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16 October 2014
BBC NI - Eyewitness

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Christine Ferran is Chairperson for Same Difference, an organisation that promotes the issues of disabled people Image of Christine Ferran

I prefer disabled people as the term to be used, because when you think of the disability movement, it's a political statement with a small 'p' in the sense that what we are led to believe, most of our lives, is that we are the problem and there has been a change in attitudes now towards what we would call 'a social model perspective' which says that society and how it is organised is what disables people, not their particular impairments or conditions, but the organisations and structures within society at large. So that is why I prefer the term 'disabled people' or 'disabled person' as opposed to people with disabilities.

The main attitudes or attitudinal barriers that we would come across, particularly for wheelchair users, because you use a wheelchair your legs aren't working, therefore your brain's not working - and often you'll find that if you are a wheelchair user, if you have someone with you who's pushing your wheelchair, if you're not in an electric one, that whoever you come into contact with will often speak to the person who is pushing you, as opposed to you, the person who is using the wheelchair.

I had a recent experience of it myself just before I had my hip replacement when I was using a wheelchair for a while. I went into town to buy some clothing and I had someone with me and the shop assistant actually spoke to the person who was with me asking what size is she, what does she want, as opposed to asking me. So the person who was with me knows how I feel about things and said 'Well, you're better asking Christine herself and finding out exactly what it is she wants, as opposed to me answering on her behalf'.

Quite a number of non-disabled people assume that we do not have sexual feelings or sexual relationships and if you look back into myths, even Greek myths, I mean you think of the various myths that are out there and how disabled (or what they would term now disabled gods) were cast aside, cast out, and their partners then would take non-disabled partners to fulfil their sexual needs. So quite often it is assumed that disabled people don't have sexual needs or that they don't want to form relationships and if they do have partners, particularly if they're non-disabled partners, the assumption is that, or the assumption appears to be, that the non-disabled person is the person that's just feeling sorry for the person who has the impairment and is looking after them, but that there's no actual sexual relationship.

Following on from that would be that disabled people cannot be parents and should not be parents, and particularly when you think of the enforced sterilisations that to some degree still happen and are still being pushed under the carpet.

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