Cerebral Palsy

I Have A Dream

Reflections and a challenge from Andy Tomlinson as World CP Day approaches, this weekend’s longer read

 World Cerebral palsy day is approaching and the annual conference hosted by Bobath and Digby Brown is just round the corner, I can’t believe that it’s almost a year since the last conference, what an action packed year it has been. I thought this would be a great opportunity to reflect on what’s happened with me and share my hopes for the future both personally and as community assembled around cerebral palsy and disability in general.

 Since last conference I succeeded in climbing both Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro, raised £2400, came back exhausted developed shingles and until recently still felt lethargic. Looking back on my experience it has highlighted the importance of community in allowing the individual to achieve their dreams and go beyond what one could do on their own. Without the guides, porters, and fellow trekkers working together the experience would never be as enjoyable nor would I be in a position to achieve my dream of reaching the top of Africa. 

I have lots of memories, Gideon the ranger with his riffle, the green slopes and the volcanic ash cone, and scrambling in pitch black in the dead of night, and the abundance of wild life on mount Meru; to the isolation and sheer vastness and the final dance the team when you reach the end of your encounter on Kilimanjaro. One of the main reasons I survived was because of my guide DJ and his radio blasting out 80s power ballads. I can confirm that it’s the Power of Love that took me to the top. I want thank guides, porters, KE Adventures, family, friends and everyone who donated. Although still not had opportunity to get reward from Glasgow Warriors for taking their name to Tanzania!!!

As I have achieved one dream, I must look to new dreams, new challenges and new fights. However it is not enough to dream for me only, I must open my heart and dream for you also, for your neighbour, and future generations. We as a community have to take simultaneously the dreams of those of the past and open ourselves to dreams from the future that have yet to be dreamt.

We as a community still have fights to win, people with disabilities are still crippled, not from our impairments but from discrimination and segregation.

It’s the 21st century however some people cannot make a simple train journey without the fear of the possibility of an embarrassing accident. I even watched on television a woman had surgery to have a catheter fitted because of a lack of working disabled toilets.

 In 2016 the employment rate of working age disabled people was 46.5% compared to 84% non-disabled people. According to Papworth trust the two main barriers said by people with disabilities in gaining employment is job opportunities and transport 43% and 29% respectively.  30% of the time the thing that prevents a person with a disability who wants to work is transport.  So why in the transfer over from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments are so many people losing access their mobility cars, or at least in fear of losing it?

Is this not a national own goal?  I don’t know about you, but I think this is ridiculous.

 Just under 20% of the population within the UK has a registered disability. Together we make up the largest minority group. The UK has to realise that our prosperity and freedom as a nation are bound to the opportunities, prosperity and freedom of us with disabilities.

 I think this is especially true in the current climate of the upcoming exit from the European Union. The opportunities of people with disabilities have a butterfly effect on everything to income generated by the treasury through tax, to spending in the NHS and social care. After years of austerity I wonder the costs and savings associated with the benefit shakeup? Has the nation and public purse benefited or have we stored a time bomb for the future? Capital expenditure on infrastructure to improve transport would surly have wide ranging benefits across the country.

I am aware that we have made vast improvements on the visibility and opportunities available to us, however I cannot be satisfied until the barriers that make it harder, and separated from living a full life still exist. I’m aware that many of us suffer depression, isolation and despair. Hiding in the shadows alone and in pain whether physical and emotionally. That’s why we have to dream!!!

Our dreams can be a light, a light that shines hope for a better tomorrow for us as individuals, as a community and as a nation.

I remember watching Selma, and Malcom X and it’s easy to forget that the civil rights movement although dominated by race was fought alongside those fighting for disability rights. Martin Luther King’s speech still arouses and stirs the soul. It forces you to dream for a land with no walls of separation. Where we can rejoice and sing in the simple satisfaction of who we are, brothers and sisters in a family of billions. Then as it is now we can never be satisfied in a situation where we can’t enter building, restaurants, trains or subways.  In this environment can dare claim to be equal?

Like King, I have a dream that people with disabilities will not be judged by the label of their impairment, but be judged instead by their unique gifts and strength of character. I have a dream that we will not be seen as people with disabilities but as husbands and wives, adventurers, bosses, work colleagues, brothers and sisters as equals learning what it is to be human side by side.

I have a dream that we all as a society can jump on the train whether from Glasgow to Edinburgh, or Glasgow to London without worrying that there is a working disabled toilet, nor feel like we go round in circles entering the subway. I have a dream that one day we can we are seen for the character and skills possessed and it’s this that leads to the same employment opportunities as the next person.  

I have a dream that no matter the obstacles in the way people will dare to travel the four corners of the globe, I want people to travel to China, Tanzania, Nepal, Peru, and have the opportunity to experience what I experienced in January.

 When we allow the freedom to summit our mountains, and explore the wonders this world has to offer whether we are disabled, able-bodied, rich, or poor. Joining together in our common humanity raising a light that illuminates the myriad of possibilities available if we only dare to open ourselves up and reach out a hand of acceptance. Should we endeavour, then maybe we can turn this dream into reality.  Only then will I rest and possibly discover a new dream.

Andy Tomlinson