Time to rethink disability

A note from the editor

Jody McIntyre

What about success?

One of the challenges of editing a ‘Disability Issue’ is that my mobility is not something I think about much. You might start to worry about my state-of-mind if I were to look in the mirror every morning, and say ‘Ah, yes, I still have two hands, feet and dark brown eyes.’ And just as I was born with them, I was ‘born like this’, which is not a very politically correct (or even accurate) way to describe my quadriplegic cerebral palsy. But while I don’t define myself by my ‘level of mobility’, the struggle disabled people face in their day-to-day lives both inspires and motivates me. Not least because it is one I face myself.

But I was also tired of hearing about ‘obstacles’ for disabled people. So in this magazine you’ll hear from Anoop Kumar, a disabled citizen journalist, who interviews a visually-impaired science whiz who is breaking the mould in India. Then, from Britain, Francesca Martinez recounts how she shook the idea she was ‘faulty’ and found fame as a comedian. On a more serious note, Maysoon Zayid returns to Palestine to assist a new generation of disabled children born under occupation, and Luke Dale-Harris uncovers human rights abuses against disabled people that continue to tarnish Romania’s reputation.

Since writing my personal account for this issue, I’ve started catching the bus again, and playing football; albeit one-a-side, and in the lounge of my flat. Both activities make me realize how much has changed since my childhood. And yet, just over a year since the Paralympics came to London with much fanfare, I think we have some way to go before the achievements of disabled people from all walks of life are encouraged and celebrated.

Elsewhere in this edition we interview John Pilger about his latest film Utopia on the resistance of indigenous Australians, and expose the domestic slavery that can await South Asian brides under the smokescreen of arranged marriage in Britain.

Jody McIntyre for the New Internationalist co-operative.
www.newint.org

The big story

Is it time for a new wheelchair access icon? A group calling itself the Accessible Icon Project proposes a more dynamic version of the International Symbol of Access, in circulation since 1969. The BBC reports that the new icon started as a piece of ‘guerrilla art’ on the campus of Gordon College near Boston, US. Artist Sara Hendron, one of those behind the project, says the new symbol is ‘a metaphor for self-direction and self determination’. accessibleicon.org

Is it time for a new wheelchair access icon? A group calling itself the Accessible Icon Project proposes a more dynamic version of the International Symbol of Access, in circulation since 1969. The BBC reports that the new icon started as a piece of ‘guerrilla art’ on the campus of Gordon College near Boston, US. Artist Sara Hendron, one of those behind the project, says the new symbol is ‘a metaphor for self-direction and self determination’. accessibleicon.org

Steve A Johnson under a CC Licence

Rolling towards progress

Jody Mcintyre takes the notion of disability to task with a personal exploration of difference and defiance.

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I have always been independently minded, determined to follow the path written for me in life. Sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes we fall over... especially if we have quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Even the language of disability is a political nightmare. Is a disability something you ‘have’, ‘suffer from’ or ‘were born with’? Are you ‘different’, ‘special’ or exactly the same as everyone else? In fact, being a disabled person puts a swift end to these seemingly unending dilemmas. You don’t ha...




Features

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Photographer Suvra Kanti Das meets survivors of the garment factory collapse in Dhaka.

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Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI) exposed filthy and degrading conditions in Romania’s institutions in January 2006. This boy spent every day tied to a chair at the Siret Psychiatric Institution.

Why does abuse persist in Romania?

Luke Dale-Harris reports on the ongoing battle to improve the rights of disabled people locked away in secretive Romanian institutions.

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Disability - the facts

The types, causes, prevention and other facts on disability.

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Jamal Salman receives treatment at Al-Wafa Rehabilitation Centre in Gaza. He was injured during an Israeli drone strike which killed his wife and brother-in-law. The father of two small children, he is now paraplegic and has limited use of one of his arms.

From hero to zero

Maysoon Zayid explores the challenges facing those disabled by war, occupation and prejudice.

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Nobody is 'normal'

Jody Mcintyre speaks to comedian Francesca Martinez about growing up 'wobbly' and resisting austerity in Britain.

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Patrick Lahai.

In our own words

Citizen journalists Sheku Feika and Anoop Kumar tell the remarkable tales of three disabled young people from Sierra Leone and India.

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An extravagant wedding ceremony can lead to a life of drudgery – and the cost may be seen as a debt the bride must ‘pay off’.

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For hundreds of South Asian women each year, an arranged marriage in Britain leads not to love but to slavery. Samira Shackle reports.

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A young sex worker with a client. The vast majority of the girls’ customers are foreign.

'Everybody preferred children'

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Mohammad Akhtar Alam’s scar is a constant reminder of his debt.

Desperate measures

Why Bangladeshis are selling the only asset they have- their organs. By Sophie Cousins.

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Regulars

Clockwise from top left: Traditional communities have become more organized in recent years – Victor Ara is an elected leader of one in Potosí; this woman carrying the wiphala – a flag of indigenous unity – waits for Evo Morales to speak at a rally in Santa Cruz; at more than 4,000 metres above sea level, El Alto is probably the highest and largest open-air market in the world; musician Adrián Villanueva (right) with a young relative in his La Paz home.

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Letter from Botswana: independence or surrender?

It's time for the nation to shake off its lethargy, says Wame Molefhe.

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John Pilger: Australia's silent apartheid

The investigative journalist and filmmaker tells Hazel Healy about his new film, and explains why Australia is still on an international ‘shame list’.

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