Live TV is stressful. (To clarify – The Drum is recorded live, beginning at 5.00 pm, and then it goes to air immediately after the recording ends, at 6.00 pm.) There’s a lot of pre show briefings, thinking on your feet, and also listening carefully to what the other panelists say (there’s no video feed to the Melbourne studio).
While I’m smiling here, I was not as calm as I looked. I had an access issue when I arrived, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it through the interview (I had mentioned it when I explained the social model of disability – where barriers are more disabling than our bodies) and afterward. (I am not going into it here – it’s been addressed and I received an apology – but I did tweet about it, if you’re looking for more info.)
It can be really hard to do my work and encounter access barriers and ableism – even more ironic when that’s one of the things I’m there to talk about. It’s always a risk raising the issue – do I stay quiet or not? It can be even harder when media opportunities don’t come by all that often, and there’s a fear of never being asked back because I’ll be deemed as difficult. We all know how that turned out after a 2018 radio interview where the host said my face wouldn’t be good at Halloween, among other things, and I spoke up in the media afterward. I wasn’t invited back for 10 months.
And it can also be difficult to ask for accessibility – because often we are made to feel we are asking too much; and our accessibility needs are so often not met why go to the trouble of asking and being disappointed again?
We are deemed as divas, have high expectations, asking too much; and it’s said we are playing the victim when we speak out if our needs are met or we are let down by discrimination.
Disabled people are really good at masking (I’m borrowing that term which I see a lot used by autistic people) – masking the pain and barriers we experience; some traits of our impairments that non disabled people often discriminate against; remaining silent about ableism and inaccessibility; and also minimising our experiences of being discriminated against. It’s really hard , tedious work, on top of being disabled.
When disabled people speak up about access barriers, ableism and discrimination, I know it can be uncomfortable to hear. No one wants to be told they’ve made it hard for someone else. Sometimes no one is at fault. But I ask you to please consider how many times we’ve encountered this before; and how much emotion and risk we expend in addressing it.
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