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More on the expansion of disability

Yesterday I came across a post on one of the disability groups on Facebook about the wheelchair space on busses. It said that the sign should not specify wheelchair users, but reserve the spot for people with disabilities more generally. I was in two minds about it: while I could see their point, I think wheelchair users should take priority when it comes to that space. After all, things like walking frames can be folded and their users can sit nearby. Thus I replied that an ambulant person who just uses a crutch or walker does not need this space as they can sit on a nearby seat and fold the walker. They were effectively saying that I, as a powerchair user, would have to wait for the next bus because they didn't want to make room for me. A little churlish perhaps, but I would maintain that space is specifically for those of us who use wheelchairs.

Yet I think this hints at an issue which I brought up a few weeks ago. It's almost as if certain people see their selves, and want to be seen as, more disabled than they are for political and social reasons, and therefor think the standard social image of disability should be expanded to include them. I realise how contentious that might sound, but the impression I get is that these people, for whatever reason, actually want to belong to the disability community. They feel excluded from it because they do not fit the standard image of a wheelchair-using cripple, so they want that image to now be expanded. They want to be allowed to use the bus wheelchair space, even if they might not necessarily need it.

Up to a point I have no problem with that: people can see themselves however they like, disabled or not. At the same time, and as wary as I am of constructing any sort of hierarchy of disability, I think people are now expecting entry into our community where once they would have just seen theirselves as able bodied, albeit with a few physical abnormalities. Being allowed to use the bus wheelchair space would, consciously or unconsciously, signify that they are as disabled as the rest of 'us'. On the other hand, it might be more a case of wanting their disabilities to be as visible as others', so they are less vulnerable to being seen as mere slackers or scroungers.

I get the impression that, in a way, these people want to feel oppressed; they want to belong to an oppressed minority, perhaps in order to justify their political activism. As fury and frustration towards the current government grows, people consciously or unconsciously seem to want to justify feelings of personal persecution by claiming membership of a group which has fared the worst from the Tory cuts, even though they might be straight, white and more or less able bodied. The problem is, the disability rights movement risks being saturated by such activists, so that the voices of those of us who have borne the brunt of disability persecution in terms of special schools and long-stay care homes - those of us who actually had to fight to get the wheelchair space on the bus in the first place - risks being drowned out by people who would divert our movement to fit their own agenda.


[Edited 06/01/2018 at 18:22:56 - added a bit]
[Edited 06/01/2018 at 22:31:23 - added a bit]

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