My Pride Dictates My Narrative

By NZ Human Rights Commission

Ask yourself this Disability Pride Week, who is doing the talking for you and why aren’t you doing it for yourself?

By Michael Pulman

 

Hi there, my name is Michael Pulman and I am a freelance journalist based in Hamilton.

 

Disability and Pride are two words that mean a lot to me. As someone who is disabled, I’ve never either strictly identified as, nor have I ever tried to run away from the word.

In a nutshell, I’m Mike and I am a person first.

As a published journalist, blogger of ten plus years under the ‘Real Michael Pulman’ banner, a public speaker and content creator, I’ve always taken immense pride in the work I do.

Trust me when I say that this has always been met with a certain amount of criticism from the disability community. But despite that, it’s always been easy to take pride in it, because I know how hard I work and I know I am far more open minded than my doubters would have you believe.

Because of that pride, I’ve always found a way to spur myself on. My pride dictates nothing else, because at every moment along the way I’ve believed in what I was doing wholeheartedly and have seen the change I advocate toward. I’ve believed in me, and as long as I’ve got that, every word I’ve ever written and every video I’ve ever made has been worth it.

So, when it comes to Disability Pride Week, I’ve always reacted to this the same way I react to everything else – what will we actually gain from this?

I’m not really a social person and don’t do well with big get togethers, but I’m all for the idea of disabled people getting together as a community and putting a solid plan and strategy toward realizing a more inclusive New Zealand into action.

Hopefully this is what Pride Week can do, and whilst I understand the importance of sharing our stories and celebrating our diversity, if anything I’d like to see our community be a bit more ballsy and do something bigger.  

Of course, we’ve come a long way, of course, we a greater as a collective. In fact, I would argue that in 2019, we have all the talent and the technologies at our disposal to make what’s been done in the past shine brighter than it ever has before.

The question is, who is listening? One of the greatest lessons content creators and writers like myself have to learn is about audience. Who is our audience? Out of that audience, who are the change-makers? How do you influence their thinking?

When I look at the disability rights movement, it’s all about influencing the thinking of others. Change doesn’t happen without consideration, right?

Currently, new ways of supporting disabled people are being tested in the MidCentral. What did we see from the early stages of that? Over 25% (no small number) of unrecognized need coming out of the woodwork. In the EGL demonstration here in the Waikato, of which I am one of many participants lucky enough to be involved, I’ve personally discovered that ‘choice and control’ is just as much about responsibility as it is anything else. It’s not easy to work out what a good life is, because to truly have a good life, I need the supports in place and those supports need to be so fundamentally secure that I have consistency and expectation about what is in place day to day.

Only then can I get out the front door and begin to tackle the challenges to inclusion that I’ll face in society.

But guess what, I don’t walk (or roll, depending on whatever description suits you best) out the front door and think of it as a challenge or battle. This is where my pride, call it disability pride if you like, comes in to play. I expect that I’ll have inclusion, I expect that I’ll be treated with respect, I respect that a kind-hearted person will give me a hand if I suddenly need assistance.

Sometimes I get that, other times I don’t. That’s just how it goes.

Before any of that happens, I’ve got to have a certain amount of pride in myself. That’s where I think Disability Pride Week has a valid point of conversation, develop connections with others and celebrate who you are. You should do that every other day of the week and I would argue, quite strongly in fact, that your pride should feed a passionate level of expectation about what the disability community, your community, should be delivering for you.

As someone who is often made to feel like an outsider, let me tell you this. You belong, your work is great, and you’ve got every right to be a part of the conversation, no matter how you choose to have it.

Ask yourself this Disability Pride Week, who is doing the talking for you and why aren’t you doing it for yourself?

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