“Nothing About Us, Without Us”, Being an Ally – by Cllr Amanda Grimshaw BEM, Labour’s equalities lead:
Disability History Month takes place annually, and the theme this year is Health and Wellbeing.
DHMUK’s (Disability History Month UK) founding document, written in 2009, states that:
‘For some time now a number of disabled-led organisations have felt the need to have a specific time in the year when the history of our struggle for equality and human rights can be focussed on.’
It’s aims are stated as:
- ‘Advocating equality for disabled people’
- ‘Promoting disability equality and inclusion – ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us”
- ‘Examining the roots of ‘Disablism’ – negative attitudes, harassment and hate crime’
- ‘Celebrating disabled people’s history – struggles for rights, equality and inclusion’
- ‘Challenging and exposing the unequal position of disabled people in our society’
- ‘The Cultural and Artistic portrayal of disabled people’
- ‘Highlighting examples of good disability equality’
- ‘In line with the ‘social model of disability’, the involvement of disabled people, their organisations and leadership is critical in the development of events and resources and focus of Disability History Month’
- ‘The participation of non-disabled allies in our struggle for liberation is welcome’
Prior to being elected as a Councillor and becoming Labour’s equalities lead, I had never heard of the phrase ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us’.
It’s such a simple phrase, but completely makes sense.
At the age of 27 my sister was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and over the following 40 odd years I watched her becoming more and more disabled, I watched a transformation of her mindset where initially on diagnosis she had fear and sadness, then she became angry, in such desperate time she converted to Catholicism and hoped for a miracle and then finally stoic and accepting, holding off for as long as she could before accepting that a wheelchair was the next phase of her MS journey.
In the 1980s a drug was being trailed which would not be available to those already unable to walk.
She fought like a warrior to keep mobile but eventually succumbed to the wheelchair before the drug was ready for public use. Now many years later she is bed-bound but her mind is still as sharp and bright and intelligent but, in her demeanour, she is peaceful and accepting, because there is no alternative.
Over these years I have watched her decline, whilst witnessing her mental strength and bravery and have along with her husband and daughter been an advocate, and an ally as in that decline her ability to fight for herself lessened.
I’ve also witnessed how easy it is for people to talk about a disabled person not to the disabled person and I’m quite sure over the many years she has been ill that I was sometimes complicit in allowing that to happen. Not anymore. We must all be lions defending our disabled community and for my sister and others like her we must ensure that the principle of ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us’ is held firm.
Cllr Amanda Grimshaw BEM
Image: Disability History Month UK