To Sum Him uP

You may have heard the same radio programme as me. The worthy one on radio 4 that often raises disabled people’s issues. It had an article about the difficulties of transition for disabled children who have all the support in the world and then they hit the magical age of 18 and then say “abracadabra” and it all disappears. Listening to it you may have been interested in the issues but it was the language that got me.

“To sum him up”, said a mother who had otherwise shown herself to be a strong advocate of her son, “he’s a wheelchair user and has a learning disability”

To sum up my issue, my impairments may mean that I can call myself a disabled person, and this is a label I have adopted with pride but, but surely that label of itself does not in any way sum me up.

Rather my impairments allow you to enter a world of discriminatory experience, where my impairments define how I found myself in segregated schooling, where my early work experience became defined by the limited environments I could work in, or where I am responded to by negative attitudes that see my impairments as meaning I must be stupid, undesirable or ugly, perchance ‘undateable’ but it says nothing of who else I may be.

My impairments do not define my needs. My impairments do not place my hopes, dreams, and aspirations into a closed down category. My achievements are not something that can be marvelled at just because I have an impairment. Being out of breath does not mean I cannot kick a football and practice kicking a football nor does it preclude me from kicking a football very well indeed. Not being able to speak does not exclude me from love, lust nor friendship but the way that I am responded to on the basis of these impairments does anger me, perplex me and ultimately depress me and lead to anxiety.

So, why then do I have to see Social Workers, Care Workers, and other sundry professionals writing down my needs as my impairments? Why do I have to see the needs of the disabled children following me as being Downs, Autistic, Aspergers, or any other diagnosis. Listen. Listen very carefully. A label is not a need.

I’m all grown up now but having to listen to this drivel on a regular basis does frustrate me, brings anger, makes me very challenging indeed. I do want to protest, take action, be vengeful sometimes, using my sarcasm and irony has a weapon to belittle those people who belittle my needs in this foolish way but it also makes me want to train, teach, help others to learn and I can do this as a disability equality trainer. To whit, I have recently designed a game called through the bingo hall based on the 12 pillars of Independent Living in which the players are invited to mingle and find someone who uses specially designed tools to eat their food with, people who have recently asked someone else to help them and other such scenarios. Non disabled people in the room always ask disabled people in the room these questions. We look at them and we say; well don’t you, aren’t your knives and forks specially designed. We hope they are otherwise there just might be a health and safety issue but more than calling on organisational barriers aren’t we also saying; there is nothing special about my needs and if there is then aren’t they only as special as yours.

The point is our labels are not our needs. Our needs are the same as yours. To eat, to be warm, to be loved. You need to wake up to this especially if you are in a position to be writing down what our needs are. Just a hint, here because we have now reached the point where you are looking for answers (I don’t give answers, I encourage you to find your own way around the dilemma) but if you are in the business of writing down our needs you might also be in the business of writing down outcomes and outputs and its my guess that these may be closer to what our needs are. Another question, I might pose is if you are in the business of writing down our needs you might be using a form…. well, here’s a stunner why is the question on the form in the first place. And finally another cracker…. if you are writing what our needs are have you asked us. Be good if you did.




  1. […] To Sum Him uP. […]

    • detrich said

      you can follow me on another blog too where I have a twitter account richatmcil (I believe). This is where I am most active as its a work account. I work for merton centre ofindependent living which has a facebook page mertoncil which oyu are free to like

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