CW: ableism, low expectation of disability eugenics – but read on, because there’s friendship, disability pride, identity and joy.
On Saturday night, I met my friend Kathleen – @BeautifulLittleSoulsBlog – for the first time IRL It was a pretty special meeting. She’s one of the best parent-allies I know, and she’s also disabled.
Back in 2017, I was delivering regular disability awareness and access training to an organisation in Sydney. One of the parts of my training program detailed the medical model of disability – where disability is seen as a deficit, something to be eliminated or cured. I had included a news segment and article from ABC News, about the way doctors suggest termination as the only option and apologise to parents when they discover their baby will have or has Down syndrome. In my training, I also reinforced how disability is not a tragedy. One family featured in the news story was Kathleen and Andrew, who have a little girl called Elva. Elva has Down syndrome. I had followed Kathleen on social media back then and mentioned I have been using that news story in my training.
Kathleen and I have become really close on social media – commenting on and sharing each others posts, and chatting regularly. I chat to Andrew too. I’ve admired the way Kathleen encourages anti ableism and disability pride in her posts about Elva – never exploiting or oversharing. She’s also detailed her own disability diagnosis journey on her socials. Her account is well worth a follow.
On Saturday night, I was scheduled to see a Fringe show led by dancers with Down Syndrome. I asked Kathleen if she wanted to come – and she said yes!
We had dinner, then icecream and saw the show.
The Emotion 21 show was joyous and hopeful and showed such talent and leadership among the dancers. It’s been great to see them thrive this past year. The show also touched on the low expectations of people with Down syndrome, and proved just what the dancers can do, defying those expectations.
And as I predicted, Kathleen and my friendship is as strong IRL as online. It was a fun night.
Being disabled and belonging to the disability community is so enriching. The people I have met has been one of the best things. To meet Kathleen, and also see the progress of the Emotion 21 dancers, has been wonderful. I’m so lucky to be disabled and do the work I do.
Image descriptions: 1. Carly and Kathleen, smiling. 2. Carly and Kathleen with icecream. 3. An article about Down syndrome diagnosis, featuring Kathleen, Andrew and Elva. 4. Two dancers from Emotion 21, dancing. The audience is watching on, their faces blurred.
If you want me to deliver training or book me to speak, get in touch!