Pigeon Holes, Boxes, the Battle of 2 wills by an ‘Indoor Boy’

How did we get to Monday again, the weeks seem to be flying?! Thanks for all the cool comments, tweets and emails about the ‘growing up with a disability’ blog. Since posting that, I met with an amazing guy called Max Burt last Tuesday to discuss his up and coming projects. Checkout his blog – http://maxburt.com/. I left his flat after some football banter about Tottenham and Arsenal, as he is a Gunner. Got home in time to see them lose. Then I watched the mighty spurs progress to the quarter finals of the Champions League a day later! Got pretty drunk Thursday night at a colleagues leaving do and met a good friend Friday night for a couple. More about Saturday, daytime, to come. My sister and her boyfriend, Justin, visited me for a Saturday evening drink, take away and movie night, before Mum and Disco (step dad) joined us yesterday for a pub lunch and the rugby. Was a great weekend and I glided into the office today.

So what’s this title all about? Well Saturday I tied up the loose ends on a random little occurrence. Many of you on my Twitter and Facebook will have seen the resulting article and photography for a website called ‘Indoor boys’. When I was out in California, you may remember I met a friend of my dads from school days who has moved out to the US and is married to a lovely American lady (they are Quentin and Toni). Around 6 weeks ago I received an email from someone called Anita who is friends with them, she ran a website about ‘smart and sexy’ men, had been shown my blog, and asked to feature me. When I heard the name Indoor boys, I was sceptical. When I read that it is for women who like guys with a passion for something, I took it as a nice complement.

Nice restaurant shot of Quentin, Toni and I when I hit California
Nice restaurant shot of Quentin, Toni and I when I hit California

Having agreed to be the next feature interview we liaised over email. I did my best to answer her carefully considered questions. She had obviously done her research well. The thing I liked about this opportunity (beyond being a poser and a tart), was the chance to raise awareness around disability to a new audience. See, I was always scared of being pigeon holed for working in the disability industry, so to speak. I felt coming out of university that people would think “oh yes, Martyn works for a disabled charity, makes sense as he is disabled”. To me this undermined my other experiences, skills, knowledge, talents and ambitions, separate to being in a wheelchair. I quickly learnt that these other things are just as vital for doing my job well, and that working for something you believe in and fully understand is fulfilling, worthwhile and gives great job satisfaction.

Whilst my first role out of my Masters, was mainly to gain employment, my decision to run my blog was far more decisive. I was still aware that by running a website on disability could have placed myself a little more in the metaphorical box. The difference now is I really understand the social, legal, political and economic factors that impinge on disabled people every day in a variety of ways. Over time I realised the scale of the problem, looked inwards and outwards for solutions, until more recently, I think, I am making progress in executing some of these – the blog being a small drop in a large ocean, but nonetheless one of my attempts.

Having explained how I overcame feeling pigeon holed and then jumped into a ‘box’, what are these two wills? I see one part of my blog about showing the rest of the world that life can be great when you have a disability. This is true and very important to me. Anything good in my life is not from being ‘less disabled’ than others, very rich or extremely lucky. It is from my parents pushing me, treating me like any child, some hard work on my part both in school and work, and seeing the positives in everything I did and do. Sure, I have down days, sad days and hard days like anyone, but this is the stereotype I believe some non-disabled people have of disabled people. If I can try and alter this then one of my wills can create change.

I also try through my blogs to summarise what being disabled means in 2011. To summarise disability news and politics, especially, tends to lend itself towards the negative! This is because there are horrendous political decisions being made at present, there are people fearful for their future lives and indeed struggling in the now. I know, because I feel it, fear it and live it too. My second will is therefore to be one of many spokespeople for disabled people. I am learning as I go how to include all impairment types, different political perspectives and which parts of education, employment, travel, leisure etc affect individuals. Tough but I am trying my best. So my second will is partly to fairly represent the issues faced. It is also to offer some advice to any disabled person feeling particularly down or facing challenges they cant see solutions for. By collating information, sharing some of my positive approaches and giving inspiration (especially to the next generation) this summarises the second will I have – to provoke further positive change for disabled people and which feeds further changes to the general publics perceptions. And so on. It’s a snow ball effect!

The battle of these 2 wills can never be perfectly balanced, because essentially it is 2 different messages to 2 different audiences. I am saying “There are problems and sometimes its good to let off steam and share with a friend” to disabled people. To saying “even though I am disabled, I have a great family, great friends and enjoy life the way you do” to non-disabled people. However I want anyone and everyone to use my blogs for their own means. Therefore I try to strike the balance of realism, ideology and practicality in every article I write.

Pic of Anita who did the interview
Here’s the cool Cali girl bringing the Indoor boys out

Bringing this back to the Indoor boys article. Saturday afternoon a professional photographer came round to get the shots for the piece. Afterwards I had a nice Skype chat with Anita. We both hope this summarises the issues disabled people face but to a new audience, while showing a disabled guy can be seen in other lights. Those who visit www.martynsibley.com will probably have a link to disability, or me personally. Despite how this interview tore up my ‘box’ as I spoke out as a ‘smart and sexy’ guy, I think it also took disability to a new platform of people, to educate them on the challenges faced. Have a look at the interview and let me know what you think about the points I have outlined here and which I continue to meander through this journey towards disability improvement and social justice. I am happy to receive some cheeky banter too. Someone has already pointed out the bakes beans in the background of one of the photos! Lol. http://blog.indoorboys.com/

I will stop now before I whoop or holla (definitely articulated a soap box moment here, hey!). Hope you all had a great weekend and this week is a good one. I am at home for a nice quiet one before travelling to Basingstoke for work tomorrow. See ya…