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Gary Murning

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Do the media, charities and disability rights activists—however unintentionally—present a damaging view of what it is to be "disabled"?

I'm very interested in the problems surrounding "disability identity". There are a couple of reasons this.

Firstly, I have been physically "disabled" since birth and have pretty much always had difficulty identifying with the various "models" of disability presented to me. The "them and us" mentality, the central divisiveness of the attitudes of some (whether they be "able-bodied" or "disabled"), have concerned me for many years.

Also, it interests me from a creative point of view. I'm a novelist and with my next project I hope to explore in more detail the various myths and fallacies surrounding the notion of identity—with special attention on "disability".

One of my main areas of focus for this piece of work will be the danger of good intentions—how, in fighting for the rights of certain individuals, we marginalise and, in some cases, stigmatise those involved.

This is intended as a broad, open question. Please feel free to explore and develop as you wish.

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  • Dec 2 2012: I think the fact of feeling marginalised as a disbaled person depend on each individual. Some people, with disabilities, are very strong, they kind of ignore their disabilitiy and make the most of their lives without focusing on their physical problems, while others feel negative, see life in black and see those "good intentions" as an offense towards them. Plus, society can have either a bad or a good impact on disabled people depending on the way it treats them. For instance, i'm from a developing country, and i can understand why some might feel marginalised, and they have to right to feel so, life is not easy for them, means of transportation are made for "healthy people"only, only stairs in some places, high pavements..and in parkings, you may find some places reserved for dispabled people that are usually close to the entrance, well those places are occupied by non disabled people! so how can they lead a normal and an easy life? i've been to different eurpean countries, and disapbled people there should feel lucky to have all these easy accesses wherever they go, they should not even care wether intentions are bad or good.
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      Dec 3 2012: I think you raise some interesting points, Estrella. I've always been of the mind that my own disability is not all that relevant, however physically severe it may be. I don't consider that it makes me, as far as personal identity is concerned, all that different from anyone else—or, at least, certainly no more different than one able-bodied person is to another.

      That said, I think it is important to understand that marginalisation in the sense that I am talking about is not primarily concerned with how the individual himself/herself feels, but more about how society as a whole reacts to "disability" and the very real effects that this produces. Yes, on the surface it may seem that people with disabilities in European countries are comparatively lucky (this, of course can be applied across the board: "poverty" in the UK is, very clearly, quite different to poverty in, say, Africa—and this is indeed something that should be acknowledged and appreciated), but real problems do still exist, problems that have a very obvious and undeniable impact on lives. Ease of access is a right that has only been achieved in my lifetime, and it is indeed an accomplishment. Nonetheless, it would be wrong to think that this is some kind of social panacea for people with disabilities. For example, what good is ease of access to, say, public transport if you feel that you might be abused in ON the public transport? This still happens today in the UK, and it is one of the many reasons this particular question interests me.

      Caring about intentions is, to me, fundamental to development. If we are to shape decent, caring and fair societies, it isn't good enough, I'm afraid, to resort to the "they should feel lucky" response. Such phrases have been used too many times in an attempt to "keep people in their places".

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