This is a translation of an article by Pablo Echenique, one of the newly elected Podemos MEPs, published 26th April 2014.
There is no better way of assessing the structure of a society than looking at its “higher” strata, in the sites of economic and political power.
Women are well aware of this. Only 16.6% of directors in firms on the IBEX 35 (benchmark stock market index for Spain) are women and only 36.2% of the deputies in our Congress are women. Since women are more or less 50% of the population, we know that both in the IBEX 35 and the Congress they are under-represented.
Something similar and possibly much more serious occurs with people with a disability. However, the statistics in this case are very poor and we can only make estimates or relate anecdotes which make up for what they lack in science with suggestiveness.
In the field of estimates, for example, if we take into account that around 1 in 10 people have a disability, in the Congress of Deputies there ought to be 35 deputies with a disability. I have not been able to ascertain whether this is the case or not, but certainly, only one of them is a wheelchair user (when there should be three or four) and I don’t recall seeing any deputy who is deaf, or blind.
The fact that the King has a disability compensates for things a little and it fills me with pride and satisfaction, but it does not correct the under-representation of the collective, which is undoubtedly brutal.
In the area of anecdotes, let’s look at a few that have happened to me in months of late.
As you may know, I was fed up with millions going through hunger, deprivation and misery whilst a handful of psychopaths devoid of empathy bought themselves more yachts, more paintings and more mansions than ever, and so I recently decided that my job as a scientist in the Spanish National Research Council and my collaboration in this house were not enough, and that I had to do something in order to stop this butchery of human rights, starting with kicking the lackeys of the marquises of the IBEX out of the institutions.
With this desire in my mind, I began to take active part in PODEMOS, I put myself forward for primary elections open to all citizens, and I was elected in fifth place on the list for the European Parliament.
Since then, I have travelled through many cities in Spain, I have got a tan in many squares, I have got up onto a few stages and I have gone along to certain media outlets of greater and lesser importance. On Sunday night I found out that I am officially an MEP, but it is the stages and the media outlets that I want to talk to you about.
Regarding the former, I have discovered that if nearly all theatres, meeting halls and auditoria are more or less adapted so that those of us with disabilities can attend as members of the public, very few of them allow us to go up onto the stage comfortably. As I don’t mind speaking from below, it’s no big deal. But it is a fact.
Media outlets are worse.
At a major radio station I was confronted with four steps at the entrance and I had to recruit the concierge, a delivery man who was loading boxes into a lorry, and a passer-by. They didn’t know that I weigh 200kg with a seat and everything when they said “Of course, man, let’s go!”. When we finished, the presenter and a pair of journalists brought me back down. I don’t know if they’ll be inviting me again.
On another broadcaster, to a debate with various parties, I simply did not go. It was a basement without a lift.
A few days later, they invited me to a television station and I could not access the set because I had to pass between a table and a wall. I couldn’t get past, but another person who was a bit fat couldn’t either. I am sure that I was the first (and perhaps the last) person with a disability that they were inviting.
Last week, in another TV station viewed widely in Zaragoza, I allowed them to help me go up three steps and down seven more. But only because the VOX [right-wing political party] candidate offered to help and I found it piquant.
Such a disaster is not a coincidence. No.
Obviously, the issue is that those of us with a disability almost never hold positions of power, we almost never take part in politcal debates, we almost never have to go onto a stage because we do not fit in at all in this society. The oppression that we are subjected to condemns us to be, almost always, subjects of charity, spectators, listeners, TV watchers.
In our case, the ceiling is not one of glass, but reinforced concrete.