Melli Bassily works in DAWN (Disabled Women’s Network) with disabled women. It is a personnal cause for her since she also has invisible disability: she has anxiety, post traumatic symptoms, depression and cronic pain. DAWN was founded 35 years ago and has the objective to defend the rights of women with dissability in Canada. Bassily describes her work as in an intersection land, where she helps most marginalised people in the society (targeted by racism, heterosexism and suffering an type of dissability). The Disabled Women’s Network promotes cross-disability: the organism brings aid to people with both visible or invisible disability: people with learning issues, mental health issues, intellectual, speach, vision, chronic, pain dissability and brain injury. This organism sometimes also work with people in the autism spectrum (neurodiverse). This association works sometimes with deaf people, since they don’t consider themself as disable. DAWN makes sure that people in the politic sphere undertand that women with disabilities’ needs and respect their rights.
Bassily asked the question: what comes to your mind when your hear the word dissability? One of the answers by the audiance was an image of a wheelchair. The idea of disability people have, is still very linked with physical mobility (singns in public areas for disabled people are often the image of a wheelchair) rather than mental disability (invisible disability). She also asked the question: what sentiment is associated with the word dissability? The audience reponded by feeling of dependency and the need for suport. Bassily states that people of taday has the wrong image of disabled, and that DAWN tries to break those collective ideas: a disabled person needs to be pitied and that he/she can’t rely on themselves. She showed a short video of two black activists with disabilities: they are women or color and disabled, and they say that they have experienced more racism when being disabled, and that it was difficult to interact with the society. DAWN is important because when policies are instaured, this organism makes sure the accessibility is for everyone. They try to break isolation imposed on disability so there is a better undertanding of the diverse world we live in. Disability is also a huge problem in the healthcare system: DAWN fights for reprodictive health and rights (there is till the stereotype that disabled women can’t have sex or have child). There seems to have a common assumption that those women don’t do those things because they are disabled. Bassily states that the medical system needs to be changed, and that medical students need to be more informed. There is also the issue of the representation of disability in social medias: lack of diversity in dissability (people would only think of Steven Hawking, a white man, when they hear the word disabled). Disabled peoples would feel isolated and think that they are not important to the society if diversity is not represented in media, and it is a barrier. DAWN tries to change the environment we live in so that people don’t have to ask for accessibility anymore. For example, not all metros in Montreal’s public transportantion system have an elevator. It is very inconvenient for disable people to not have a universal design that would benefit everyone. She also states that Montreal is bad at accessibility, and this gives a message that people with disability are an afterthought and that they are not important This organizaiton wants to make sure that every infrastrucutre are accessible, but financial is also a barrier, we live in a capitalist world, and women with disabilities are paid very little. DAWN fights abelism, which is defined as a “discrimination for able-bodied people”, and has the goal to show that women with disability are important, that they do matter, and that disability have different genders.
Bassili also talked about one her own dissability: she has chronic pain that sometimes stop her for being productive and to do her work. She says that when someone stops being productive and not contributing to the society (that is what disability stops someone to do), that person looses important to the society. Which I really found interesting and important to spreak out about.
My own idea after listening to her, is that clothing is also a barrier in our current society, since I think that there are not enough different size or shapes of clothes for people with physical disabilities. I think that clothing designs should be more versatille and accessible, so that everyone can benefit for this industry. I recomend this activity to everyone, since listening to her presentation made me realize that our society is far from perfect and needs changes such as in the clothing industry, food industry and in transportantion.
Interview with audiance: they thought that Bassili’s speach was very thoughtfull to our generation, since our society has so many cases of dissability. Doing changes is very important because the society don’t think about people in those situations, and don’t show enough empathy for disable people.