In this first nine months of doing my PhD I honestly lost count of how many words I have written and how many I have deleted. Too many. So many that I didn't have any words left in me to blog. My literature review is submitted now and my supervisor is away on holidays so I'm taking an imposed break from research. Writing a blog surely doesn't count though?
There have been so many things to write about since my last blog, and I half started so many inside my head. Now that I'm actually logged in the one thing that is weighing on me is the words we use and how that relates to our perception of disability (not that fair of my thesis topics really!).
The Melbourne Cup race is the biggest horse racing event of the year in Australia. There's the inevitable work lunches and sweepstakes but what happened this year was totally unexpected. Not only was the race won by a female jockey for the first time, but her brother was her strapper; and her brother has T21 (Down syndrome).
The media erupted, marveling at how incredible this all was. A woman won the cup? Her brother has a disability and he is a contributing member of society? The surprise that echoed through news and social media was little short of condescending. When we are surprised that someone can achieve something, our words are saying what we really think. We didn't believe that they could do that thing in the first place.
A woman won the race? Congratulations to her! But why shouldn't she be able to win? Women can ride a horse just as well as men. A man with a disability has held a job for the last 10 years doing the thing that he loves? Well, why shouldn't he be able to do that? Why are you surprised at either of these thing? Did you think they couldn't happen? Why?
Please don't be surprised that Imogen has an awesome life that is as much the same as other children her age as it is different. Don't limit her by thinking she can't do things. Congratulate her for all the hard work she puts into being awesome.