Written by Jax Jacki Brown
(Write-ability Salon-Emerging Writers Festival)
I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land we meet on tonight and pay my respects to their elders past and present
I would also like to acknowledge the work of First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN)
(FPDN group photo from http://www.fpdn.org.au)
FPDN advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have a disability. I also want to acknowledge that indigionality and disability often intersect with ABS statistics suggesting that 50 percent of indigenous people have a disability.
1 in 5 people in Australia have a disability, its 2 in 5 if you include carers or family members.
What would that expand to if we included lovers, friends and allies?
We are all only temporarily able-bodied, we will all age and our bodies and minds will change in our life times.
I want to invite you to think about disability anew, to ponder disability as resulting ‘from the interaction between a persons impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers, these barriers hinder our full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others’ (UN General Assembly 2007) or as Stella Young put it ‘‘I am not wrong for the world I live in, the world I live in is not yet right for people with disability, and we need to change it!’’
People with disability are one of the most marginalized groups in society 45% of people with disability live on or below the poverty line (Human Rights Watch report, 2015).
We are subject to disadvantages in the key areas of employment, education, transport, housing, rates of violence and abuse and access to the health system.
Some quick stats
Employment – half that of people without disability
Education – only 24% have completed VCE
Housing – 2x’s more pwd’s live in public housing, age-care or inappropriate accom, more likely to be homeless
Transport – 1.2 million people with disability reported difficulties accessing transport
(Source: Disability and health inequalities in Australia, Vic Health 2012)
Women with disabilities are assaulted, raped and abused at a rate at least two times greater than that of women who do not have a disability. 90% women with an intellectual disability have been subjected to sexual abuse. More than two-thirds (68%) have been sexually abused by the age of 18 (Voices against Violence Report, 2014)
So what does this have to do with writing? It means that we want have to equal and paid access to the writing world.
We want to change and challenge perceptions of who we are as people with disability – we are not objects of inspiration or tragedy – we are complex and whole individuals leading full and rich and messy lives.
We want to break down these stereotypes, these meta narratives of disability by having our writing published in the mainstream.
We want to read and write stories of disability pride, of sexuality, of parenting, of teenage angst, of falling in and out of love, of the intersections of identities- of being queer and disabled, of being indigenous and disabled or the pletha of other identities one can have- we want to proclaim the the disabled body as desirable, to read and write stories which show disability as a valuable part of a person not something to be afraid or ashamed of.
Such misconceptions can only be broken down if we are published, and published wildly and in accessible formats so that people with a variety of disabilities can have access to and enjoy text.
Like any minority we want to tell our stories ourselves, because this is where empowerment and societal change happens, we are tired of others writing about us. Its time to get our voices out there.
If we happen to be written about by others who don’t live the experience of disability we want to be consulted in the same way that the Indigenous community is consulted about how to address Indigenous stories and issues
Nothing about us, without us.
We want writers with disability to be included in the programs of festivals and events as a mater of course. We want mentorship by and for writers with disability, funding for writers with disability, paid positions within key literary organisations.
We want to get rid of the barriers people with disability face, we want accessible buildings and accessible stages so we can share our work on the sage with others, equally, proudly and boldly.
I don’t want to see disability continue to be included as an afterthought, as a box to occasionally tick but instead as a key and valuable part of the human experience and as in important minority which deserves to take up space and tell our stories for ourselves.