Interview with Peta Hooke
Founding Executive Director of I-CREATE YOUTH Jessica (Jess) Kim interviewed Peta Hooke, a podcast host and disability activist.
Peta Hooke is the creator and host of The I Can’t Stand Podcast. She is thirty-something living in Melbourne, with Cerebral Palsy. Peta is a passionate advocate for the disability community through educating on what it is actually like to live with a disability.
The I Can’t Stand Podcast, is a weekly podcast answering the audiences’ questions they have about disability. There is no wrong question. Every question is on the table. The podcast can be found on all major podcasting platforms including Apple, Google and Spotify.
If you have a question for the podcast or would like to get in touch with her, you can follow her on Instagram @petahooke, send her an email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her www.icantstandpodcast.com.
I-CREATE YOUTH is an organization that empowers, educates, and connects disabled youth through language in its various forms, from poetry to programming. We teach creative writing workshops, host fellowship and summer research programs, and curate monthly exhibitions featuring disabled changemakers, all in an effort to connect disabled youth and communicate their stories with the world. Learn more about us at icreateyouth.com.
Jessica Kim: You’re the creator of The I Can’t Stand Podcast. What inspired you to start this podcast and how has it impacted you?
Peta Hooke: As a person with a disability, I would only have to grab a coffee to be asked that question by a stranger. I don't mind educating people about living with a disability, in fact, I quite enjoy it, but I know that isn't the case for everyone. For some, the story of how they gained their disability can be linked to trauma.
I kept thinking that there must be a more efficient way to help people better understand disability rather than one by one while I wait for my coffee.
And so, The I Can't Stand Podcast was born. Every Tuesday, I answer my audience's questions about disability. There is no such thing as a wrong or politically incorrect question. Every question is approached in an open, honest and friendly manner.
I am just one person with a disability, Cerebral Palsy to be exact, I also, interview other disabled people to hear what living with a disability is like for them.
Even I learn something every week from my guests. Disability is so varied it allows for endless perspectives from people in the disability community.
I love what I do. For the first time in a long time, I feel in control of my career and I am very hopeful for my professional future.
JK: On the podcast, you’ve been in conversation with many disabled individuals. How do they inspire you?
PH: Firstly, connecting with other disabled people and talking to them on the podcast has made me better understand my own disability. Elements of my personality, for example, my little quirks, I have realised have a lot more to do with living with a disability than I first thought. I now understand that my inability, at times, to catch my breath when I speak is not nerves but a part of my Cerebral Palsy.
So many people I have spoken to, regardless of where they live or what disability they have, we both have commonalities and shared experiences which I have found to be very comforting.
While some of my guests have OAMs, some medical degrees, others champion sports people or are successful business owners. While others simply live a normal life. Regardless every guest inspires me.
They have all overcome the challenges of living with a disability. They are honest, open and most of all generous with their time to be a voice and represent what it is to be a disabled person.
JK: Can you share your own story of being disabled?
PH: I have been disabled from the moment I was born. I have Cerebral Palsy (CP). So, from my perspective, there isn't a story behind my disability. It has always been present. Always a part of who I am.
Like most disabilities, even if you have the same condition, it presents itself differently in each of us. For me, I cannot walk, stand or transfer. I use an electric wheelchair. I am weaker on the right side of my body and my muscles are very tight. Cerebral Palsy is not degenerative.
This is me, the way I am, for the rest of my life.
JK: Your confidence and energy as a disability advocate are very inspiring! Why is disability advocacy important for yourself and the community?
PH: I couldn't of good conscience continue in my life without trying to work to make disabled lives better and more equal to non-disabled people's lives. Having a disability means you are constantly reminded and confronted with the barriers, both physical and attitudinally. So instead of constantly getting frustrated and chewing my workmates' ears off about issues, I decided to become a part of the many people, who are working to improve what it is to be disabled in this country.
I always hope that the future will be better than today. I hope in some small way I can help make that a reality rather than relying on others to do all this important work on my behalf. Being an advocate is exhausting so if I can help take some weight of this heavy load, I am happy too.
JK: Tell me about your personal or professional involvement with any other projects, organizations, or initiatives that focus on disability awareness.
PH: I am currently working to make International Day For People With Disabilities have more impact. The day, which is the 3rd of December 2022, is very important to disabled people. In the past, the awareness of the day has been primarily online, and often dictated by who you follow on social media.
I believe that disabled people deserve more awareness both online but also off-line so we can be celebrated and use the day to help other people better understand what it is like to live with a disability.
I have been working to try and make this goal happen since the start of this year. I am currently in talks with a few brands that might be able to make this happen. I have to say it has been more challenging than I first expected.
If you would like to be involved and think you could help me in any way, big or small, please contact me via email at email@example.com
JK: What are some spaces that currently lack accessibility and how can we work toward making them more accessible?
PH: How long is a piece of string?
Almost everything is not fully accessible because accessibility means something different to almost every disabled person. My access needs are likely to be different than someone with Autism or someone with vision impairment, for example.
A very simple suggestion on how you can help make spaces more accessible is to first ask where the disabled people are. Are there disabled people in your workplace, at your school, at community events or in your local cafe? If we aren't there, ask your boss, your principal, your local council, and the cafe owner why we aren't there.
By asking these questions as you go through your day, you'll begin to realise how much of the world was built without thinking of disabled people.
By asking questions and pointing out how much we are excluded, people in power are more likely to help change that.
If you're thinking, that sounds great Peta but how would we know where to start?
My answer is to hire disabled people to help you make each space accessible. We have that lived experience that cannot be replicated. One in five people in Australia have a disability, that is a lot of people not stimulating the economy and engaging with the community.
JK: Last but not least, do you have any advice for disabled youth?
PH: It is ok to be proud of your disability. And you know what? It is ok if you're not proud to be disabled.
Don't put pressure on yourself to be the perfect disabled person. They don't exist. First and foremost be you. Do what makes you happy.
I ask my guests on my podcast what they don't like about being disabled. Some have said; "Nothing!"
They wouldn't change it. It makes them, them.
Others have listed many things they don't like about being a disabled person.
Both answers are ok. Disability can affect everyone. People of all genders, sexual orientations, race or religions. That means we are one of the most (if not the most) diverse group of people there is.
There is no one way to be disabled just be the disabled person you want to be.
JK: That last comment is very empowering and a perfect last comment for the interview. Thank you, Peta!