Advocacy Musings for December 18
A year ago I started this series of “musings.” I was recovering from breaking my left hip unexpectedly and having a replacement one. For some reason my thoughts for last December dwelt on the beautiful image of the River Manifold, its appearance, disappearance and sudden re-emergence in the valleys and pastures she runs through hidden and unhidden.
I recently heard that my friend Chris Hughes from Chapel-en-le-Frith has passed away. Chris was a disabled man who spent all his adult life working and fighting for Equality and Rights, in one way or another. I knew him mostly as an effective and well-informed community worker for the Derbyshire Centre for Integrated Living. But I know he was also a member of D.A.N. This was (and maybe still is) the Direct Action Network through which its members, during the 1990s, chained themselves to inaccessible buses, demonstrated outside public buildings that could not be entered if you happened to be in a wheel chair and generally caused mayhem in order to gain a greater measure of social equality. Though this is not my personal form of advocacy and not one I recommend to others particularly, I believe that direct action by disabled people did have an effect. It certainly did on me. Knowing disabled people who are strong, determined and vociferous, such as Chris, was an important factor in breaking the stereotype of passive and dependent recipients of “charity.” And that in turn helped me realise that many of us need the opportunity to reach our potential, to contribute to society as well as receive from it. In other words, to fly! Thank you Chris for your humour and doggedness.
Direct Action as a sort of advocacy is less like the quiet and surprising river I described last year and more of a mighty waterfall or weir; water crashing away over rocks and making a dramatic impact.
Advocacy is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution and positive social change has to be tackled on a number of fronts. But things do need putting right. My hip had to be replaced swiftly and expertly and I am grateful to all involved in that. Getting fully mobile takes time, exercise, patience and determination. A lot of advocacy is like that but we all need to know the goal is important and achievable. I am not talking about being able to walk if you couldn’t to start with or have permanently lost the ability. What I do mean, as I have said above is“flying:” feeling the wind of change in your feathers, soaring and diving freely, being part of the world, uncaged by other peoples’ limited expectations.
Peter Dawson – Advocate/Senior Advocacy Development Worker, Peaks and Dales Advocacy.
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