“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Robert F Kennedy, 1966
I remember reading the above quote whilst working at Scope soon after graduating from university. It didn’t resonate immediately, but looking back I can see how both this quote and my time working at Scope had a big effect.
For those who are newer to my world, I want to share something with you. My upbringing wasn’t political, my university life was typically ideological and my working life was full of political friction. This friction was from the political awakening I had that many disabled people are still oppressed. I didn’t want to believe this as it surely couldn’t be true. With many late night talks with my friend Richard Currie I realised that whilst we had worked hard through school, university and social life; we had been relatively lucky, but we still faced discrimination too. Sure, with supportive parents, friends and professionals we had gained the necessary foundations to overcome the physical barriers we faced. On the flip side we struggled for work, social care funding and trying to find accessible transport. One of the hardest things I have had to do was acknowledge this truism and still not lose the positive attitude that had enabled me to get by in such a world.
As you may have heard me mention many times, I am in Spain at the moment. The break from routine, meeting new people and having a more open mind has had me thinking. In the past 3 years I know I have made ripples with my blog, Disability Horizons, the webinars, the ecourse and talks I have given. Personally, I had aimed to leave my job, start a social business and travel more. To realise these personal and professional achievements is great, but I also see that it is only the beginning.
With some space from the grind and pressures in London, I have started to set some goals for myself. I can easily define my personal goals for you:
1) stay healthy
2) maintain the loving relationships I have with my family and friends
3) continue collaborating with great people for social change
4) pay the bills and have food on the table
5) continue to explore new places, meet new people and never stop growing as a person
My goals within my work are more complex.
I am very aware that my projects cannot support all disabled people. Some of the feedback from the Guardian article assumed Srin and I were ignorant to other impairments, socio-economic backgrounds, personality types and so forth. The fact is I know that many people are calling out for a positive, pragmatic and practical voice on disability. I just don’t want this to be seen so ‘black and white’ in comparison to the other voices, publications and approaches. We all have the same goals and we all seek to do this in our own ways.
Therefore goal number 1 is to clarify the values within my work, the messages that carry them, improve the channels that deliver them and ensure I am clearer about who will benefit from them.
Most of my work has been online. This has made so much sense because I was able to deliver these projects alongside a day-job, reach many people worldwide for no cost and travel more myself. Since being in Spain I have taught English, run a CV workshop and given talks to local youth groups. I have appreciated the buzz I get from face to face interaction, the benefit of seeing a persons reaction to your words and making amazing progress. Just today I met 6 young lads who dabble with alcohol and drug abuse. To just explain that I am disabled, things are harder and life can suck, but that I have managed to do the EVS project and live in Spain for 2 months; changed their architecture of possibilities (Currie, 2012). I know the word ‘inspiring’ gets cheesy, but it really is a powerful tool in certain circumstances.
Goal number 2 is to learn new tools here at Europe aqui and use them back home. I plan to propose engaging and empowering workshops to councils/NGO’s/charities for both disabled and non-disabled youngsters. I think this can make waves rather than ripples!
You have seen me defending the reasons why my projects are less ‘political’. As someone rightly said the personal is political. In Spain they are having a strike tomorrow against a change in employment law. To see the passion and belief in the activists instilled a spark that had withered after so much graft and pressure the past months. Everything I do is about people. If people suffer injustice it should be spoken against. This is not to say my blog, Disability Horizons and so forth will become political campaigning tools. No. I stand by my words that others do this better. However when for example Srin is left stranded in Sydney without a wheelchair due to incompetent baggage handlers, I think something can be done without losing the general tone of ‘living life to the max’.
Goal number 3 is to collaborate with disability campaigners in recognition that without the right policies, funding and education; the lifestyles disabled people can and want to live cannot be realised.
Despite the knowledge I have gained on disability, it is fair to say I have learnt a lot on social media, communications and general marketing strategies.
Goal number 4 is to collaborate with other organisations and share these techniques to benefit their cause.
Going forward I see my projects showing the world how ‘able’ disabled people are, and showing disabled people (please see generic caveat of who this may not apply to) how much can be achieved.
As I try to deliver the best projects for disability social change, I know I will have decisions to make. In balancing the need for funding, the need for political clout, the need for media coverage and the need for staying true to my origins; it will not be simple.
My personal story will also become less prevalent, and your stories more so. I plan to create the frameworks, platforms, content, learning and sharing from your ideas.
If you have any thoughts on my personal journey, these new life goals and most importantly on the direction of my work please do get in touch. I cannot stress enough that it is you guys who make these ripples count… Kennedy states this so well!