Facing Criticism

This post is going to tackle a few bits of criticism I have had in the past months, but mainly it aims to acknowledge criticism from myself and what I will do to rectify it.

For most of you this will sound strange after the amazing year I have had.

In summary, so far in 2012 I have:

• Launched the first ever ecourse on disability and employment (with a full email guide, 13 video interviews, 6 modules and useful web links). Made totally free by Misfit-Inc.

• Delivered new webinars with other disabled people and industry professionals. Videos are still available to view.

Volunteered abroad in Spain for a social project with disadvantaged social groups

• Been featured in the Guardian with Srin for Disability Horizons magazine

• Attended a European Union training course in Turkey

Visited Tenerife for a working partnership

• Managed to do a SCUBA dive in Tenerife

• Visited the Calvert Trust in Exmoor for abseiling and adrenaline action

So what is the criticism? Well, if you look at the comments on the Guardian article you will have a flavour, and similar sentiments have come in throughout my blogging career. My immediate reaction was sadness and frustration. I put so much thought, time and energy into my disability projects; it was deflating to have such negative feedback. This was made harder because it was disabled people making the criticism. Instead of becoming angry and defensive, I have tried to understand why they felt this way.

After some time I have come to the conclusion that there are three types of reasons:

1) With the world recessions, UK government cuts and threats to disabled peoples rights; projects are being run to defend social care and welfare policy. If someone like me is working, travelling and having fun; it could be viewed that the campaigning argument is weakened or that I am naïve to this.

My view on this is that it has a logic, but it is short-sighted. I would argue that having someone like myself with a government funded wheelchair, hoist, car and social care provision gives the exact case for not cutting these budgets! Clearly if the budgets were cut I could not work, travel or even get out of bed, would cost the state far more in terms of lost income/tax revenue and increased costs from deteriorating health. So, the campaigning to government must continue, and I see my personal story being a small part of this. Alongside my personal story, my projects such as the elearning and the magazine all add further weight to this argument. We all have different roles to play in social change.

2) I can totally see looking back at the last 6 months how crazy life has been. The point of my blog is to show what an everyday person with a disability can achieve. The problem I have noted is not that I do too much, but rather I have made it look a lot easier than it really is. At the ‘Big society – Nexters event’, to help me raise vital funds for my social enterprise, it was stated by a close friend in the audience (Chris Fisher from LCD, who helped me volunteer in Spain) that I hadn’t shared the worries, fears and struggles of going to Spain enough. The risk is that the amazing things I have been able to do, after years of working towards them, look out of reach. The major inferences I have had are – “you must be less disabled than me” or “you know the right people” or “you must be rich”.

My response to this is two-fold.

Firstly I truly believe that anything is possible. My free ebook – The Disability Diamond Theory looks at the ‘inputs’ I had in younger life; the importance of government provision, family understanding and support, inclusion at school and socially with friends. I understand if someone cannot access these things, then life will be more difficult; hence the need for campaigning and ensuring equality in disability provision for all. However, I also think mindset matters a great deal. If a person really wants something bad enough, defines this goal, identifies the barriers in the way and slowly finds solutions; they will get there.

Disclaimer: I am aware this holds true more for a physical disability, and I am in no-way speaking for people with a learning disability, chronic pain or chronic fatigue, and other such conditions.

Secondly, and where my main criticism comes from myself, is in explaining the struggles along the way. I don’t want this blog to turn into a defensive and self justifying rant. For those who know my disability and general situation; you will know how little I can do myself, the fact I haven’t got millions in the bank, that I have worked hard for years to get here and that I worry as much as anyone else.

Going forward I therefore need to outline the issues faced and efforts made, because otherwise the results look too untouchable – and this is not the case at all.

3) Human nature is the third reason. Whether disabled or not, people have reactions to other people in life. If someone is perceived to be doing well, it can be seen to make others look bad and sometimes cause jealousy.

My reaction is I don’t think what I am doing is so great. I am just living my life and have many new goals I am trying to reach. I am not near where I want to be (which is being comfortable financially, having a family, supporting disability issues and seeing more of the world).

However, for those who feel threatened or jealous by me, I have to say something that I hate to – I wont stop being me. I know my work is doing good things, so I guess I have to be less sensitive, and just explain what I do and why better . The best advice I have had is you can’t please everyone!

To conclude, I hope for anyone reading this with a critical view can see my motives and personal development. If you feel my work or general approach has flaws, please do get in touch and help me to improve. We all learn and progress everyday, with help from each other.

Otherwise I am going to press on with growing the impact of the blog, Disability Horizons, the webinars and elearning projects. I also have a new project coming soon that I need your help with (tune in next week) and some more travel plans (my biggest yet).

Have a great weekend and keep it real.
Martyn

  • http://theinspiredgroup.com Ann Hawkins

    Martyn, each time I read your blog I take my (metaphorical) hat off to you.
    You are not only clever, brave, funny and resourceful, you have great insights into how others think and feel.
    Given all that you’ve achieved you could be forgiven if you were self-centred and boastful but you’re not. Your concern, always, is about how to help others and you are doing that in bucket loads.
    You can’t help everyone, no-one can but you are using your skills and talents in the best way you know how without making a martyr of yourself and that in itself is inspirational.
    Stay true to yourself – you’re a marvel!

  • Martyn Sibley

    Thank you Ann, that means a lot to read this. I just hope I can keep juggling all of these balls in the right way for a long time to come. Hope you’re well.

  • hossylass

    Martyn,

    In the Great Venn Diagram of disability you are a shining example of physical disability and the fact that given enough help and support, aids, adaptations, and balls of steel, you can actually get out there and grab life’s opportunities.

    You carefully mentioned those who sit in the overlap of disability and illness, who are a very cross bunch in the main, as we would love to be out there waving two fingers at our disabilities, but, as you say, are a bit floored by pain and exhaustion.
    Just keeping up with you by blog is pretty exhausting!

    The third group is those who are currently vomiting in a bucket due to their illness, or the cure for their illness, far too sick to actually care if abseiling even exists.

    It isn’t you that creates the images, its other people who refer to you, or Stephen Hawkin, and say “Why can’t you do that?”

    All you can do Martyn is keep reiterating that “Disability” is never as simple, or as solvable, as it seems.

  • Chris Fisher

    Dear Martyn

    What a very good blog – I mentioned the criticism, because I too was very concerned by some of the comments made about your Guardian article. But I agree with everything you said, unfortunately there is not much you can do but be true to yourself and I admire your determination to achieve what you have.

    I’m afraid even though you’ve explained the hard work you’ve been involved in, others may still criticise because they don’t know you and that sadly is just one of those things.

    For me, you are very inspirational and as a person with disabilities your last six months show what can be achieved if you set your mind to it.

    Well done and I look forward to working with you in the next six months

  • Andrew Peel

    First time I’ve been to your blog and I’m impressed with it and Disbilty Horizons. On to the point of your post. As a disabled campaigner of some 40 years I can see why people are extremely concerned about the current ConDem proposals.
    Many of us spent years recovering from the Thatcherite assault on disabled people and I for one am no longer prepared to let able bodied people off the hook again so easily.
    So I think the best position is a middle ground, anger is a good think it’s what you do with the anger that counts. Your blog has inspired me to get back into blogging and social media. Feel free to contact me as a fellow disabled professional working to improve the lot for disabled people.