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Friday, 22 May 2015

Stella's Challenge - or is it?

TEDx Sydney 2015 yesterday announced, amidst some fanfare, #StellasChallenge, '... a major initiative designed to significantly contribute to the social inclusion of people living with disabilities.' They obviously did not anticipate the swift, incisive and highly critical response from people with disabilities. Many of the late Stella Young's friends and peers say that Stella herself would not have endorsed what they see as the frank ableism embodied in the approach the well-intentioned, but sadly misjudged, initiative has adopted.

Note: late on Friday 22nd May, TEDx Sydney added to their announcement,  a response to the feedback:
Since the campaign launched we have had significant feedback on social media, which has raised important issues and concerns. We acknowledge the comments and are taking the feedback on board. There are lots of voices in the disability community, and we would very much like to continue consulting and collaborating with the sector. We’ve been speaking with organisations and individuals with long track records of incredible work in this area, working with them to shape and define this project, and we would like to hear from more. To talk to us or get involved, please contact us directly
And an update on Saturday 23rd May, from TEDx:
Even if it wasn’t in the way we had intended, the debate, engagement and activism in and around disability that followed the launch of Stella’s Challenge at TEDxSydney 2015 is a critical conversation to have. Over the last few days, we have had a number of extremely productive conversations with our critics, and we are now working with them to continue developing andrefining the most effective ways forward. We are also continuing consultation and discussion with the organisations and individuals in the disability sector with whom we have been collaborating from the beginning. We hope that in this way we will be able to re-set Stella’s Challenge to be a project that represents all of our hopes and expectations. 
We sincerely apologise for any hurt or anger we have caused and acknowledge that we got it wrong. Our goal remains to mobilise our large, creative and resourceful community to helpcontinue the important work of Stella Young in the areas of social inclusion and accessibility for people with disability. We would like to hear from you about how you would like to see Stella’sChallenge develop, and we would love to have you involved. Please email us directly at by Friday 5 June, after which time we will be able to review all ideas and begin to formulate an action plan together. 
We would like to thank everyone we have spoken to for their guidance and thoughtful feedback, and look forward to ongoing conversations and collaboration.

Josephine Maguire-Rosier, Community Run, 21st May 2015

Dear TedXSydney,  
Make #StellasChallenge about finding and implementing real, practical solutions for the real problems faced by people with disability, led by people with disability. We need education, employment and the opportunity to make our own decisions about how we live our own lives - not well meaning conversations with prying strangers. 
Why is this important? Stella Young irreversibly changed the landscape of disability politics. She pioneered phrases like "inspiration porn" and reminded us that "you get proud by practising". She was firm in the belief that her disability shouldn't define her, and that she should be able to control the conversation she has with people about it ... Read the complete letter to TEDx here
Social media, particularly Twitter, is alive with constructive, but unapologetic criticism. Alice Wong has compiled a collection in Storify that explain the outrage:
Melissa Davey, The Guardian, 22nd May 2015
Prominent figures from the disability sector have responded angrily to a campaign launched by the ideas festival TEDxSydney, which is being promoted using the name of renowned disability activist and journalist, Stella Young, who died last year ...

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