Image is of a black and white photo from the early 20th century. It is a group of women in clothing of the times with protest signs saying VOTES FOR WOMEN, GIVE US THE VOTE NOW, EQUALITY FOR WOMEN. The woman in the middle can clearly be seen yelling her protest.

HULLLLLLLLLLLO! Apparently, a new word has been invented … ‘YELLY‘ It is a new advocacy term for people with a disability that are passionate, vocal and driven. That’s my take on it anyway. But, apparently, there are some non-disabled people, people who think that they know better than people with a disability about how to live life disabled, these people are anti- ‘YELLY’. These non-disabled use the word ‘YELLY’ disparagingly. A friend, who has been a brilliant advocate over many years, was told that a campaign they were running was too ‘YELLY‘. Of course, this was by their non-disabled boss who, in my experience, yells all the time. Usually at people with a disability. (This is a semi-fictional account of an incident that happened recently, written in this way to hide peoples identity.)

There are these snobby people that believe advocacy needs to be nuanced. They think in your face advocacy is a bad thing. Typically, these are people that think Unions are thugs and that strikes are an inconvenience. Typically, they think protesters are irresponsible and should get back in their box. Write letters to the newspaper they say. Contact your MP they say. Let management know, politely, that you were left stranded at Bus Stop 36 because the bus didn’t cater for wheelchairs. You know, you ended up in Bendigo when you wanted to go to Ballarat because you didn’t hear the announcement of the platform change. Just write a nice letter to the CEO and let them know. No matter that this is 2022 and these companies are breaking the law. No need to be ‘YELLY’, lets be ‘MEEKY’.

What utter nonsense. I will have you know that every single piece of advocacy we do is ‘YELLY’. When we write a letter to the CEO we are making them aware. This is still a form of ‘YELLY’. But there are lots of types of ‘YELLY’ and combined they make effective advocacy.

I can tell you that writing to the CEO and saying:

Dear CEO

Yesterday I went o Bendigo, but I wanted to go to Ballarat. This was because I am deaf and your company announced a platform change on the speakers, but there were no visual announcements. As a result I got on the wrong train. Sadly, I was late for my party. Can you please make things better for Deaf.



Well – This will get you nowhere. But still this meek little protest is a way of being ‘YELLY’ – It is bringing attention to the issue and in its own way is demanding a response from the CEO. The CEO is likely to reply. They will apologise and promise to look into it. When MEEKY dies in 2072, people will still be ending up in Bendigo by mistake. There needs to be more.

Now, on the other hand, if thousands write to the CEO, perhaps with a little more emotion than MEEKY, the CEO might feel a bit more compelled to act. If thousands end up on the platforms and disrupt travel for a week because they want change, the CEO will jump. If the company is splashed all over the media with angry and disadvantaged patrons, the CEO is likely to have to respond publicly and commit to some sort of change. If hundreds yell to the Australian Human Rights Commission and put in DDA complaints, the CEO is going to be swamped. Perhaps, the CEO might even agree to meet a delegation, begin to negotiate change and agree to timelines. None of this will happen quickly, but the process involves many ‘YELLY’ parts, all combining together to create change.

Did the Women’s Suffrage movement push for women’s rights by quiet and polite little requests? No! They used every means at their disposal – The Suffragettes were part of the ‘Votes for Women’ campaign that had long fought for the right of women to vote in the UK. They used art, debate, propaganda, and attack on property including window smashing and arson to fight for female suffrage. In London they, “… maintained a constant presence in Whitehall, petitioning Downing Street, heckling MPs and chaining themselves to government buildings.” There was not a MEEKY in sight. It was ‘YELLY’ from top to bottom. The key was to be consistent with message and diverse with response. And it never stops, even when positive change happens. Just look at the Roe vs Wade situation in America. That women are having to fight this battle again is a disgrace.

Closer to home, the NDIS started on a wave of protests and constant media exposure. Who can forget then AFDO President, Dean Barton-Smith, at the podium of an Every Australian Counts protest letting the Australia know – “The time for talking is over, The time for Action is Now!” Even now, after having the NDIS established, there is a constant protest from people with a disability to make sure the NDIS delivers what it is supposed to. The disability movement have a presence on The Drum, on social media, on Q and A, on the radio and behind closed doors – they are everywhere. People with a disability speak out and demand more from the NDIS – As they must. Never take anything for granted – Bring on the ‘YELLY’s’‘ I say. They have achieved so much!

So be a ‘YELLY’ and be a ‘YELLY’ with pride. Because it’s the only way that change happens. Just remember ‘YELLY’ comes in many guises. And you Non-Disabled – don’t you dare tell us not to be ‘YELLY’ – Because even when the Non-Disabled make the changes needed, we have to continue yelling to make sure they don’t muck it all up. All heil the ‘YELLY’s’


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