Monday, 10 March 2014

Disability - Thinking for two more seconds


Growing up I felt very proud of my country, a country that after the war, after going through so much, created the NHS & the welfare system because it was needed & the right thing to do.

Aneurin Bevan said on the formation the NHS that “despite our financial and economic anxieties, we are still able to do the most civilised thing in the world: put the welfare of the sick in front of every other consideration.”

And growing up this is how I felt my country was, that on the whole we would always try to do the right thing, the moral thing. Later, naturally I lost my child-like naivety, I know as a country we have got it wrong but somewhere down the line the truth has been twisted, moulded into something that is not.

Certain sections of the media have perpetuated stories unrepresentative of the majority, twisting stories to create sensationalised headlines, backed up with manipulated statistics.

Stories on “welfare reform”, benefit claimants with 60in TVs, of disabled claimants that dare to step out of the house, even implying welfare is somehow responsible for murder.

And if history has shown us anything, if something is repeated often enough, regardless of validity, people will start to believe it.

As a result, media & public opinion have become so hostile in parts that many disabled people feel guilty or feel that society expects them to feel guilty, like they have done something wrong, whereas in reality they have done nothing of the sort.

And the thing is, why should any disabled person feel guilty?

I have multiple conditions, none of them were my fault, it is rarely anyone’s fault that they become disabled & it can happen to anyone.

When using public transport, I’ve been glared at, muttered about & verbally attacked because I’m a young girl sitting in the priority seat with my walking stick in hand even though I’m more than entitled to be there, just as any disabled person is.

When I have gotten on & there are no seats, people will automatically move for an elderly person that gets on. I have no problem with that. When I was younger & able, I was brought up to offer your seat to an elderly person if they got on & there are none available as a matter of respect. My point is many a time an elderly person has gotten on with better mobility than my own & they are offered a seat automatically, but for me people will wait & stare, the cogs in their head trying to work out, why does a young girl need a stick, inevitably as I start to stumble someone else moves & offers me their seat.

My point is that some people believe that, of course an elderly person will have mobility problems but a young person surely wouldn’t. They either don’t fully understand how & to what extent young people can be disabled, or believe what has been said in the media, that benefit fraud is high.
It has got to the ridiculous stage that people have even been berated in the media for having “nice things.”

The amount of times I have heard people say “Well I can’t afford an iPhone so why should they be able to get one,” is enough to drive anyone insane.

But people don’t take the time to think for longer than a second that it may have been a gift, that it may have been bought before they got sick, that they took out a loan for it or got it on the never, never. Also often people don’t realise that many disabled people do work.

They don’t think for a second that we all have different priorities, you may go out 3 nights a week at £50 a go, whereas the disabled person may not go out at all or very rarely & instead saves their money for their contract phone of £40 which in comparison means they are spending considerably less.

People don’t think for a second that its their lifeline, their contact with the hospital or GP, to friends or family, their ability to socialise & keep up to date with the outside world which is especially vital when enduring stints in hospital.

People don’t think for a second how much technology is an aid for people with disabilities & that this is only going to get bigger.

An iPad or tablet for example is great for people that can’t lift up a conventional laptop & need to move position & location during the day. Voice dictation & predictive text software is improving with every new update, helping people with dexterity issues such as arthritis & hypermobility. Disabled people do so much with technology, often using technology to complete tasks they can’t physically do in real life.

Another topic I have found people to obsess on is that people should be given food stamps or their benefits on a government card that excludes items such as alcohol & cigarettes.

Firstly I will never understand how someone can become so obsessed with making sure that people don’t have certain things & how they find the energy to, but in countries that have adopted these systems, they are always more costly to implement & a black market always forms along side it.

You also would be creating a level of stigma, a way to recognise those who are receiving support & I often wonder if people want that to make themselves feel better about their own lives.

I have also heard people state that “unless you have paid something into the system, you shouldn’t get anything out.”

So what about children born with severe learning disabilities & disabilities? Or teenagers who are diagnosed with a disability? Tough luck?

Yes, some disabled people are able to work but others can’t, with better systems in place & real support, it may be possible to help more people in the future but I don’t think anyone should be penalised because they were born disabled or developed a disability when they were young before they had a chance to pay in. Disabled peoples’ contributions to society are too often dismissed if it isn’t through paid work.

People complain about what their taxes are spent on, I don’t think that will ever change but in comparison to countries with mostly private services, it is so much more expensive added together. Due to the type of system we have, there is no profit made & as many pay in, it acts like a group discount meaning that it is cheaper for all.

People seemed to understand that although you may not receive anything at the time, that it was there for if you were ever unfortunate enough to need it or for any of your family or friends. I didn’t have my disability or illnesses from birth, like most they came later in life & it can happen to any of us.

I think we are too quick to pass judgement, possibly more now through the advent of social media.We used to think deeper about what we were going to say, not to edit ourselves but to form a balanced opinion. However I feel that when we don’t take more than a second to look deeper, like with the media, inaccuracies & prejudices unrepresentative of the majority will continue to be passed off as the majority, This is only going to increase the toxic nature & hostility towards people that require assistance & we should hold on to some of our child-like instincts & embrace a balanced, factual judgement.

I can’t understand how people are attacking the most vulnerable in this country, on a misguided belief that what a minority of the group do, is some how representative of the majority but ultimately disabled people in this country didn’t get us into this mess in the first place & deserve support. It is also not that benefits are too high but that people have different priorities & for some, wages are too low in relation to living costs.

And to the disabled people in this country, you shouldn’t feel guilty as long as you have the conviction in your mind & in your heart that you are doing all you can, you can’t ask for more. Disabled people should no longer feel guilty for peoples’ inaccurate beliefs & should no longer feel guilty because people aren’t thinking for longer than two seconds.

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