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Disability Bitch v International Day of Persons with Disabilities

1st December 2009

Readers, I'm amazed you're even reading my column this week. Surely you should be out on the town. It is, after all, International Day of Persons with Disabilities this Thursday, 3 December. Don't tell me it wasn't in your diary! And please don't blame me for the many assaults on the English language committed in that one phrase. It's what it's called. I didn't name it. The United Nations did.
Notting Hill carnival for want of a more appropriate party image
So, since the UN has taken the time and effort to set aside a day in our honour, we should all be partying in celebration, right?


I HATE HAVING A SPECIAL DAY FOR DISABLED PEOPLE, and it's not just because it's got a stupid name. Look, in principle I can see that having one day set aside to celebrate crip pride might not be a bad idea, especially in countries where the disablified find themselves particularly marginalised. It's just, so far it hasn't really lived up to its potential. To be frank, I find the entire thing an embarrassment.

For a start, disabled people didn't come together and decide to have this day ourselves. It was bestowed upon us by a group of benevolent world leaders. I'd respect it if there was anything in it for me. If, for instance, it was commanded that on this day any Normal Person parking illegally in a Blue Badge bay would be thrown in the stocks and pelted with mouldy tomatoes, that'd be quite cool! But no, no conditions whatsoever are attached to this twenty four hour disability lovefest and as a result, not much happens, at least in the UK.

I checked out the events in my community and they include a speech by my local mayor and a workshop on equality. No doubt both will be spellbinding. I feel sure there's weak orange squash involved.

I don't mean to be rude - actually I do, I really do - but let's compare this stuff to similar celebrations hosted by other minority communities.
Pride flag
Let's take, for instance, Gay Pride. There are scores of annual Gay Pride marches worldwide, including a massive one in the centre of London featuring music from major artists and, this year, an accompanying exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery.

Hell, the Gay Pride movement started in earnest not because the UN decided to name a day, but because gay people themselves fought back and rioted in the face of oppression. Disableds look pretty tame in comparison. Our special day is so state-sponsored I'm amazed the government don't make us fill out a 72 page form and undergo three different medicals before letting us take part.

Disabled people, listen to me: as a group, we're just rubbish. I mean, if you attend a gay pride march, you'll see people waving rainbow flags and cheering. People, we don't even have a flag. What are we going to do, stick our Blue Badges on lolly sticks and wave them about a bit? Let's at least get something to wave. And if you're about to tell me that disabled people do get the Liberty Festival in London's Trafalgar Square every September, I say to you when did the Liberty Festival ever attract an icon of Boy George's calibre or a Prime Ministerial spouse?

Never, that's when. No one cares.
A red ribbon in support of those with HIV AIDS
It gets worse. Yeah, technically Thursday is our special day, but we're not even the highest profile minority group this week. On Tuesday, some of our compatriots celebrated World AIDS Day. Do you know how I know it was World AIDS Day? I know because last weekend, all the contestants and judges on ITV light entertainment show The X Factor wore symbolic red ribbons in front of several million viewers. You know, red ribbons: a clear and potent symbol showing support for people living with HIV. Good on them ... but the most that disabled people as a whole have got by way of our own symbol is the annoying wheelchair one you see painted in our car park spaces and on our toilet doors. I can't see Simon Cowell agreeing to wear that as a pin badge on Saturday night telly, and I'm not intending to adopt it as an emblem of pride.

Readers, we're hopeless. I give up. I'm going out. I'm going to a pub and I'm going to force a normal person to buy me a beverage, on the grounds that it's a day of celebration. I should love having a day that revolves around me. I don't. But I might, at least, try and get a free drink out of it.


Heather's been quiet all week, the most I got out of her Twitter was that she's been craving apple pie I don't doubt she's been holding back, ready to make a big noise about International Disabledness Day or whatever it's called. Or maybe not.


Yawn. Be my virtual friend here. I normally write some blurb to convince you its worth it, but today I'm so annoyed with all disabled people I really can't be bothered. We've got such a branding issue and it's all our fault! Your fault!!

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