From the very beginning, Touretteshero’s focused on providing creative inclusive events for disabled and non-disabled people of all ages. This is a crucial part of our activism and we often talk about the importance of providing spaces where disabled people can be themselves exactly as they are, without compromise or judgement.
Occasionally there are people who question whether one-off events can really have a lasting impact on people’s lives, but for me there’s no doubt – positive memories protect!
If you’ve had positive experiences in public spaces, had your support requirements met in an unfussy way, and had opportunities to connect with people with shared lived experiences, then when you inevitably encounter barriers because of how your mind or body works, you’ll know that there is another way, that it doesn’t have to be like this, and crucially that you are not the problem.
The importance of having the space, time and opportunity to connect with other disabled people was central to an extraordinary film I watched last night. As the credits rolled on ‘Crip Camp’ I let out a massive sigh of relief from deep within me – it felt as though I’d been waiting to see this film my whole life. Crip Camp is made using archival footage and recent interviews of campaigners central to the disability rights movement in the United States.
It isn’t just that ‘Crip Camp’ makes disability history and culture visible or that it’s one of a handful of documentaries in which disabled people are shown being powerful, there’s also something extremely significant about watching this on a mainstream platform like Netflix, and having the chance to share it with people.
It was particularly poignant to be watching it in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when disabled people all over the world are focusing, even more than ever, on basic survival. The final moments of the film acknowledge that many people featured in it are no longer alive. This tugged hard at a knot of worry that’s been sitting in my heart for the last few weeks – a deeply sad realisation that our community will face losses in the weeks and months to come.
This isn’t a sad film though, it’s jubilant! I want everyone in the world to sit down and watch it – several times!
Crip Camp succinctly shows the relationship between informal, open-ended, social opportunities for disabled people, and moments of historic significance and social change.
I jiggled and grinned the whole way through, recognising my own experiences, politics and feelings in much of the footage. At one point the awesome Judith Heumann says:
“I’m very tired of being thankful for accessible toilets, I really am tired of feeling that way… If I have to feel thankful about an accessible bathroom when am I ever going to be equal?”
There have been many times in the last few years when I’ve expressed similar frustration, exhaustion and boredom with continually having to talk about lifts and toilets.
‘Crip Camp’ is about a group of people working together to hold decision-makers to account and making opportunities to ensure the world isn’t shaped exclusively by a normative supremacy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted and upended systems and structures across the world. While in many ways this is frightening, it also offers an opportunity – I don’t want things to go ‘back to normal’ because the ‘normal’ that existed before didn’t work for lots of people.
If there’s something positive to be drawn from COVID-19, it’s the rubbishing of the idea that we can live separate, self-contained lives. The pandemic has vividly revealed how interconnected we are, and that everyone’s health and wellbeing is dependent on everybody else’s.
Watching ‘Crip Camp’ left me feeling energised and ready to play a part in shaping a more socially just world.
Watch it now and then get ready for a revolution!