As Father’s Day approaches (20 June in the UK) once again I take out the card I bought for my father but never got to send. It shows a red cricket ball spinning into yellow stumps against a blue sky. My father loved cricket and film music by Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh and anything sweet.
To some of you my father was the customer who needed bills and letters in large print after he lost sight in one eye. He was a patient you might have seen regularly as in his last years he had a bewildering array of drugs to take every day. He might not have understood you because English wasn’t his first language and he hated wearing his hearing aids (although I maintained to the end that his hearing loss was highly selective!). He was a customer who navigated stores with his walking stick and who had an eye for a bargain and colour. He had surprisingly good taste and some of my most loved teenage clothes were bought for me by him. Many years earlier you might have known him as the reassuring hospital porter who joked as he took you down to theatre for surgery.
My father, like all of us, was many things. One of the things that I am is a discrimination lawyer. If my father had been a client, I would have broken him down into a series of “protected characteristics” to work out what rights he might have. In his later years he was an older, Indian man of Hindu faith with a variety of disabilities. Sexuality was something he would never talk about with me of course. But he was so much more than a sum of his parts.
One of the themes of our annual conference: “Disability, what’s new, what’s next” is intersectionality. But it is a word I struggle with. My father wasn’t a series of intersecting protected characteristics. He was a whole person and his experiences in life were shaped by all of him and I wonder, once again, if our laws need to change to reflect all of us better.
I know that when I listen to Sandra Kerr from BiTC speak I will think about my mother. The experiences of Black women and women of colour have so often been overlooked and their mental health and wellbeing little considered. The opportunity to ask my father about his life and experiences has passed, but I can still talk with my mother. I just need that second jab so I can see her in person.
We will be exploring the theme of intersectionality, humanity and more at our forthcoming virtual conference “Disability: what’s new, what’s next” which takes place on 30 June thanks to the generous sponsorship of our Partner HSBC. You can find out more and register your place here.