Sunday 1 May 2011

Blogging Against Disablism Day

I have a "Hidden Disability"

No wheelchair, no visible deformity, no crutches.

So surely I wouldn't experience disablism?

Well, tell that to the two fat Mamas who shouted across the street at me to "eat a fucking donut!"

Or the woman behind me in the supermarket queue telling her daughter perfectly audibly that if she didn't eat properly she'd end up "looking like that" (Me)

Or the people (including a policeman) who have asked me sneeringly in crowded streets "What's wrong with you then?" when I park using my disabled badge. "You don't look disabled!" The policeman kept me there, standing in agony, and in tears with my toddler for 10 minutes, grilling me on why I was using a badge that clearly had my name and my picture on it.

But I reserve the honour of prime disablist for "Builder-Bastard" as he came to be known in our house.
I'd only been out of hospital following surgery for one day and Mum had driven me to Burger King to satisfy the terrible crap-food craving I had. As I got out of the car and hobbled slowly towards the door a van screeched into the car park without slowing down, nearly running me over.

He swept into a disabled parking space (no badge) leapt out of the van and ran into the burger joint.

Hobbling in a full minute or two later, I was furious. As my malnourished body shrinks with extreme episodes of near fatal ill health, so my feistiness often grows. For some reason I felt outraged enough to point out to the man (very pleasantly) that someone disabled might have needed the space he parked in and it might be a good idea to drive a little more slowly in restaurant car parks.

He turned round, his 6' 3" frame dwarfing my pathetic, stooped figure and asked

"What's it to you, you skinny fucking Belsen refugee bitch?"

Astonished and shocked, I told him I was disabled myself.

"What's wrong with you then, not getting fucked enough?"

Shaking with terror, something in me refused to let this giant bully win.

Calmly but oh-so-sneeringly I replied "I've just had 5 more growths removed from my bowels - 7 days ago in fact - and I can't walk very well."

He didn't miss a beat. Remember, this is a busy burger bar packed with customers and staff.

"Fuck you, slag." and he turned back to face the young lad behind the counter.

By then I was furious. I didn't care.

"Well, well!" I sneered in my most patronising voice, "What a catch you are! Your wife must be so proud!! What a big strong man she married, a man who screams at 5 stone cancer patients for kicks!!"

He didn't answer, took his burger and left.

I was shaking like a leaf, my legs would barely hold me up and I leant on the counter to stop myself collapsing. I was gulping for air.

Suddenly the burger bar erupted at once "Bastard!!" "What an arse" "If he'd stayed one more minute, I'd have...." "If he'd said one more thing I'd have...."

But they didn't did they? Not one of them? They heard every word, they watched a big strong man bully a small, sick woman in the most abusive and disgusting terms, but no-one said a word. Not one single person.

They let me fight my own battle, they looked away. Who knew if this disgusting pig was evil enough to punch me? Who knew where it would end up as he thrust his face right into mine, pointing his finger and covering my cheeks with flecks of furious, ignorant spit?

Oh believe me, people are willing to look away.


  1. Great post Sue! You can read mine for BADD2011 here if you like:

  2. -people who are stricken and disabled due to mental illness are not considered sick by society 'cause they are Mad ((

  3. How horrible, I'm so sorry. I'm shocked but not surprised. I don't want to get used to reading about this kind of thing, I want to keep being shocked, because then I'll keep sight of how wrong it is.

    This incident reminds me of that poor transwoman in America a couple of weeks ago, getting the shit kicked out of her by a couple of girls in a branch of McDonalds, with the only person bothering to help being an old lady. Surely builder-bastard was committing a crime by being outright verbally abusive? He should have been thrown out, not served.

  4. I have had that myself sue many times when trying to park in a disabled spot in the carpark
    but people should be warned that if you should make a comment and the person has a mental disability as well he could at any given point turn round and kill you so be warned never ever provoke a sick person when out and about as i have seen in the past on just how dangerous they can be but only when provoked it seams but to be on the safe side you should always respect all people as they could be like sue and myself have very hidden illness

    I myself can be very unpredictable when i am out so therefore for my protection my care worker accompanies me but i have been known to intervene if i spot trouble and the police are late in getting to the scene my face seams to display that i am control so watch out

    I think it's the body's final way of protecting you from death but none the less has worked very well for me over the years

  5. I'm not going to wave a flag for women or disabled people in this topic but this sort of canteen culture sounds all too familiar.

    This sort of situation shows up the Tories or the Tory-lite that suffer from this. At the opposite extreme are the "lefties" who deliberately get in the way or mealy mouth about non-violence when action is called for.

    It's a difficult issue whether you suffer from a physical or mental disadvantage, or merely a situational disadvantage.

    Some people exercise "power" to look like leaders or manipulate to be "in" with the crowd. Sometimes you can fight it. Other times not. Sometimes it's not worth the hassle.

    Choice is a powerful thing.

  6. i have had situations regarding blue badge, so now my answer is "sorry i forgot to put my plackard over my neck today stating that i am disabled" seems to shut them up straight away.
    Burger man reminds me of coalition all bullies no compassion and above all oblivious to the needs of people


  7. I did a bit for my local access group with the council and a parking attendant and a Police officer, this was official after complaints by the disabled about abuse of the disabled parking places.

    We had no powers at all the parking attendant could give out tickets since the car park was council run under the highways and bye ways.

    We spent 8 hours watching people park, now then this is what we found, the vast majority of people did not have mobility problems, no walking sticks no crutches and no wheelchair, we saw six wheelchair users who had to park and then struggle to get out of the car.

    The parking attendant would approach anyone who looked like he was mobile, asked them for the badge, checked it and then asked for his or her disability, lots said they have severe mobility problems with legs, the police officer checked the car to see if they had hand controls, if not they were again asked to prove the disability, some said they had a depressive illness and could not walk far yet then came alone to do shopping, others said they were shopping for the disabled mother or Gran or granddad.

    Out of 120 people parking in the disabled parking bays nine had walking sticks or crutches the others walked with somebody or walked alone, not one single car had hand controls.

    The vast majority spent two or three hours walking around the shops and then carrying bags back to the car. The vast majority we found out later had badges given to them by doctors letters, the police confiscated nine blue badges off people who used the badges to shop for somebody else.

    Blue badge parking of course is to be used by the disabled but if you can walk around a shop for three or four hours you can walk a few yards from a non disabled parking bays.

    I know people will not like this, but the idea of the blue badge parking bays or the old disabled parking bays was to give wheelchair users the extra room for the wheelchair.

  8. Hi Sue

    Damn fine job.... just as well I wasn't with you! Grrr.............

    I hate this so much and have suffered it a few times, in fact I was robbed and kicked whilst having a seizure once.

  9. Someone with mental health problems1 May 2011 at 14:20

    Who knew if this disgusting nutter was crazy enough to punch me?

    Really? Complaining about the disablism you experienced by being disablist towards people with a different type of impairment to you?

    Not cool.

  10. I use blue bays to park if I have my wheelchair bound profoundly disabled child with me, does that make it okay for you? My car isn't adapted, because my disability is invisible, and my permit is for her. Perhaps save the "disabled parking" critique for another post. It's disablist.

    ETA - great post, that shameful behaviour of that ignorant man must have been simply awful.

  11. my last comment was @ Robert, forgot to add that bit. lol

  12. Really? Picking on one sentence from millions I must have written trying to defend the very people you claim I attack? Really?

    FFS Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

  13. Oh and another one.

    I have a blue badge because I shit my pants - I never know when. I may have to park anywhere, immediately and run to a toilet. What would your horrible little car park spies have thought then? Late for a facial?

    My badge changed my life. Often I just didn't bother going out because I was too bloody exhausted. When I got the badge, it meant that if it all went horribly wrong when I was out shopping, I could get back to my car rather than sit on the floor of a shop waiting til my husband came to pick me up in a taxi.

    So no, no crutches, and sometimes I even dare to wear make up and heels.

    I'd better stop typing before the tears of frustration clog up my keyboard. Doesn't matter how hard we try, how much we try to open ignorant bloody eyes, they just stay firmly shut don't they?

  14. *hugs from a small stranger*

  15. Sue - said from a very loving place; it's your blog. If people approach it with respect and debate, then great. But you do not need to allow anyone carte blanche to wank all over it. It's YOURS. If there are people being wankers on it, then for the love of all things and your personal sanity, just BAN THEM and have done. Save your strength for those willing to engage rather than j'accuse.

    Take a breather, clear the chaff, come back. And yes, I've seen what you've described, I've even been the one to step in from time to time - because I'm American and of course everyone expects Americans to be boors and not just avert their eyes like proper folk. It disgusts me that I'm the only one with the brass-ones to do it, sometimes, but then if I don't, who will?

  16. Actually I take it back and will change the "nutter" comment. You're right, and it only hurt because it was unintentional.

  17. Summersetlass1 May 2011 at 15:05

    To Robert: Although I agree that the extra room could be intended for wheelchairs, it is not just that. I have mobility problems and even when not using the chair, I need to push the door right open so that I can twist and turn out of the chair. Disability is not all about mobility problems anyway. What about people with breathing difficulties, heart trouble - all manner of conditions that can make walking any distance difficult. Yes, people do abuse the system and use other people's badges, but that doesn't mean we should all be judged on whether we deserve a blue badge in your opinion.

    To Sue: I can only say how very sorry I feel that you were subjected to this but I know from experience that these sort of people exist. I also know people don't want to get involved. It is a sad sign of the times we live in where nobody goes to the aid of anyone being bullied for fear of their own safety. It has happened to me. What goes around comes around and you can only hope that he will be on the reciving end one day soon x

  18. To Robert - yes, the blue badge system is open to abuse. So is policing it.

    I know someone with ME who needs the blue badge. She doesn't use hand controls - that's not her problem. Her problem is that she suffers from severe and disabling fatigue. No crutch is going to help with this. No walking stick. And she only goes out on the rare occasions that she feels she has enough energy to try... nobody in the car park sees the utter hell she goes through when she gets home.

    I know another person with severe mental health problems who needs the blue badge because his behaviour is so erratic and difficult that he needs to get out of the shop and away before he gets himself into trouble.

    And yet another who was registered blind but would not use a white cane. Instead he relied upon soundings from metal segs in the heels of his shoes. I wouldn't mind a pound for every time someone has accosted him and accused him of not being disabled enough to warrant a blue badge.

  19. Firstly, Sue I am so sorry you've had these experiences. Sadly I'm not surprised, but by talking about them hopefully more people will realise how messed up such behaviour and attitudes are, and also be more likely to challenge those who don't.

    Blue badges and disabled parking bays are not simply for wheelchair access ffs! Many people have multiple hidden impairments that would make either using public transport or having to park further away from a destination not just difficult but likely to make it often near impossible for them to go somewhere.

    The comment about that also shows the same ignorance that the WCA show. Ok so one this day, at this destination, that you did this "experiment", many "appeared" to not have particular mobility issues. Firstly, are you not aware of how fluctuating many illnesses/impairments are? Secondly, did you follow all of these people around for their "2-3 hours of shopping"? How do you know they spent the entire time sprinting around shopping?

    Also 9 out of the 120 people you stopped and interrogated were found to be using a blue badge illegally. 9 out of 120. That is hardly a huge amount ffs!

    As for Sue's "nutter" comment. Please, if you had read anything else she has ever written you'd realise the last thing she would ever do is want to express disablism towards anyone. I also have mental health problems and as much as there is a serious problem with most people's attitudes towards mental health, you are trying to pick a fight with the wrong side. I understand why it hurt and I know Sue didn't mean to cause offence and in a way it is good to bring it up. However instead of getting angry with each other this should be an example of how ingrained so much disablist language is.

  20. @Robert: What have hand controls got to do with it? I've got a major mobility impairment, yet don't normally use hand controls. Equally I have times I can walk fine, I'm only carrying the crutches because the likelihood I will need them within a very few minutes, someone else could carry a folding walking stick in a handback or a deep pocket. Invisible disabilities are called that for a reason and it's ghastly apparent your 'access group' does not have anything approaching a clear understanding of the reason disabled people are legitimately issued with blue badges. Asthma, heart problems, connective tissue disorders, Aspergers, Autism, the list goes on. It's bad enough when the ignorance comes from the normies, when it comes from disabled people it's twice as bad, and I don't think I have words to describe an 'access group' that goes out and 'trains' people with this twisted parody of 'understanding'.

    "and then asked for his or her disability" This is a serious abuse of power and would have resulted in an official complaint of disability related harassment if it had happened to me. Neither the parking official nor the police officer have the right in law to ask this, neither do they have the competence to assess any answer. They have a right to ask to see the badge, and nothing more.

    "if you can walk around a shop for three or four hours you can walk a few yards from a non disabled parking bays." Sigh, let me explain. It isn't the distance into the shop, it isn't the distance around the shop, it's the distance back to the car when between one step and the next I go from merely seriously uncomfortable, to feeling like someone has rammed a knife into my pelvis, to being in so much pain I can't even breathe normally.

    "I know people will not like this, but the idea of the blue badge parking bays [snip] was to give wheelchair users the extra room" If you know people won't like it, then why say it? We used to think the world was flat, by understanding moves on. Ignorance is no defence when you know it will be offensive. I'm not a wheelchair user, but I need all the space a disabled bay allows me to be able to fling the door wide to get out of or into the car without injuring myself, and so do many, many people with many different disabilities.

  21. This is what I don't get - the invisible illness issue. All the bodys workings are on the inside, so logic dictates that you will be unable to see most things - why do so many people not understand this?

    But then I look like an unfit fat person huff-puffing and staggering - you can't see the thyroid gland that has broken my muscles and given me incredible fatigue.

    I look like a tyrant dragging my daughter along by the upper arm or pretty much sitting her on the pavement while she thrashes and screams - you can't see the autism which makes her difficult to handle and causes her 'dangerous' behaviours or have a massive unstoppable tantrum which means she has to be restrained, because out of the house there is nowhere safe for her to just let rip and get it out as she does at home, just because we have had to change direction.

    I have learned in the last year to look at least twice, if not more, before I let my head make a judgement on anyone.

    This is what everyone needs to learn. People need to learn to think.

  22. I think disablism is actually worse for people with invisible disabilities. I fall between invisible and visible, so get to see the reality for both worlds. The pain I experience is invisible, but causes enough mobility issues I need to use crutches, which makes me visibly disabled.

    Next to my pain, my mobility issues are a minor inconvenience, but try getting normies to believe that. I went through four years of hell with my ex-employers, because management and the company's tame quack preferred to believe that I was lying rather than accept that my invisible disability was a serious issue, no matter that they had reports from my pain management team telling them precisely that. It took a formal grievance and the backing of the EHRC to force them to back down, and I had to escalate through every level of appeal in the grievance procedure (pretty much unheard of) to get them to do that. So they then turned around and said that they now admitted my invisible disability was affecting my work, so that justified all their disablism anyway. You can prove the bigot wrong, but you can't stop them being a bigot.

    And what I went through with management is the same fight I have with DWP, with random strangers, even with some of my medics. Society may be lousy at dealing with visible disabilities, but not as lousy as with invisible disabilities.

  23. Its one thing for a member of the public to have utter disregard but we are also turned into a society in which nobody seems to stand up for what is morally right any more. Indeed if recent events have show such people now even pervade the government including our dishonourable prime minster. The sort of politics David Cameron has brought to the table is the politics of meanness and ideology without room for either compassion or justness.
    He wonders why Britain is broken but he is unable to start with taking a good hard look at himself. In his efforts to garner support from people specially before voting time he is quite willing to pick on a group and then vilify them without even understanding illnesses, disease, or for that matter disabilities that people can suffer across a broad spectrum. He hopes in doing so he can bully and get others to bully the weak the defenceless and garner votes. What he has forgotten is not only do disabled people have the right to vote but they should do so against this government and its policies along with their near and loved ones to send a resounding message that Britain won't tolerate such crass and brazen politics any more!

  24. The 'invisible illness' thing looks like it needs a strategy. Once you have some pithy facts and a kerb appeal you have something you can fire back. Attack the Daily Mail with its own weapons.

    I don't want to hear any 'disabled by society' crap or 'you don't understand'. It doesn't work. Read up some blurb on 'elevator pitches' to give you some pointers on how to sell it and see if it flies.

    What I'm trying to find here is a pitch that people can easily grasp and doesn't make us look like complete losers. Something that helps people understand and empathise, not see a problem with a bad smell.

  25. What you're looking for Anonymous is "But You Don't Look Sick" - the spoon theory.

    It's a really great way of illustrating the whole invisible illness thing but here's the kicker, as ever - people have to be willing to go look into it, and have to be willing to actually look it up and listen. Most Daily Mail readers aren't willing to do that (and even when you try to break it down by using words longer than two syllables, you get accused of using "jargon" *eyeroll*)

    The simple truth is as a species we can remember that something hurt, but cannot feel the actual, original pain - we have a natural block inbuilt for this to keep us from having to experience it as we would go from a self-preservation response to what is termed as "suffering". People with invisible illnesses are in the mode of "suffering" but this is absolutely impossible to bring across. Describing it is impossible, and unless you can put one of those reporters into the Mobiliser suit: they will have no idea what a person with disability goes through on a daily basis.

    More to the point, the Daily Mail type of crowd just plain don't want to know. It's much easier just to rant and be angry at disabled people, foreigners, and anyone else who happens to be the target of the moment. You can talk and talk and talk, you can sell and sell and sell, but if people don't want to buy it, they just...won't.

  26. Interesting blog Sue, and it all ties in with the WCA and the invisable disabilities issue they and the Govt seem to be missing


  27. Sorry OD. Can't be bothered reading the "spoon theory" and I'm not the guy you have to persuade. It's all about getting the right sort of attention and making people rethink their position. Simply, the same old shit ain't working so use forms and sentiments which *do* work - which the audience you need to talk to understand.

  28. I feel like I've just been hit by an irony-wall. Can't be bothered reading....right.

  29. Hi, I'm not able to take part in BADD by writing a blog this year but I'm planning on posting a list of the blogs on my tumblr and I was wondering if I could include yours.
    Please let me know if this is okay.

  30. Wow, no need to get nasty, Anonymous. I understand the frustration here, but please, a bit of respect.

    @Oya's Daughter - you're absolutely right; for a lot of people it's just having someone to look down on that's important, it fulfils a psychological need. If it wasn't us it would be someone else. I don't know what's to be done about that.

  31. Becca_Boot - of course :))) Thanks

  32. So someone giving us advice can't be bothered reading the very information he himself asked for.

    Firstly, I wonder what makes me assume it is a "he".... (sorry to all faithful chappy readers)

    Secondly, What on earth made him comment in the first place???

  33. Anon, if the language we use and way that we communicate isn't getting through to those that need to hear us, then perhaps you could suggest a way that would work and get people to understand.

    Instead of just telling us we need to change our approach, perhaps some constructive ideas would be more appropriate.

  34. I think appealing to people's self-interest is the way to go. I think self-interest is a stronger motivator than empathy and compassion.

    To try and get it into people's heads that getting sick can happen to them too and their loved ones at anytime and the safety net wont be there for them if it does and how awful it would be for them if it isn't.

    The problem is people seem to be generally under the impression that it wont happen to them. How can you make them see how easily it can happen to them too?

  35. Nanobot - That's exactly what we think at Broken of Britain. We try to personalise things wherever we can.

    By FAR my most successful posts have been the ones that do just that.

    My post, "Who is the most Vulnerable" used real stories and ended by reminding people that it could happen to any one of them and statistics show that sadly, in one way or another it will.

  36. That Anon's specific request:

    "What I'm trying to find here is a pitch that people can easily grasp and doesn't make us look like complete losers. Something that helps people understand and empathise, not see a problem with a bad smell. "

    One day Autistics will control everything. When that happens, the world will be shaped according to Autistic preferences and optimised for Autistic functioning. When that happens, all non-Autistics will be disabled and Autistics must then decide what to do about them.

    So it's a good idea for non-Autistics to start setting an example of how they would wish to be treated and it better be good to make up for what has happened already.

  37. It seems that Anonymous thinks that as disabled people we aren't entitled to 'attitude' -- the irony just keeps on getting deeper by the moment....

  38. Mason - You rock!! That's a great, great angle and in fact I might steal it in some way. I love the idea of turning the tables - a great way to open eyes. I'm still chuckling now.

    I actually believe you about autistics too ;)

  39. There is a video somewhere about a non disabled person who has a nightmare about living in a disabled world, its an eye opener to watch


  40. Crippled Son was sitting in his wheelchair dressed in his gothicness at McD's when the Chavs (btw lads, no one looks 'hard' in a Burberry baseball cap just stupid) on the next table started on him.

    ...until Youngest-Useless-Object, the baby of the family and who drags small planets in his gravitational wake, rolled up with the order for them both and loomed at the Chavs.

    You wouldn't think that their burgers and fries could suddenly become sooo visually interesting, would you?

    My point is that no one around him, Crippled Son, stood up for him. What's wrong with people? Fear? Indifference? I don't know.

  41. Absolute outrage. 'Builder bastard' should indeed not have been served for being abusive simple as. Totally unacceptable in my opinion.

  42. Might isn't right3 May 2011 at 11:15

    I agree with Happybutterfly above.

    "...took his burger and left."

    Great moral stance taken by Burger King. Not.

    To be fair, the papers often contain stories of "have a go heroes" being badly beaten in similar scenarios.

    Unless ALL the customers had united against him (whilst he was still there...), any bloke having a go at him would have needed to be 6' 5" or a martial arts expert. Even then, if they had got the better of him, THEY would have been prosecuted.

    I supsect if you had been a bloke, you may well have been physically (as well as verbally) assaulted.

    The real power lay with Burger King to order him off THEIR premises (in shame). You ought to boycott Burger King.

  43. Hahahaha! Don't think me boycotting Burger King would do much - I never eat food like that - probably haven't been in one since, just fancied one that particular day!

  44. Quoting an earlier comment: "To be fair, the papers often contain stories of "have a go heroes" being badly beaten in similar scenarios."

    I had the same thought. Whilst I'm horrified by Sue's experience it doesn't surprise me that people didn't speak up when the man was still present.

    A few years ago a young man was stabbed to death on my local bus route after he dared to ask a group of teenagers not to throw chips at other passengers. Since then I've made my husband (who is quite a weedy man) promise to never get involved in events like this, despite his natural inclination to always help people.

    It makes me feel sad that the violence of a small minority affects our actions in this way, but it just isn't worth the risk to act otherwise.

  45. Regular pedestrians will know of the experience of walking beside a road on semi auto-pilot and a vehicle drives quickly past in which the passenger will shout a single syllable loudly to make you jump. Good fun for idiots who somehow managed to pass their driving test. This happens to me quite often and I then have to spend a minute or two re-planning every step of the way home. If I wasn't heading home but to somewhere else, my destination changes to back home because with that single disruption I know I am not going to be able to cope with work, appointments or a look round town.

    But one time this happened the chavtastic duo no less than moments later were behind a lot of traffic in a single-lane and the lights were red far, far up the road. They were only slowly moving forward, so I gingerly walked and caught up to them and then stood a few feet from the passenger side smiling. I was looking at them, they were looking at me. Had I dragged one out and started a fight then maybe I would have got hurt, then arrested for assault. This was what I think they thought was going to happen as their car slowly moved forward as each time the light turned green and then back to red. But I don't need to play by their rules when mine are far worse.

    I'm not admitting to anything, but the passenger window may have been kicked in and the passenger may have at that point been urinated on from outside, something which said passenger would rather be kept secret until the end of their days and certainly not reported to the police.

    Sometimes the unwillingness of bystanders to not get involved can be favourable.

  46. @ Mason

    LOL yes, I always told Crippled Son that "if the arseholes park on the pavement so you can't get pass with your wheelchair then still try to wheel past, really really try...oh and if you have your house keys in your hand when you try then that helps a lot too"

  47. There is a piece I think Vic Finklestein wrote about a village where everyone is wheelchair users and a group of non-wheelchair users turn up and find everything, from the environmental to the attitudinal, creating massive barriers for them. Have been looking for it but can't find it! However, the first two pages of this really made a difference to me when I first read it.

  48. Have you seen a poem called 'On Invisible Illness'? It's amazing, written by a mental health blogger Dawn Willis. Captures a lot of our feelings! Should be published!! I can't recall link but if you google Dawn Willis wordpress invisible illness it's is there! Recommend a read.