There is also something to be said for sharing a journey with FRG. Prior to meeting me, she had no previous exposure to people with a disability. Consequently, each day provides a new insight for her and the world of disability. What I have long accepted as a given, she sees as a challenge, or a triumph.
Despite these alterations, I am still angry that my perspective, and those of people with disabilities are ignored.
I am frustrated that as hard as anyone tries, no one will be able to understand the grief and anger I have on a daily basis.
I am annoyed that I get so angry and sad about something I will never be able to change.
I am angry that I will always be denied opportunities and things that I should be entitled to.
I hate that my physical challenges always defeat me. As hard as it tries, my mind always lets them defeat me.
The media, the disability sector, others with disabilities, and assorted NGOs who think they understand what I feel are asking me to celebrate what exactly?