Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Chronic illness, disability & a box that doesn’t “quite” fit

So I am referring to a blog post I have read titled “Please Stop Framing Disability as Just a Welfare Issue” & although I refer to the piece it is not an attack at the bloggers character but criticism of a piece that I felt was deeply one sided in parts.

I have linked to the blog post that I am referring to above & about half way down the post it refers to a section of the disabled community as the “Sick movement”.

I can’t see how refusing to accept a section of the disabled community as that, disabled, is suppose to support a move to have the disabled community included fully into society?

Just because someone may personally believe that these people do not “fit” into the definition they have of disability doesn't make it true.

It is also deeply disturbing & damaging to imply that if one person is perceived to have a severe disability & can do a proportion of work, that people with perceived “less severe” disabilities should have no excuses. When in reality most have additional difficulties that are not taken into account when casting judgement, which in itself can often be most damaging to the individual & will not support any idea of being confident living with their disability.

I have several overlapping medical conditions including psoriatic arthritis & hypermobility & although some conditions with the appropriate medical treatment can be well managed, medicine is still not perfect & often a person's condition is still disabling.

I have a condition which as a result causes disability & so therefore i am DISABLED. My arthritis causes me pain, fatigue which restricts my movement. I am restricted in my movement by the inflammation & pain & I can not carry anything heavy because my wrists will physically give way & this is just to start. Although I have medical treatment, I am one of those where medicine can not control the disabling aspects of my condition.

Disability by definition is a restriction & a limitation. It is not because we aren't trying hard enough, that we’re not “determined” or that we are giving in. With all the will in the world it won’t necessarily be enough if the body can’t keep up, even if the person had unlimited support & adaptations & this is not a failing on the person’s part.

It is bad enough that the government & the media consistently bash the disabled community on its legitimacy (which creates a more ablest environment) without members of the disabled community excluding people, often newly disabled, because they don’t believe that these people belong in their definition of disability.

However much the blogger in question may not like welfare being part of the immediate debate it is because if people are left without money & security when you are disabled (especially newly so) it will worry the life out of you, as it would for others disabled or not.

At the point when the brown envelope hits the mat the last thing a disabled person is thinking about is how to change disability policy for the better but instead are hoping that they will have a roof over their head, food & heat. The blogger makes it come across as if the first thing that enters a newly disabled person’s mind are pound signs but instead it is worry.

The work capability assessments work on the basis of the person is "guilty" or has something to hide & it grades on how “damaged” a person is. I would argue that the work capability assessments are the immediate basic problem for many. They are disabling in the way they are carried out & inspire no level of confidence from the individual that they will receive the support they need.

From what I have taken, from what the blogger has written, I agree that society is disabling but even if we had some beautiful utopia (oh how I wish) people will still be disabled especially those with chronic illnesses until medicine advances further. The WCA is broken & campaigners are drawing attention to the failings of the assessment to try & improve the situation. If the WCA was altered or removed this wouldn’t be the end to campaigning, it is only the start.

It is not seen as a "black or white" issue or that simply welfare is the only issue affecting disability. I find it incredibly patronising that people who campaign for improvement in the WCA apparently want the "protective feeling of a hospital environment".

The campaigners that campaign against the WCA want greater support given to disabled people so that they can realise their full potential. However many of the policies that were moving towards this have been cut, altered or greatly reduced including the ILF, PIP & access to work. Although imperfect, these were steps towards giving greater support to disabled people to realise their full potential & to be independent but due to the cuts the progress that has been made is largely being undone.

Disease does disable people & so does society. I would love society to lift the barriers around access to transport & buildings, for flexible working, job sharing or variable hours. But also for society to see that some people can't do paid work but could volunteer & that some can’t work but still have valuable contributions to make in other ways & to appreciate the value in it.

But this takes time & for society to care, which seems to be happening less & less with the increasing scrounger rhetoric portrayed by the media. Disability doesn’t fit into a tidy box or category it is as unique as the individual affected. The blogger only sees the final goal, not appreciating that we can not ignore the issues of the WCA if we want fair treatment for disabled people.

The process takes time.


  1. As an old grannie I've been through a variety of campaigns. In all of them, however worthwhile, different factions and individuals invariably fell out at some point, usually due polarised and inflexible points of view.
    It's tremendously destructive and time-wasting. There are some viewpoints that can never be reconciled.
    It would be good if people could remember that caring and working towards better provision is nobody's exclusive club.