Today is the day people. DISABILITY DIARIES IS GO.
Basically, you're in store for a week-long extravaganza of reviews, interviews, discussions, TBRs ... pretty much any kind of post you can imagine, all related to promoting decent representations of disability in literature, especially YA.
If you want to make sure you don't miss a single post - which you don't, right? - make sure you follow me and my fellow mods, Angel, Cee Arr, Dina, Ely and Jolien on Twitter, and keep an eye on the #DisabilityDiaries2017 hashtag: we've got a load of other people contributing, so it's the best way to keep on top of everything.
But ... why do we need an event like this? Why do we need Disability Diaries?
I've attempted to explain why disability representation is so important generally in a guest post at Chasing Faerytales, and also expressed my anger at harmful representation in this little rant here. But today I'm going to answer that question in a new way.
I need to tell you the story of The Woman.
And not in a good way.
This is the conversation we had. I've removed the boring bits, like me saying "Hi, I'm Lara", but the first words written were basically the first words out of her mouth:
Her: So, do you go to school?
Me: Uh ... yeah. I go to [local Secondary], which is a mainstream school.
Thankfully, I resisted the urge to add "and I'm in the top set, you pig". Would have been entertaining to see her face, though.
Her: Can you tell me a bit about ... why you're in the chair?
I wasn't exactly keen to tell a perfect stranger what's actually private medical information, but I figured my commitment to making sure people are educated about disability still stood, so I told her. Through only ever-so-slightly gritted teeth, I explained that cerebral palsy was a condition that affected my nervous system, that it caused lower-body spasms, and ... well, some other stuff too. I don't remember all of it.
Her: Do you take any medication? Like, to help with the spasms and things?
Me: No, there isn't any, really. I've taken pain meds after operations, but mostly it's just a physio programme, and -
Her: Oh, you should!
Her: I think medication would really help you.
Me: Oh, well I'm constantly in contact with my doctors, and they - we - never really thought that medication would be useful.
Her: Oh, no, no, no! I'm a nurse, and there are a lot of supplements ...
And then she was off. Listing medications and herbal things and - by the end, the only way I could get her to stop was by thanking her and saying I'd bear them in mind. So she got to wander off and think she'd done her daily good deed for a poor disabled girl, and I was left with the feeling that my feelings, opinions and knowledge had been completely ignored.
At no point had she tried to be rude to me, or bully me, or hurl slurs at me, or anything like that. She just fell victim to her own near-complete lack of knowledge about disabled people and how to interact with us - and honestly that's quite sad. As far as I can tell, she was trying her best to be nice.
But solely because the world doesn't contain enough education on disability, she ended up alienating me, treating me like I was stupid, and completely denying me any right to make my own choices. Just because no-one had ever told her how to avoid that.
And that's why we need Disability Diaries.
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