Over the past several months I’ve received more and more pressure to interview mostly persons with disabilities for my web series Day of Small Things. For some odd reason people have started saying “ohhh, girl with cerebral palsy must interview wheelchair athlete or deaf actor or MP without legs or [insert disability and professional title of your choice here]. That would be a great combination!”
No, it wouldn’t.
Look, I’m not saying that I don’t love my interviews with Tanni Grey Thompson or Evelyn Glennie. One of the best DOST interviews of all time was that of David Holmes after his spinal cord injury abot how his definitions of achievement were altered with that spilt second. But I don’t look for disabled people to interview for my projects for the same reason Fi Glover doesn’t single out only women to interview her projects. We are looking for only interesting people, not those that fit in a certain diversity category.
“But it’s so inspiring when you talk to people with disabilities about how they define achievement,” one of my PA’s tell me with a list of more potential interviewees in her hand, most of whom are either disabled or work with people with disabilities. She’s irritated when I flat out tell her to think of potential subjects without disabilities.
As a presenter, as an actor, as a writer with a disability it is not my job to inspire you about disability. We’ve got to get this through our heads as a society. Categorising people is the same as objectifying people and expecting them to behave according to your expectations rather than allowing them to behave as individuals. That isn’t progress in the name of diversity, it’s a continuation of the status quo under the guise of progress.
No one would dream of going up to Oprah and say “you should interview more black women. It’s so inspiring when you do,” without expecting to get smacked on the side of the head. I was no put on this earth to inspire. I was not put on this earth to be a conduit between disabled people and those who are (temporarily) abled bodied. I was not put on this earth to fit into your categories. I am here to do the best work I can do, experience the fullness of being a human with as much depth as I can possibly muster, and love as many people as best I can. That means talking to as many people as possible without pushing the disability agenda. It’s about understanding the human condition.