All posts by mdaley

The White Man’s Burden – Global Disability Summit personal reflection

The title of this blog is intentional and aims to be provocative. I have borrowed the title from William Easterly’s book, “The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good”​. This is very true of the Global Disability Summit hosted in London.

This blog is based on my personal experience and observations of the Global Disability Summit and doesn’t reflect anyone else’s opinion.

The continued road to discrimination and exploitation

I can say, without a doubt, that the Global Disability Summit was the ideal platform for our UK Government to embarrass and shame those present ‘developing countries’ for their failings with regard to Disabled People (as depicted in the image above) and their purposeful denial of their own wrongs in relation to Disabled People in the UK. We must remember that colonialism and imperialism do not die. The United Kingdom continues to be revered around the world as a country that is the voice of equality. At the Summit, there was an unequivocal message that the UK Government has an effect on other countries in terms of being a leader in disability equality and has paved the way for innovation. It’s no surprise the Summit was hosted on the site of the Global Disability Innovation Hub.

The UK Government needs you
The UK Government co-hosted “its first ever Global Disability Summit with the International Disability Alliance and the Government of Kenya”.

However, history has taught us about the slippery behaviour of the UK Government. Through the art of sophistication, control and dominance, the UK Government has a way of masking their horrible history, failings and exploitation. With this knowledge, it led me to ask the question as to who is receiving any benefit from this Summit? What was the purpose of the Global Disability Summit and hosting such an elaborate event? The Summit was held in the London Borough of Newham; an area with huge poverty and inequality. The Evening Standard has reported that the London Borough of Newham is one of London's ten worst areas in terms of homelessness. Therefore, I felt it was key for me to show some of the delegates the true reality of the life of people living in the area. They were in total horror when they were more informed about the large number of people sleeping on London’s streets. One of the delegates commented, “this is so unexpected, not a place of inequality and I did not think people slept on the streets. The stories of these people are not often reported in our home countries.”

The idyllic picture was the reason that had attracted my parents to leave Jamaica for a home in the UK. Then, the UK was portrayed as the, “mother land and paved with gold; a country filled with opportunities”. This was an attractive factor that drew many people to the UK after the Second World War.

However, the truth was, the UK needed people from the colony post-Second World War (1948 – 1957) in order to help address the labour shortage. The Caribbean was one of the countries that the UK received huge help from, particularly with regard to building the NHS.

Thus, it does not come as any surprise that with Brexit fast approaching, the UK Government is desperate to create global opportunities with their colony. The recent news coverage reports that Theresa May, PM, is looking to secure trade deals with Africa after Brexit. Moreover, the "UK seeks to tap into the Kenyan markets as the Brexit deadline approaches" with this country also being the co-host country of the Summit.

However, I’m deeply saddened that the UK Government has ignored the findings of the UN Disability committee. The Disability Committee reported that the UK Government is causing a “human catastrophe” in relation to Disabled People and that they can no longer call themselves leaders of disability provision. As I write this blog, we have Disabled People taking up hospital beds, as in the case of Lakhvinder Kaur because she was evicted from a care home while in intensive care and made homeless.

We are seeing history repeating itself, with the UK masking its failings in order to attract help from other countries, create opportunities, secure their own dominance and obtain power at the expense of others.

The Aliens Act
Colonialism reinforces inequality so it will come as no surprise when I tell you that I’m frequently asked questions about where I come from or where I was born. Not satisfied when I reply in the UK, people normally continue with the question; and your parents? I could discuss this issue further but I will not because it is not the intention of this blog. Anyway, I was repeatedly asked at the Global Disability Summit the same questions about where I am from. It became painfully annoying and frustrating. I believe I was asked this question as the images portrayed of UK Disabled Leaders are mostly White Disabled Men and few Women. What this revealed to me is the level of inequality experienced by Black Disabled Women in the UK and reinforced that our presence in the UK is not recognised or embraced.

This experience drew me to the Aliens Act  (now known as the Immigration Act) which was introduced in the UK to control its borders, immigration and to view non-UK citizens as a threat. A threat is exactly how I was viewed at the Summit. I was totally taken back when I was asked for Identification (ID) at the registration desk. I became vexed instantly. All sorts of thoughts were rushing through my head as I knew assumptions were being made based on my skin colour and the assumption that I was a non-UK citizen. I remained calm and controlled my anger. I asked why ID was needed and why this information was not conveyed during the registration process. My blood was at boiling point because I knew this request was borne out of racism and I knew this system was set up to keep checks on the black oversea delegates to ensure they were at the event and returned to their home countries. So did I provide ID? No, because I knew it was not necessary. And, why were immigration control practices being applied at the Summit, particularly when delegates would have already completed the necessary checks to enter the UK?

Once I gained entrance. I rolled into the event but my frustration continued to rise, as well as my disappointment with the obvious signs of racial inequality within the job roles and the way Disabled People from Asian and African countries were being depicted as inferior. It did not matter that this event was being co-hosted with the Kenyan Government; it was clear who the power-holders were. White privilege and power has the ability to discredit the worth of Black People, segregate and create enormous damage in the way Black People are perceived. My feeling of uncomfortableness was painful as the reality is that the privilege of the power-holders has depicted our Black Disabled Sisters and Brothers as helpless and as the the White Man’s burden.

In fact, this is far from the truth since through my networking, I have learnt that many of the African countries present at the event have more Disabled People in their Government than the UK Government does.

To watch Kenyan MP Isaac Mwaura speech click here

A Change Is Gonna Come
The Global Disability Summit showed no respect for Disabled People globally and no appreciation for our shared experienced. The Summit was used as an attempt to mask "UK failure to uphold disabled people's rights"

The words of Sam Cooke, “A Change is Gonna Come”, expressed the very essence of the International Disabled People movement's demand for solidarity and unity. This is exactly what Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) did through hosting the rival International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit, which was a great event where Disabled People from around the globe came together to share our experiences. It did not waste resources and require an elaborate setting to bring people together. It was a perfect example to show why we need solidarity for our struggle and the liberation of Disabled People globally.

DPAC also hosted a "festival of resistance" outside the Summit in order to criticise the hypocrisy of co-hosting the Summit. Myself and Nadia Hadad, from the European Network on Independent Living, were prevented from re-entering the summit by security as we had DPAC leaflets (see image below), which were perceived as promoting negative messages about the UK Government. It was through our sister, Sojourner Truth, that I learnt about underground activism. Through her teaching, I managed to slip pass security with the leaflets and shared them with many of the delegates. I also got many Disabled People to leave the Summit and join in the festival, which was a proud moment for me.

Another huge applause must go to Alliance for Inclusive Education, Campaigns and Policy Coordinator, Simone Aspis for publicly calling out the UK Government for their failings with regard to Disabled People. Click here to watch and download Simone’s speech.

What’s going on?
When Marvin Gaye sung, “what’s going on”, it couldn’t be more of a poignant question to conclude this blog with.

Angela Davis’ quote perfectly articulates the point of this blog, although her reference relates to America. She says that, “as a black woman, my politics and political affiliation are bound up with and flow from participation in my people's struggle for liberation, and with the fight of oppressed people all over the world against American imperialism”.

So when we discuss the question of the advantages and disadvantages of the Global Disability Summit, we need to decide if we want to support colonialism and imperialism or not. The other questions we need to ask are; did the Summit promote solidarity and unity between Disabled People globally or did it promote disability liberation or oppression?

Peace and one love

“You will walk again – God Bless you.”

You might be asking if I have published this title as a joke or as a way for me to generate interest and increase my online popularity… Seriously though, this is no joke! This was something I heard while I was being accompanied by my personal assistant (PA) (who will remain nameless) as we travelled from Stratford bus station on a 262 bus to my next destination. About five minutes into my journey, an old man, who also happened to be a black person, entered the bus. Let’s name him Sam. He appeared to have some difficulties with walking but managed to take the seat next to my PA. If only we had known he would turn out to be a nightmare passenger, I would have asked my PA to block the seat with her bag! Well, maybe not, but still… 

262 London BusThe bus ride
There I was positioned in the wheelchair accessible space, minding my own business, as I always do, when things started to go wrong. Sam, now comfortably seated, without a minute to spare or any hesitation blurted out a question to my PA, asking if they were my carer.  “No,” she replied snappishly. Not satisfied with this response, and to my amazement, he commented loudly, 

“You will walk again – God Bless you.”  

Really? Was this man serious? All I could think was, why was he all up in my business? What is it with people and making comments about walking? Frankly, I’m vexed, annoyed, and totally offended. There was no way I was going to remain silent in such circumstances because what benefit would that have served?  I’ll tell you — none! I’m always reminded by the words of one of our greatest leaders and remember what Martin Luther King taught us, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” So… instantly, without any pause, I blurted out, “I don’t want to walk and I’m happy the way I am”.  All I can say is, Sam, you’re so wrong about this …

Stormzy – shut up

Stormy in a group singing Shut Up

Of course, Sam was totally oblivious to the fact that he had made my bus ride seem everlasting and excruciatingly painful. The dude was very talkative, annoying and just wouldn’t leave me alone! We’ve all experienced those moments when you just want the person to shut up. Yep, it was one of those moments and he wouldn’t at all… Stormzy, where are you? In that moment, I hoped Stormzy would rock up and drop his infamous lyrics – Shut Up.  As the bus approached each stop, I hoped it would be his stop, but he stayed put and my suffering was only to be prolonged.

Physical constraint
Anyone that travels by public transport will know about the physical constraints it can pose, however, for a wheelchair user like myself, we are stuck in the only one accessible space. There isn’t the option to move upstairs to avoid passengers like Sam. So, with no other alternative, I had to endure Sam’s irritating behaviour and be driven to despair. In total disbelief, somehow my PA’s and my facial expressions didn’t require translation in terms of our disapproval of how he acted, but he remained oblivious!

Eventually, Sam reached his stop and I sighed in great relief – woo! I was looking forward to being able to continue my ride in peace.

Reasoning – "what you is what you is, from the beginning to the end"
I would like to say that Sam’s act was unbelievable in my view. Thankfully, it’s not an everyday occurrence as most people don’t exhibit a negative response to my presence. I do feel however, that it’s worth sharing some reasoning in relation to my experience. So, here it goes:

  • I believe Sam felt aggrieved seeing me as a wheelchair user since he viewed it as a punishment that I needed to be removed from. Therefore, he felt pity and offered me his blessing.
  • Sam used the religious phrase, “God Bless” in order to give endorsement to my inability to walk. He also reinforced the negative notion that religion teaches that disability is a punishment.
  • He lessened my existence, rendered me helpless and made me appear as a burden. This perception coincides with the way disabled people are viewed as being a ‘cared for person’, which is probably why he asked my PA if she was my carer.
  • While Sam clearly appeared to have his own walking difficulties, he placed himself in an advantageous position over me and detached himself from identifying as a disabled person simply because I’m in a wheelchair. Why? Sam’s actions are the perfect example to show how we, as humans, behave when we encounter differences that do not conform to societal standards, based on social norms and values. It is these standards that help create our opinions and thus, tells us how to judge others and what is important, undesirable, and worthless. This was all displayed by Sam’s reaction towards me. It is also worth checking out my writing on 'Disability As Anti-Systemic Superpowers Which Will Consider Different Ways That A Future Without The Oppression And Disavowed Of Non-Able-Bodied People Could Be Radically Empowering’, which explores this topic further.
  • Despite changes in Britain in terms of improving attitudes towards disabled people, research by Scope has shown negative practices continues to prevail. So, if it’s tough for Disabled White People, what chance do I have as a Disabled Black woman? Let’s see what the Equality and Human Rights say about this… They published a report entitled, ‘Being disabled in Britain –  A journey less equal’, which identified a negative disparity for Disabled People of Colour. In other words, people such as myself are more likely to experience barriers of oppression.
  • As a black older man living in England, it is highly likely that Sam would have endured some form of oppression at one point in his life time. I expected his own experience to have given him an idea about our shared experiences. Instead, Sam adopted the behaviour of the oppressor. He seems to have moved from potentially being oppressed to becoming the oppressor.

Finally, I say unapologetically, that I will never be made to feel awful and inadequate for not being able to walk, for being a woman and for being a black person. How dare anyone expect me to be disappointed about my being? I think Bob Marley articulates this experience well; “What you is, what you is, from the beginning to the end”. 

One love!


Podcast on Independence and interdependence: an interview with Michelle Daley

Podcast interview hosted by Lani Parker from Sideways Times on 08 June 2017. The interview is provided as a podcast with a transcript. 

In this interview I talk about black disabled people’s experiences in Britain, intersectionalities with the disabled people’s movement, global privilege and interdependence. 

I would like to thank Lani Parker for inviting me to speak on her Podcost. It is great that there is  different platforms which create a space for sharing many of the issues that people find unconfortable to have a conversation on.

One Love!

Disability as Anti-Systemic Superpowers which will consider different ways that a future without the oppression and disavowed of non-able-bodied people could be radically empowering

Presented at the Images of Tommorrow conference
Held at Goldsmith University, London
Date: Sunday, 2 June 2017
By Michelle Daley


Michelle Daley delivering her speech


I first want to thank you for inviting me to speak at your conference. I have been asked to discuss “Disability as Anti-Systemic Superpowers which will consider different ways that a future without the oppression and disavowed of non-able-bodied people could be radically empowering”.

My intention is to answer this question through my speech. I will start by saying that I reject the term “able bodied”. I say this because it refers to the physical attributes of a person as being perfect, this is problematic because what happens for those people like myself that do not fit into this narrative? I will elaborate further on this point later.

Also mutably connected to the term able bodied is image. We live in a society that is fixated on our representation and being able to conform to standards and levels to measure our attainment and acceptance within society. The disturbing point here is the mass of people are conditioned to think and behave like robots. They buy into ideas and thoughts that are usually influenced by people in positions of power and positions of privileged that are able to suggest what is and what is not acceptable standards, as the image for our today and tomorrow. Therefore, systems are created which tells people what to and what not to value giving permission to deny any responsibility to accept discriminatory behaviours. We see how the robotic behaviour manifests itself. It’s how we are portrayed, other people's actions and how others speak about us, this is often done in a specific way – usually negative and dehumanise the individual.  Here's examples of how others and society define me and other disabled people’s presence:

  • remain childlike
  • cannot make a good mother / father
  • cannot make a good employee
  • will always need to be cared for / cared for person
  • need specialist services which are based on segregation and disconnection

I want to put some context to our conversation so when we talk about a Disabled Person / People what do we mean? What am I actually talking about?

When we discuss the experience of Disabled People it is often medicalised and linked to specialist services. I will refer to Vic Finkeslstein and Dr Ossie Stuart (cited in Hales, G 1995, p.170) who I think articulates this point well. It is the Social Model of Disability that helps disabled people to better understand their realities.  Finkeslstein and Stuart say that the Social Model of Disability “incorporates a historic interpretation of the situation facing disabled people. It suggests that people with physical and mental impairments can have satisfying life-styles as disabled people if the focus of attention is shifted towards the removal of disabling barriers rather than concentrating only on the rehabilitation of disabled individuals…”  

So, in this context I want to reflect back on the term ‘abled bodied’ and make the point here to show how the use of the word helps to reinforce oppressive and offensive behaviour. It creates an ideology to suggest that some bodies are broken and useless (not able bodied). If it was not for these beliefs, then society may have been created with infrastructures that takes into account our differences and the need to embed equality and justice in all that we do.

I guess you have figured by now that the preferred term is non-disabled people. Non-disabled people are without an impairment and would not be effected by disabling barriers. For example, a deaf person wanting to attend and access this conference today would need to have a sign language interpreter. For a hearing person they would not be prevented from attending this conference if a sign language interpreter was not made available. This is what makes the person non-disabled person as opposed to abled bodied.

It was from the teaching of the Social Model that I learnt about ableism and how the world is designed and structured to help non-disabled people. In order to help us understand ableism, I want us to reflect on the labour market and look at jobs that can be done without formal qualifications. I have asked the question, is it ok that non-disabled people can be employed to work without no formal qualifications? Then why can't disabled people get the equivalent job. Society helps to create job opportunities for non-disabled people but not for disabled people. This is ableism! It is also about the images we hold about disabled people as being non-productive and not valued. I ask another question, who is taking responsibility to help create opportunities for disabled people if the society is geared towards helping non-disabled people?

In fact, when I first became aware of the Social Model it was a shift in consciousness. I had undergone a paradigm shift in my thinking and understanding about systems, structures, power and privilege which can be used to control and determine Disabled Peoples opportunities. However, the Social Model of Disability fell short of addressing the issues around gender, race and so on. This only extended the oppression and discrimination I and many other disabled people would experience. I continued to be forced into a position to create a hierarchy based on my different identities – how is this possible? This is proof that disabled people are viewed as a homogenous group which ignores our multiple identities. We only need to look at the way social care assessments are carried out and the way service provisions are offered as they often do not address people’s individual cultural needs.

While we accept that some of these issues are not only limited to black disabled people and disabled People of Colour (POC), our different identities all contribute to the way we access service provisions, form relationships, employment opportunities, education achievement, social networks and community event. The great Nasa Begum, Millie Hill and Andy Stevens co-wrote (1994) the book titled Reflections: The views of Black Disabled People on their Lives and Community Care. They brought to the forefront the issues experienced by Black Disabled People living in Britain – this book remains relevant today.

What Kimberele Williams (New Statesman, 2014) theory on intersectionality and Patricia Hill Collins (2000) theory on the matrix of domination did for me was to crystallised how I understood my impairment, race and gender as well as the way systems are designed and organised to oppress and make our different intersects invisible and taking away the human aspects of us. Often I would be placed in situations and spaces and imposed ideas that where developed for white middle class people. This is very common particularly in decision making and policy work where the ideas developed are in the interest of people in positions of power and positions of privilege.

This then forced me to reflect on the work produced around equality and question who was / who is it for?  It even makes me think about the years of work that I have contributed to the equality agenda. I do not believe that it has reached many of the Black, Asian and ethnic minority organisations and local communities they are not encouraged or pursued to address equality issues. The reality is Black disabled people and disabled People of Colour are more likely to be disconnected from cultural social networks, cultural events and businesses as they are usually hosted in inaccessible venues and access needs are not considered.

It is evident that equality work has not effectively reached these communities; they are not able to effectively access or maintain their knowledge about any developments in the area of equality. I believe there is not enough emphasis and interest towards Black, Asian and ethnic minority organisations and local communities to address the level of inequality. But also there is very little interest in the contributions made by Black disabled people and disabled People of Colour to the work of equality. We have to ask ourselves – why is this?

This creates real issues as Black disabled people and disabled People of Colour are less likely to connect with people who share similar interests, create social networks, be informed and, consequently, experience increased isolation. It is not surprising that Black disabled people and disabled People of Colour are underrepresented in all areas of life and viewed as invisible. This makes it difficult for people to speak out to any of the movements or networks about the inequality in fear that they will be further ostracised. It is these types of conditions that drive people away but the messages society portrays is to attach the negative label as “hard to reach groups”.

I recognise that the struggle for Black disabled people and disabled People of Colour is much more difficult but it is important the we remain dedicated and committed to contributing to justice and equality work. We have to continue to make inroad and dismantle the barriers of oppression that result in our discrimination.

It was through the struggles that campaigners such as Nassa Begum, Millie Hill and Mary Prince taught me that I can imagine and should have the strength to create dreams because every success has come from the creation which stemmed from a dream. And we should dream that there will be a day our different intersectionality will not be made invisible. There will be a day that the level of our dependency on others for assistance will not render us as people who are helpless and a burden. There will be a day when ideas and standards will not be imposed to create hierarchy of oppression and divisions. There will be a day that the creation of opportunities will allow everyone to access them.

And finally there will be a day when our differences will not divide us. We will not be stigmatised by our differences and we will reject the term “abled bodied” so that people are not dehumanised. We will take responsibility to consider, recognise, accept and embrace our differences this will lay the foundation for the future. 

Thank you all and I look forward to your dreams becoming a reality.

Thank you!



  • Hales, G (1995). Beyond disability: towards an enabling society.  SAGE Publications Ltd)​
  • ​​​Collin, P H (2000). (2 edition) Black Feminist Thought. Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Routledge. London​
  • Begum, N, Hill, M and Stevens, A (1994) Reflections. The views of Black Disabled People on their Lives and Community Care. Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work. London​
  • New Statesman (2014). Kimberlé Crenshaw on intersectionality: “I wanted to come up with an everyday metaphor that anyone could use” 

Thank you letter to British Black Disabled Women activist and campaigners

Dear Sisters,

I would like to assign this letter as an appreciation to our British Black Disabled Women and British Disabled Women of Colour activist and campaigners because I don’t think you get thanked enough.

British Black Disabled Women and British Disabled Women of Colour have a right for their lives to be remembered. Their lives are no less important than other activist. In addition, I want to remember the lives of our sisters that died because they resisted and spoke out against the suffering, abuse, injustice and inequality. I also want to remember our sisters that died through the failure of institutions that are set up to protect individuals from abuse and neglect. As in the case of Beverley Lewis who was found dead at the age of 23. The inquiry report found that the London Borough of Newham Local Authority failed to support Beverley’s mother who had mental support health needs which led to Beverley's premature death.

Thank you for being pioneers and phenomenal women in disrupting the societal and political paradigm to bring about changes in the law and increasing opportunities for everyone.

You fought a tough fight which was not just about gender equality it was about the multitude of oppression experienced by Black Disabled Women and Disabled Women of Colour. You showed us the importance of acknowledgment, self-love and also not to overlook our different intersections so that they become invisible and also not to let others determine our possibilities. You told the world that we are not 'less of a woman' and that our existence is not disposable and unvalued. This is exactly the point our sister Sojourner Truth from across the Atlantic asked at a conference

"Ain't I a Woman?”

Thank you for empowering me to grow in my political consciousness, to understand the cause and effects of power and privilege action. You warned us about the effects of the ‘glass ceiling’ the barrier that keeps Black People and People of Colour from progressing but the situation is exasperated for Black Disabled Women and Disabled Women of Colour. And you also warned us against being manipulated, that often our invitation may be to fulfil a diversity exercise.

I now know the reason as to why it annoys me when I hear

“we cannot find Black Disabled People…”

This is a lie!  Because, according to Black History Studies, Black People ​have been living in Britian since 2nd century AD. So, this is the reason why I say we should not forget that India, some African countries and some Caribbean Islands were colonised and ruled by Britain up until the 1960’s. Today some Caribbean islands still have not achieved their independence from British ruling. For example, Monserrate and people living in these islands are British citizens even though they live in other parts of the world. Therefore, it’s simply ridiculous that the presence of British Black Disabled Women and British Disabled Women of Colour remain underrepresented or ignored from our history.

Your experience has proven even today when we speak out about our situation it is interpreted as revenge and a demand for retribution. This is a false notion because literature shows that your struggle and fight was never selfish or egoistic but for equality for everyone.

You created a great platform for us but we now need to transform the discourse so that we are not written out of history, considered as invisible and underrepresented in all areas of life. You also remind us that women's existence should not be relegated to only one day of the year. It is for this reason why I have identified the following British Black Disabled Women and British Disabled Women of Colour to showcase the contributions they made to equality but also making your dreams our possibilities and our reality.

Picture of Barbara Stewart hands (refer below for further information). Photo taken from My Shape Poems. 

Past activist and campaigners:

  • Nasa Begum was a qualified social worker, produced a number of publications and  work on the needs of Disabled refugees and asylum seekers. She co-wrote the book Reflections with Milliedrette Hill (Begum, N, Hill, M and Stevens, A, 1994).   
  • Milliedrette Hill was a student barrister, freelance writer and an advocate on race and disability. She co-founded Black Disabled People Association and actively spoke out about the experience of Black Disabled People. She co-wrote the book Reflections with Nasa Begum and Andy Stevens (Begum, N, Hill, M and Stevens, A, 1994).
  • Menghi Mulchandani was the Chief Executive of Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea for 13 years. She was the first Disabled Person and Woman of Colour to be appointed to lead the organisation. So far she remains the first Disabled Women of Colour to have served as a Chair of the National Centre for Independent Living.
  • Mary Price was born in Barbados and was brought to London in the 1820s by her owners, the Woods. She was the first women to present anti-slavery petition to Parliament for Enslaved African People to gain freedom from slavery.
  • Barbara Stewart was a poet and community activist. She was also known for her work on disability hate crime.

Present activist and campaigners:

  • Julie Jaye Charles the founder and head of the Equalities National Council organisation advocating on Black Disabled People’s issues. She has contributed to a number of publications on the issues effecting Black Disabled People in Britain. 
  • Eleanor Lisney is a cofounder of Sisters of Frida, British Council Disability Advisory Panel and the web team of the International Network of Disabled Women. She was the driving force for making the Million Women Rise accessible.  2010 was the first year that a platform lift was provided to assist Disabled Women to access the stage on which Eleanor and I spoke on. She has worked tirelessly with the organisers of the London Women of the World event to ensure Disabled Women have a presence on the panels.
  • Caroline Nelson has been the Chief Executive of Choice in Hackney for over 10 years. The organisation provides advocacy services for local Disabled People. She remains one of the few British Black Disabled Women to head a Disabled People's Organisation in London. 
  • Saadia Neilson in 1990s she moved from Morocco to live in England. She is an international trainer on disability issues and human rights. Saadia took part in a number of protests including the ITV Telethon. She worked closely with Milliedrette Hill and also campaigns on other intersectional issues effecting Disabled People. 
  • Sarifa Patel a community activist and campaigner. She runs the London Borough of Newham Disabled Reps Forum and campaigns against segregated education.
  • Angela Smith actively campaigns on independent living issues and is a committee member of Race Equality Foundation. She also contributed her story to Reflections book (Begum, N, Hill, M and Stevens, A, 1994).
  • Deborah Williams is a performer, writer, producer and director. She is known for her contribution in the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act in the cultural sector.

I believe that there is so much we can continue to learn from the past and cross-generational activism. I encourage you to share their stories and think about how we can deepen and extend their work but also engage young Black Disabled Women and Disabled Women of Colour in activism because they are the future.

Respect and One Love

Thank you!


Reference for Reflections Book 
Begum, N, Hill, M and Stevens, A (1994). Reflections. The views of Black Disabled People on their Lives and Community Care. Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work. London


Rise Up Against The Harm And Killing Of Disabled Women Through Myths

The post was orginally written for the Huffington Post (10 March 2017) as part of the Women of the World event 2017 #WOWLON #WOW2017

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today

For disabled women like me, one of the biggest barriers in life comes from public misconceptions about who we are, and how we live our lives.

As human beings we learn that life is full of lessons, which can make all the difference to our future. One of the most important lessons in life is to be able to distinguish between myths and facts so that we may move beyond creating erroneous beliefs that result in discriminatory and inhumane practices. So when we receive news reports about harm and the killing of disabled women through the purveying of myths and prejudice this should raise serious global concerns. 

Another lesson learnt is that a myth comes from a story and often it’s the most erroneous and unrealistic stories that makes the biggest impact, and cause the most damage. It is through the elegance of the story teller and the proclamation made which shapes beliefs on individuals, and entire communities. Such myths, unfair reporting, and misrepresentation of disabled people in the media can become a manifestation of the story and the realisation for disabled women of the world. For example, when an individual is told that a disabled woman cannot make a good mother and should not procreate. It is not surprising to receive news reports about forced sterilisation of a disabled woman, or to learn that a baby is taken away from a mother because she is a disabled woman. This could also be the reason why maternity care during pregnancy, labour, birth and postnatal are inaccessible to many disabled women. 

Throughout my life, I have come into contact with ludicrous, horrifying myths that can live on in the public conscience and be really damaging for the life chances, and social inclusion of disabled women. In such cases, fear and anxiety is created giving permission to inflict harm and abuse based on biased and unfounded stories which, sadly, are accepted as truth. 

It was only a few days ago when someone said to me that, “I needed protecting, needed to be looked after, not let out and no man should love me”. This implies that disabled women (and men) should be hidden away from society but also to a make disabled women out to be needy, and childlike. 

The most concerning issue about a myth is its ability to create a problem based on unknown facts which are usually biased against women. As I’ve just shown, this problem is further exasperated for disabled women and is increased by our different intersections. 

So when an individual is told the myth that a disabled ‘woman is less of a woman', society finds itself indoctrinated into believing the myth as truth. As a result, disabled people suffer, can feel ostracised and alienated. Worringly, when the individual believes the myth as true the action of their behaviour is justified even when it dehumanises the disabled woman.

It’s clear that the power of a myth not only poisons people with lies, but renders many disabled women of the world to a life of misery and torture. It is time for people to rise up and challenge such myths, so we can live in an accepting, inclusive world.

Women of the world, you know that we can create postive action and conversation that motivates, empowers and supports disabled women to stop the harm and killing of disabled women through unfair, unfounded myths. Because our disabled sister’s such as Mary Prince and Harriet Tubman set the momentum for us to build on. It’s also worth reminding us of the stirring words of Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. My sincere gratitude goes to her for being the hurricane force for fighting for women’s equality and human rights. This is what motivates and empowers me as a black disabled woman to produce a website to discuss such issues. Sojourner Truth has made mine and many other women of the world’s achievements possible. It is also the reason why the legacy of Sojourner Truth is so pertinent to disabled women of the world today, especially when she rightfully says “Ain’t I a women“. 

Written in solidarity of disabled women of the world. 

I will be speaking at the Disablity, women and taking action panel, 11 March, 1.15 – 2.15pm at Southbank Centre’s WOW – Women of the World Festival, supported by Bloomberg.

Do you attract unwanted attention or are you a catchy date?

The Attraction
Have you ever had a situation when doing your grocery shopping and you're approached by an attractive person? No, I haven't but there’s always a first time.  

So, here’s the moment… 

There I was strolling through a shopping aisle when this handsome man who I will name Samuel randomly approached me, offers to shake my hand which I accepted, we exchanged new year greetings and being polite to each other.

You see, I didn’t want to appear to be rude. Before you jump to conclusion, this was not because I found him to be attractive. It’s also because I'm often approached by people that I struggle to recall and being a wheelchair user, I’m pretty much an easy person for most people to remember.

I asked Samuel if he knew me? As he could have met me at a business or social engagement?  No, Samuel replied. So why has Samuel approached me? If he didn’t know me then it's obvious he’s chatting me up. Right?

Was this one of those love at first sight moments where I'm supposed to recognise the uniqueness in this person. Then I'm blown away and grab the opportunity. Was this my moment? So, what other reason does someone approach you in an appealing way and to that in a supermarket?

The conversation
He told me his name, then proceeded to say that he works with a local authority for people like me (which I will not name for obvious reasons), without a pause, he complimented my wheelchair and went on to say “I like to see the outcomes of my work”.

I was extremely upset and my behaviour changed from being Ms Sunshine to Mrs Hostile. I no longer saw the physical attraction, now I was seeing who he really was. He had now become ugly in my eyes. However, I wanted to understand Samuel’s narrative and what really triggered him to approach me? I asked Samuel to elaborate on his work and tell me more of what he did?

Samuel replied that he brokered residential and community services for a local authority, whilst he was explaining his job, he made reference to me as a way to demonstrate his work but also to depict me as an example of an outcome of professional success.  In that short encounter I had become a local authority project. He had taken my shopping experience and converted it into an outcome-based goal as well as a financial goal to show as a successful measurable outcome. This was undeniably the deepest level of insult. 

The dream
This experience drew me to think about some of our prominent leaders such as Martin Luther King, Ed Roberts and Millie Hill who advocated for change.  If they were alive today, I wonder what they would have said about this experience? To borrow the words of the great Martin Luther King he perfectly articulates a response. He says that “in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” 

It was never the dream of our leaders to have our experiences measured as a professional outcome, especially when performing a basic task such as grocery shopping. It was their dream that all human lives would be valued and respected but sadly our differences are too often interpreted as a negative. 

The Change
When the mass of people buys into a notion that convinces them that their beliefs are acceptable, for example segregated schools for disabled children, disabled people shouldn't become parents, disabled people wouldn't make good employees and so on. When in reality these types of ideologies reinforce segregation that in turn helps to create discriminatory practices.  I totally agree with the point made by Dr Angela Davis when she says “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change…I'm changing the things I cannot accept.” History has taught us about the effects people have in adapting to change. I remember in the 1980’s when the local authority which I lived introduced inclusive education. There was a huge backlash from the parents against inclusive education of disabled children because they believed it would reduce the learning standards of their non-disabled children. Here it was clear that when people try to create change it is made difficult because they use their power of influence and create arguments for the oppressed mind. These parents were not concerned about the education inequality. Disabled young people left school with no formal qualifications but the majority of society continued to remain totally oblivious to this practice which sadly is still happening. We know that formal qualifications are the passport to accessing further education and needed to compete in the job market. The education system had failed generations of young disabled people and sadly still does. To plaster the problem, when young disabled people completed their schooling they were reinstituted into day centres or other segregated institutions to be looked away from society and remain in such places until they die. I have always rejected segregated education and any other form of segregation.  The standard of education in the school I attended was so low that Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) would have deemed it as failing and forced to closed immediately if it had been a mainstream school today making it a hot topic for the press.

Once again I give my respect to Dr Angela Davis when she tells us that “you have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”

So, while Samuel might work in the profession which is about supporting Disabled people and those in need of support, the rhetoric of his views are more about disconnection of human lives. This explains the reasons to why Samuel saw my experience as a successful professional outcome. But also seeing me as a black disabled woman away from his day job had taken him out of his professional comfort zone. This is why he made the assumption that I’m in receipt of local authority support. Samuel’s actions were an indication that his interaction with disabled people was within a professional capacity. He had experienced a reality change and found it difficult to adapt to change, to accept seeing disabled people getting on doing ordinary activities outside the stereotypical times between 9AM to 4PM. Albeit that I’m dependent on the assistance for much of my physical needs. I refuse to accept that I am a success of a professional project outcome.

Can you live in the shadow when you create a reality change? 
No. From the very moment I was born my mother’s pursuit was that I would not be institutionalised and I would be exposed to the same experiences as my siblings and not be disconnected from everyday experiences. Another observation from my day to day life is that I rarely encounter Disabled People out and about doing activities that do not exhibit an institutionalised activity e.g. group shopping trips carried out during working hours.

I recall a time when a good friend of mine named Saâdia Neilson said to me that I had the language of the street. What Saâdia was telling me was I did not depict the stereotypical behaviour of a disabled person. Samuel’s behaviour is a manifestation of this point.

So, basically when a disabled person just wants to be a human being and engage in the norms of society. The disabled person is highly likely to attract unwanted attention and thus making it very difficult to live in the shadow.

And finally, the reality is my informative years had a huge influence into shaping my life today. I could’ve easily had other people define my possibilities but also allowed them to choose how I live my life.

How could I disappoint my mother and also go against the hard work of the equality campaigners? In true solidarity I chose not to accept negative ideologies about disabled people, women and black people. While improvements have been made in the way employment, health and social care support is offered. The mobilisation combined with the tireless campaigning and advocacy which has today greatly influenced and shaped the types of opportunities and possibilities available to me. So, without a doubt, these improvements have contributed to the way I live my life.

And finally… In my life I have learnt that I should challenge and not accept. Accept to challenge. Life has also taught me that people do not change when they’re comfortable. And, also as a proud black disabled woman I have refused to let other people character assassinate or confident assassinate me based on their own issues. I hold onto the words of Bob Marley he tells us to “love the life you live. Live the life you love.” These words build confidence but also remind me that I should never be prepared for others to be the author in my life or to define my possibilities. No Way! I’ve always known that for me to manipulate my way through life then it’s up me to solve my own problems but there are occasions when this needs to be done in harmony with others.

The way I live my life, attracts unwanted attention. I’m viewed as a catchy date. Hey if you want me as a date then I ask if you would oblige, to be the assisted hands and help cut my food, please?  

Shopping continued… And, I’m confident that Samuel left the supermarket with a paradigm shift in his discourse on thinking and human life was renewed.

I will be posting frequent blogs. If you liked this blog please share, write comments and don't forget to come back.

Thanks and one love!!