Smashing down myths
FIRST and foremost Lorrie Mackness wants to be seen as a woman.
She doesn’t want people to simply glance at her wheelchair, or her walking frame, or to quickly notice her impairments and then label her disabled.
‘‘I am a woman but people don’t see that first.’’
The 62-year-old central Auckland resident has always been a strong feminist.
When she was in an accident and started to lose her mobility things in her life started to change.
‘‘It was so hard, in fact I didn’t even associate with being disabled.
‘‘I didn’t even want to be in the same room as those with disabilities because I didn’t want to be lumped with that label.’’
Becoming the disability spokeswoman for the National Network of Stopping Violence Services woke her up to reality.
‘‘I didn’t have time to be scared any more. These amazing, powerful and creative people just smashed down those myths.’’
As she began to rely more on a walking frame and then a wheelchair it was the ‘‘normal’’ views of society that she started to question.
‘‘Disabled women’s voices have never been heard,’’ Mackness says.
‘‘The days when men talk for women are over, the days when Pakeha talk for Maori are over but non-disabled people are still talking for us and we think those days are over.’’
The Women’s Forum member says under New Zealand law, disabled women can be sterilised without their consent.
‘‘The United Nations has said that is a form of torture.’’
And she says the Government isn’t doing enough to advocate for disabled women.
‘‘They know the horrific rate of violence against disabled women, and disabled people.
‘‘Yet there have been no steps made to make refuges or advocacy agencies legally required to be accessible to us.’’
She says even if disabled people can access the service many of the staff have no training in dealing with people who have impairments.
‘‘I know that unless you are part of that culture you can never really, truly get it.’’
That is a driving force behind Mackness’ desire to see New Zealand disabled women establish their own powerful voice.
‘‘We need to create our own voice, then maybe others will hear,’’ she says.
This weekend Mackness will be celebrating the achievements of New Zealand women at the International Women’s Day event at CCS Disability Action.
‘‘I’ll be putting on my fancy dress and long gloves because this day is all about celebrating.’’
Positive attitude: Lorrie Mackness is speaking up for disabled women.