Lauren West also contributed to this piece.
An interesting conversation came up in the Trailblazer’s pod of desks this week – it was about a new term called “armchair activism”. Essentially, “armchair activism” is being vocal on social media about causes and campaigns but not going out into the community to volunteer your time or physically lobby politicians. Being a campaigning network we were interested in how this type of activism is being received by more active campaigners – not very well it turns out!
“Armchair activism” is mainly criticised for the lack of effort, and therefore presumed lack of conviction, needed to post a comment or share an online petition. Sure, it isn’t difficult to be vocal on social media but that does not mean there is no value in it. So much of our lives’ are online now it seems unhelpful to discredit “armchair activism” purely on the basis that it is done from the comfort of your own home. At Trailblazers we see this view as potentially harmful to our young disabled supporters who sometimes have no choice but to only campaign on a laptop in their bedroom.
In light of the numerous cuts to disability benefits, the lack of accessible public transport options and funding for care it is becoming increasingly difficult for young disabled people to go out and campaign for the causes they care about. Trailblazers operate largely online because of this but also because we see a value in young disabled people using any and all platforms available to them to make their voices heard. While there are many reasons why it can be difficult to do an unpaid internship or volunteer, it is particularly difficult for disabled people.
Dr Fances Ryan comments: “Disabled people have used the internet to really effectively campaign against cuts to disability benefits in recent years, from the Spartacus Report to the War on Welfare (WOW) petition. It’s not without irony that these same cuts to disability support have made it even harder for disabled people to campaign using tradition ‘in person’ methods, as the abolition of Disability Living Allowance and the gutting of social care increasingly see disabled people essentially housebound.”
One way to be an “armchair activist” is to write a blog. This requires much more effort than adding a signature to an online petition yet it gets put into the same category. Yes it can still be done on a laptop in your living room or even on your phone, but as bloggers we here at Trailblazers can tell you writing a powerful blog is no small feat!
It is not easy to write a blog about a personal experience that you hope an MP will read it and then act on it. It is extremely difficult to write about your negative body image in the hope that someone else will read it and take comfort in the fact that someone else truly understands what they are feeling. This is what our amazing bloggers do every week and it is because of their online involvement that our campaigns are well-informed and strongly supported.
“Armchair activism” is often the only type of activism available to people due to numerous limitations and therefore should not be so heavily criticised. At Trailblazers we recognise the value in any campaigning method, no matter how small it may seem. We encourage our supports to Tweet, blog and use whatever platforms they can to raise awareness of disability issues.
Trailblazers has now moved to pan-disability charity Whizz-Kidz (September 2020).