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Bring on disability pride!

Disability pride, huh? There’s something you don’t hear often.

Sure, I’ve heard of gay pride, cultural pride, even school pride, but never disability pride.

Yet here I was on Friday night after dancing, sitting in the car waiting for dad to pick up the Kababs for dinner. As usual, I’m scrolling aimlessly through Facebook when I come across a live stream that was shared earlier that day. It was a video of my new friend Huong Truong, the Greens candidate Angus McAlpine and this other guy in a wheelchair who I later found out is another politician by the name of Jordan Steele-John.

By the way, it’s so cool to see a person with a disability in politics (well, it’s cool to me okay!). We need more diversity in that profession (in most professions to be honest).

This video was not a political advertisement designed to gain the attention of voters. By the looks of it, it wasn’t planned at all. Huong had told Jordan about this Disability Pride wall in Footscray and Jordan said he couldn’t leave Footscray without seeing it. So, the three of them went to check it out together.

The video was shot in Footscray where Huong and Jordan were showing off and talking about the Disability Pride wall. The wall features a collage of artworks and photos showcasing disability, so of course I was instantly intrigued.

But, if I’m being honest, “disability pride” sounds weird to me. I’ve never been ashamed of my disability. But I also never thought of it as something to be proud of. Like most situations, there are pros and cons to disability. But I guess it’s just “a thing”. A part of my life that I’m okay with and don’t think too much about, you know?

As I watched senator Steele speak about how “we as disabled people should be proud of our identity” and how we should “fight for our rights from a space of knowledge” it started to really make me think about my life with a disability.

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I’ve faced challenges, obstacles and adversity. I’ve dealt with sadness, loneliness and isolation. I’ve had to stand up for myself and yes, at times, I’ve had to fight for my rights such as equality and access.

I still maintain that I am absolutely no hero. A lot of the daily challenges I have faced are ones that I have to face regardless of my level of motivation. They are a part of my life.

But still, I have to admit, these are all things I have overcome which is pretty good for anyone.

Having a disability can be seen as something that takes away a lot of liberties and freedoms in your life. It can be seen as unattractive, abnormal, and something people shouldn’t talk about. But I’m typing right now to let you know that I do not believe any of that crap.

Disability is unique, and it can beautiful to the right pair of eyes. Having a disability gives you so many things in life that you wouldn’t get if you didn’t have a disability.

And I’m not just talking about cheaper movie tickets.

What life with a disability has given me is resilience. The ability to bounce back when life throws all kinds of hurdles at me. It has given me wisdom at a very young age. It has given me the ability to be compassionate and understand the pain that others go through. And it has forced me to be brave even when I didn’t want to.

A lot of the lessons I’ve learnt are ones I learnt much earlier than my peers (such as learning to love myself). Some lessons are ones many people older than me haven’t learnt yet, simply because they haven’t gone through the experiences I have (such as being brave in the face of operations).

Having a disability is so powerful, too. Like I said, I feel like I’ve been given all this wisdom and insight into a completely different world, at such a young age and that is my superpower! I now try to use my knowledge to teach and inspire others through my writing. It gives me purpose.

So, it hit me. Yes, I am proud. I am very proud!

I’m proud of who I am and of how far I’ve come. I’m proud of my achievements in life, all the things I’ve learnt, and strengths I have obtained over the years. I’m proud and I don’t care who knows it.

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After this realisation hit me like a ton of bricks I was also hit with the sudden urge to go see this wall for myself, immediately. I took Romeo to the spot, on Monday, with dad as my personal photographer #instagramdad!

I’d like to give a special shout out to the woman behind the artwork Larissa McFarlane. I want to firstly say thank you (if you somehow come across this blog). Your work means so much to people like me and it has really opened my eyes and dumped a bucket-load of inspiration into my life.

For those of you who didn’t know, the disability pride wall was a project that was organised by Larissa in late 2017. The paste up mural was designed to celebrate disability culture and pride. What’s even better, was the artwork was put together by over 40 disabled artists and activists.

Sadly, just over a week later, the morning after International Day of People with Disability, December 4th, the mural was removed by the local council graffiti clean-up team. I mean the audacity!

Many artists were devastated but disability activists were not surprised they had been silenced once again.

You know, it’s actually interesting to me how fitting of an analogy this situation is to the community of people with a disability.

Because just like when we are faced with adversity in other areas of our lives, we don’t let people get away with silencing us. We keep fighting, we shout louder, and we get that damn mural back up!

If you didn’t already get it, the mural is back up.

Larissa McFarlane, I found out, is also a fellow blogger herself which is super cool. All the above information can be found on her blog, plus more. So, I’d encourage you guys out there to go check her out for yourself: Larissa McFarlane, Disability Pride is Back!

And to all of you who have a disability of any kind. Like me, you have so much to be proud of. Who cares what anyone else thinks. We are strong, and we are proud!

Let’s put disability pride on the map!

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Due to my terrible eyesight, I asked dad to read the quote up the top with the picture of a person in a wheelchair. It goes

Disability is not personal problem, but a sociopolitical question.

It basically means people with a disability do not need to adjust to the world, the world needs to adjust to us. I just thought that was a note worth ending on.

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4 Comments

  • Reply Phil Cobb

    Terrific post, Claudia. I particularly like your phrase: “I do not believe any of that crap.”

    As one who wants to be a journalist and obviously writes very well, have you considered getting your own column on a newspaper?

    November 8, 2018 at 6:43 am
    • Reply Claudia Forsberg

      That is quite an interesting thought (thank you for the compliments). I always thought I would need to be qualified to do something like that. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. but it sounds exciting.

      November 8, 2018 at 11:00 am
  • Reply Sebastian Sibelle

    Here, here Claudia, you should be proud of the young woman you’ve become! Very inspiring — Sebastian

    November 7, 2018 at 8:52 pm
    • Reply Claudia Forsberg

      Thank you Seb, much appreciated xx

      November 8, 2018 at 11:01 am

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