Why words and speaking up are my superpowers

Why words and speaking up are my superpowers
Posted on Wed 25 May 2022

Writtren by Hannah Diviney, author, activist and client of CPA.

Hannah writes a regular column for CPA exploring her journey with cerebral palsy and activism - head here to check out previous blogs and hear Hannah on Cerebral Conversations podcast. 

 

Hi friends,

Things have been so busy in my world lately that time’s just sort of floated by. I haven’t really had a minute to stop and think about much of anything, except for the fact that I feel more hopeful after the events of this weekend than I have in a while. For the moment, at least maybe we can rest a little in pushing the boulders up the very steep hills because we know that the people at the top of the hill are actually paying attention for once.

I carried that hope and renewed optimism with me last weekend as I took the stage at the Sydney Writer’s Festival alongside four other brilliantly creative disabled people to discuss why society at large needs to start paying attention to us. We talked about why we should be recognised and rewarded for the expertise we have gained through life experience, through trial and error, and through living out the everyday realities of life in a body our world is not really built for. It felt strange to be billed as an ‘expert’ when to me, (no matter what I might achieve or the ‘profile’ I attain).

I’m just a young woman who was born three months before she was supposed to be with Cerebral Palsy to show for it, who wasn’t supposed to be able to talk and now never shuts up, and who from the age of four has known that words were her superpower.

That particular discovery of words as a superpower, which I know we’ve talked about before,  will forever be intertwined with the ways the little girl I once was learned to process that she was different from other kids her age. That the things she needed to navigate in the world were often more complicated, prickly and misunderstood or in fact, not thought of at all. There’s a reason my mum used to tell me the pen was mightier than the sword. Because she knew that for me, my pen would need to be mightier than Excalibur itself. That’s the only way people would ever pay my brain any attention.

I knew coming into this, that people would expect me to talk about accessibility. That they’d assume my expertise as it were, lay in reminding all of you why we need ramps and lifts for every staircase in public spaces and the fact that a place can’t really be considered wheelchair accessible, even if it’s only one or two steps.  Why it’s not OK to use disabled toilets as storerooms or to design them so poorly that the door can’t close and someone has to stand guard in the hallway, an experience I had only last week.

I often joke that one of my plans for the far away future is running mobility aid classes for my friends and family as they age, teaching them how to navigate the world of walking frames and wheelchairs I already have decades of experience using even in my early twenties. Do you know how weird it is to be in some ways at the same stage as your grandparents some seventy years too early?

Sometimes I even contemplate creating an accessibility consultancy business for the entertainment industry because that is one world disabled people are latecomers to and that needs to change now. We need to be allowed to make bold entrances into the books, movies, television and music people let into their lives as fans, creators and professionals.

But beyond my accessibility consultant skills and the thesis I could all too easily write on why lived experience needs to be prioritised and just how much authentic representation matters, there are a few other things I have expertise in that I wanted to share with you.

I am an expert at making people uncomfortable. Probably because I don’t stay quiet in the too narrow box they expect and accept me to inhabit, and instead get opportunities like getting to speak at Sydney Writer’s Festival.

There’s one last thing I feel qualified to call myself, and that is, someone who sees. For most of my life I’ve known what it is to be both stared at and completely invisible, so I know how important it is to look at a person and really see all of who they are. To not be afraid. To not look away.

That’s why I’m an advocate. A writer. The Editor in Chief of Missing Perspectives, a media company dedicated to addressing the representation of young women and girls around the world, as well as the wearer of what some people consider a ridiculous amount of hats (the figurative kind).

My advice for anyone who wants to start ‘seeing’ and understanding disabled people?

Open your eyes. We’ve been here the whole time.

Exciting news — Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation is launching a new podcast featuring Remarkable participants that highlights the stories behind life-changing science and innovative disability tech.

NDIS pricing boosted to support participants. The new NDIS Pricing Arrangements and Price Limits will come into effect from Friday, 1 July 2022. Read on to find out how the changes will affect your CPA services.