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Rebecca's Story

To mark our 30th anniversary, we’re releasing 30 stories from wheelchair users across our history.

This ambitious and historic project will result in stories being archived as part of the The British Library Sound Archives ensuring that the life experiences of wheelchair users today are captured forever. With thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and The British Library for their support.

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Former Kidz Board member, Rebecca Farren, recalls her early cardigan-sniffing years through to ableism in Doctor Who, disability activism and coming out as queer during lockdown!

She describes the awesome feeling people have once they learn about the ‘social model of disability’ and their relief once they realise that it is society and those in power that need to change, and not their body.

A fierce advocate for the liberation of marginalised groups, there’s a lot to learn from Rebecca's wise words in her ’30 Stories’ interview.

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European disability rights, human rights and intersectionality - Listen to a clip here

“I really value the community called ‘Black Girls Create’…finding a community of women and non-binary people of colour that are multiply marginalised that really understand what it’s like, not just to be disabled but to have marginalisations on multiple levels...has been so healing and uplifting.

"…to be able to come into that community and to be seen for who I am and to be recognised and for them to say ‘No, your pain does matter, and your joy does matter’ and ‘we’re all in this together and we’re all trying to be seen'...has just been so amazing."

On discovering she was queer - Listen to a clip here

"The one thing that sealed the deal for me, that yes I was definitely queer, was the sentence: 'You only have crushes on unobtainable men', so for example, TV characters…or gay men or teachers or dentists or people that you could never possibly go out with.

"…I was not actually attracted to men in real life…so it was an absolutely huge, huge revelation for me to have and a massive shock.

"I now identify as queer because I was so sure I was attracted to men for so long and now I know I’m not, but I haven’t really had a chance to explore whether or not I’m attracted to women yet and also to non-binary people because of the pandemic.

"…I’m so relieved because so much of my life just makes sense now where it didn’t before."

Identity - Listen to a clip here

"Disabled is a political identity and I would always say I’m disabled first, and sort of a wheelchair user second so I am disabled and a wheelchair user is the practical level of how I move around.

"…and so I will always be queer first as queer is a political label and then whichever end of queerness that I fit into after that, because I’ll always be queer."

Rebecca in her powered wheelchair outside Leeds University

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Disability and work - Listen to a clip here

"‘Inclusion Scotland’ are a disabled peoples organisation in Scotland that run a programme called ‘We Can Work’ which provide paid internships for disabled people to go into work for anywhere from three months to a year and basically showing that disabled people are capable of upholding paid employment and are amazing employees.

"Because what you’ll find is that a lot employability programmes focus on the deficit of disabled people, saying ‘oh we need to upskill disabled people, and we need to teach you how to be in the workplace'.

"Whereas this programme is a lot more about saying ‘No, disabled people already have the skills to be in the workplace, they’re already amazing, employers just need to sit up and take notice and actually employ disabled people and actually make the adjustments necessary to employ disabled people'."

On disability activism - Listen to a clip here

"There’s really been a move, particularly from disabled people of colour and disabled queer people in the US, to move, not away from disability rights, but to recognise that disability rights don’t always take the whole picture and don’t always directly improve the lives of disabled people always.

"Especially if you can’t access those rights…There’s a lot of crossover within the movement in the UK, we have a big focus on mutual aid and looking beyond accessibility to say benefits, and challenging the Government when they’re not supporting disabled people beyond accessibility."

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