“As a disability advocate, I want Black people with disabilities to be seen, heard and respected as human beings.”
COVID-19 means accessibility has suddenly become everybody’s priority. It should stay that way.
Blindness is scary because a lot of people associate it with darkness, and I get that…however, I don’t really see darkness – the truth is I don’t know what I can’t see. The best way I can describe blindness is like this: try to see what’s behind your head. You can’t see it, but it’s not really darkness – it’s just not there.
About three years ago, I was listening to the radio while lying in bed and realised I could only hear on one side. I was diagnosed with otosclerosis, a form of hearing loss where the small bones in the middle ear effectively become fused and unable to vibrate properly. Both ears are now affected to differing extents. I also have tinnitus, the perception of noises that have no external source.
I have never considered myself to be disabled. Having been in the Royal Navy for nearly 27 years and progressed from a student nurse to a Commander, how could I be?
For the last few years, Time to Change, which describes itself as “a growing social movement working to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems”, has promoted an annual Time to Talk day. The idea is to “bring together the right ingredients to have a conversation about mental health. Whether that’s tea, biscuits and close friends or a room full of people challenging mental health stigma, we want to get you talking.”
After a cancer diagnosis in 2016, I wrote about my experience on an internal Home Office blog. The mental health implications of physical illnesses are often overlooked, but I have never felt more scared and anxious than I did during the early months post-diagnosis.
I have been disabled from birth with Erb’s Palsy in one arm. This means I cannot lift heavy objects with both arms, or reach above chest height with one arm, and I have poor balance. Two years ago, as a direct result of using one arm for most activities during the past 50 years and more, I suffered a torn shoulder, which meant an operation, time off work, and repeated doctor’s appointments.
“Stop invalidating people, stop telling people that they’re lying, stop saying what they have isn’t real.”
Justin was first diagnosed with a disability in the form of ADD (attention deficit disorder, now known as ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) at the age of 5 years.