Monday, December 03, 2012

When Did We Forget? International Day Of Persons With Disabilities

Once upon a time Britain led the way in promoting rights and independence for disabled people. That was the country I grew up in; I remember the horror when conditions for disabled children in foreign orphanages were exposed, pitiful little bundles of bones often tied to their cots, staring vacantly at their bars and walls, wizened like ancient beings who'd seen nothing but cruelty their entire lives.

I remember ramps being built, institutions shut down, rights being created, laws being made.

I remember my pride that Britain was different, that we believed in opportunity for all.

I remember becoming disabled. Learning to cope with a different life than I'd expected. A more difficult life but all the richer for the struggles.

I remember the security of knowing that whatever happened to my health, that however much worse it got I was one of the most fortunate to be born in a country that believed in supporting those who could not support themselves.

Today on International Day for People With Disabilities I remember all those things and I wonder what has happened to them.

I wonder when disabled people became scroungers to be vilified instead of people to be proud of.

I wonder what will happen to all our futures, those already disabled and those yet to understand what disability brings to their life.

I wonder where the outrage has gone? What has happened to my country, a people so collectively moved by those big eyed babies on our TV screens that we rapidly rallied to send lorry loads of equipment and people to provide love? The country that swore such scenes would never happen here.

I wonder where Simone is? How she is? Is she safe from harm? Will someone wake her this morning with love and kindness or the torture she has grown to know paid for by the taxpayer?

I wonder if you know it costs £3500 every week to imprison Simone hundreds of miles from home? I wonder if you understand we all pay that bill? I wonder if you know how different Simone's life might be if that money were used to properly support her, in her own home, close to her family?

I wonder if you know that Simone could be your daughter, sister, aunt?

I wonder if you know Simone could one day be you? That an accident, an illness, a split second moment could change your world forever?

I wonder if you even care?

I wonder when sick and disabled people became scroungers, a sacrifice worth making on the altar of austerity.

I wonder when we all lost sight of our priorities, when it became accepted that spending millions on endlessly reassessing sick and disabled people to declare us fit for a workplace not willing to accept us was somehow better than spending that money on supporting us?

I remember the first disabled person to tell me that stockpiling their medication seemed like a sensible, rational option. I remember not being able to tell them they were wrong.

I remember when contribution was valued, when voluntary work respected, when that was our social contract.

I wonder how forcing people deemed too sick or disabled to work by their own doctors and the company paid millions to assess us into a workplace that doesn't want us could ever have been considered a good plan?

I wonder why a government led by a man with intimate understanding of disability, a man who was both a son and father to disabled people, a man who swore those experiences meant his passion about disability was genuine would turn back the clock four decades?

I wonder why a government would decide that mandating those same sick and disabled people into unpaid, unlimited work placements would be seen as a popular idea.

I wonder when the public decided that sick people were indistinguishable from scrounging scum.

I wonder about all this and more. I wonder what will happen to me once the cuts truly begin to bite and I cannot afford to stay in my own home.

I wonder why, when I so desperately want to work within the limits imposed upon me by my disability, working is denied to me by a welfare system claiming to become more flexibile but actually becoming more rigid and unsupportive.

I wonder about all of these things and more. But most of all I remember that once upon a time Ivan's Daddy made us all a promise that he understood, that he valued us and that he swore always to protect us.

I remember that, but I wonder all the time when he forgot. 

9 comments:

Emma said...

I wonder why when my IB to ESA reassessment came up a friend told me that anyone looking at her autistic son would think he was fit to work but he'd never manage it. And then in the same breath said that she thought this might help get the shirkers back into work. I pointed out the problem with that. But when did we become a community of disabled people and allies where only the "right" sorts were accepted.

jaynel62 said...

I share your wonder and dismay at the loss of National Pride regarding Equality.

Thank You & All Best x

sad times said...

Duped again!

LceeL said...

That's funny - I think Conservatives on either side of the ocean seem to spend a whole lot of their time worrying about people they would call freeloaders, or shirkers, or layabouts or skimmers or "benefit scrounging scum" - rather than concern themselves with good governance and sound fiscal thinking, with helping one another, with showing compassion and concern for those in need in the country (in your case, anyway) that invented the Industrial Revolution and set us on a course that led to the lifestyle we enjoy today. Conservatives. Ours, like yours, seem to think that everybody is on their own - "I've got mine and I'm not giving you any". and that's just fucked up. bollocks.

DavidG said...

I was going to say 'Wonderfully Powerful Piece', but when did we have to start writing powerful pieces to defend what should be obvious to any decent person?

Jed said...

There's no point in waiting on Cameron for change in the current climate of hatred towards disabled people.

This is an ideological war against society's most vulnerable. And they are winning as disabled people retreat and die.

50 years of struggle has ended with the WCA and Lord Fraud and IDS and Cameron and ATOS and Unum wiping the slate clean.

Where to now ... the grave

ians12 said...

On or about the time of the formation of the coalition is the answer to "when did THEY forget" !!

Instead of forming a government with Labour Nick Clegg chose to go with his millionaire cronies in the Tory party.

When Scotland leaves the Union there will be a huge Tory majority in the Commons which Labour will find even harder to overcome.

The future does not look good.

James said...

ians12: There was no option for a Lib-Lab coalition anyway, since they didn't have enough seats between them to have a majority! Moreover, the LDs recognised that the most important job for this Parliament was cleaning up the mess Brown had made - any deal that kept the culprits in power would have been an act of economic sabotage. (Not that the coalition has done a good job, but trying to follow Ed Balls's Wonganomics right over the fiscal cliff would be many times worse.)

Jed, where is this "hatred of disabled people" you talk of? The ludicrous hyperbole really doesn't help. Did you think the buffoons ranting about a welfare cap higher than the average pre-tax salary being "ethnic cleansing" achieved anything with it?

How can our host both complain about the system stopping her from working and attack it for trying to find work for those who can do it?! The execution may well be poor, but to attack the concept itself is misguided at best.

Anonymous said...

He didn't forget. It was all bullshit, flannel, waffle, smoke and mirrors aimed at getting him into power. Now he's in, he can do what people of his ilk do—kick the crips, nick their money, steal their clothes and say they brought it all on themselves.