Seeking the Dream

Martin-Luther-King-Jr.-Art-13It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.  But 100 years later the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languishing in the corner of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.

Martin Luther-King

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. Of course the speech centred on the situation of the American Negro of the time. King spoke of the Negro living in poverty. He spoke of the Negro lacking opportunity. Mostly and tellingly he said, “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” [1]

King could be talking about the lot of people with a disability in Australia. Disability access for Australians is a joke. This rich country that is Australia persists year after year in dealing people with a disability a cheque for funds that is clearly insufficient. I claimed $6 000 in July for the Auslan for Employment Scheme. It’s now the end of August. It is all gone! I just thank god I don’t need a wheelchair. I could be waiting up to four years for one. Sure the NDIS is supposed to be changing all that but that is a long way off.

The lot of people with a disability in Australia is just crap! Crap captioning, why our rich pay TV franchise isn’t forced to provide close to 100% is beyond me. Crap education, still we have people out there who get little or no support for their disability, particularly school age kids. Crap recreation, how much of our recreation is actually accessible for people with a disability? Crap housing, how many houses are affordable and designed so that people with a disability can live in them? Crap infrastructure, how many buildings, footpaths and roads are still inaccessible? And no, the NDIS wont fix all these problems.

Said King, “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds  in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” It is time for this country to stop making excuses. It is time to use some of its vast riches to improve the lot of people with a disability. Not slowly and incrementally, but fast, dramatically and now.

There is absolutely no excuse that people with a disability live in poverty because this mean and backward country will not provide. There is absolutely no excuse that people with a disability have to constantly beg and ask for things on a daily basis. There is absolutely no reason that almost daily I have to justify to other organisations why they have a duty to share the cost of accessibility and not place the burden on a few.

Fifty years ago King knew this. Sure he was speaking about racial issues but his words ring true for anyone who is discriminated against for any reason. “We have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

Two weeks ago in Adelaide a deaf teacher of the deaf lost a court case so that she could only work with special conditions. She was treated like an outcast and a leper. She was portrayed as someone that was a risk and different. Bugger the fact that deaf people are working all over the world as teachers without issue. This is 2013 and Australia is allowed to do this! Over in Perth a wheelchair using friend has been forced to pee in a bucket because her employer won’t provide an accessible toilet EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE RECEIVED FUNDING FOR IT! Are you proud to be living in a country that does this to its citizens?

A friend had this to say on Facebook today about the lived experience of a wheelchair user  in Australia, “…  you will experience discrimination on a daily basis – at least a daily basis. 90% of art galleries will become inaccessible to you, and most small businesses and restaurants. Friends won’t always invite you out, because there are steps. You’ll routinely be discriminated against in work and education and travel and accommodation and even via legislation like the Migration Act or Defence Force, legally. And because you’re consequently segregated and isolated, people don’t have a chance to understand who you are. That means when charities and politicians portray you as an object of pity and charity, they don’t have a chance to understand that isn’t true.  There is so, so much more. It would be unbelievable if someone told you this, but they don’t. Outrage upon outrage. ‘There is no toilet for you to piss in at work. If you couldn’t communicate, your mother could kill you and get off with a $1000 fine and a suspended sentence. You won’t be able to catch a plane if there are two other wheelchair users on it……”

 King had a dream for Negro people but he may well have been talking about all people who need equality, I  have a dream today . . . I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain be made low. The rough places wild be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight.” That’s all people with a disability dream of – A field that is plain and level for us all.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”


[1] In is speech King used the term Negro. The use of the term Negro, particularly by a white person like myself, can be seen as a mark of disrespect. I use the term only to paraphrase King and mean no disrespect.

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