Recently the press and media have focused on the myriad of issues that are of particular interest and concern to disabled people in the UK. I have blogged several pieces on this esteemed online publication, as have many others exploring the possible ways forward for disabled people in our society. Whenever these kind of articles are run online they are accompanied by a collection of comments that cover the entire political spectrum. After reading a selection of these comments I felt I should ask, dear reader, if you woke up tomorrow and suddenly found yourself unable to walk, as I did at the tender age of 15, what kind of society would you want to live in now you are newly disabled?
Let's imagine World A. Before you leave hospital a team of experts begin working with you to create a care package that puts your needs and wants at it's center. Thus your family and loved ones are as involved in your care as you, and they, want them to be. Your home is adapted, with financial assistance provided if you need it. If your home cannot be made accessible to you a specially designed wheelchair accessible home can be found, either to buy or to rent. You are assisted to claim all the relevant benefits that you and your family are entitled to, which ensures you have no worries about your finances although you may see a dip in your income. Your applications for financial assistance are supported by the medical professionals who have first hand knowledge of your medical history and prognosis, which ensures your assessment is correct and prevents fraud. You find that you have several well publicized successful disabled role models to inspire you, in many areas of life from sport and the arts to business and politics. In public you are met on occasion with sympathy and pity but mostly you find you are treated as an equal. You live under a legal system that prosecutes any act of discrimination you and your family might face due to your disability as an act against the state, meaning the police will be involved and you do not carry the burden of the expense of any case. While you are only at the start of what may prove to be a long road to recovery, you are secure in the knowledge that you will be in control of where that road takes you.
Now, let's picture World B. You're home coming is delayed due to difficulties in organizing adaptations to your home, as your local council has spent their allotted annual funding for similar works. You find yourself having to either fund all the works yourself or to remain in hospital until your needs are met. If you do not have the funds, the council is only able to fund a refit of your home that makes it "suitable for your needs" but not fully adapted, which means you may need extra assistance doing things like bathing, cooking and leaving/entering the building. You find it almost impossible to move to a specially adapted home as there is a shortage, partly due to very few being built and partly as they are not always sold or rented to disabled people, thus many of them have had all the adaptations removed. So if you want to leave, you may have to stay in your current home for some time. Your finances worry as you as you are required to attend assessments, carried out by someone who has no knowledge of your medical situation or prognosis, once out of hospital. These will be a regular part of your life while you are unable to work, as continuous assessment has been put in place to avoid fraud. Your family carry out most of your day to day care, as you are entitled to no more than two daily visits from a nurse or carer, who is charged with assisting you in the morning and evening. You are unsure of what time they will be visiting you but understand as they are very busy. It does mean that you find it difficult to plan your day, and so are unsure about returning to work in the foreseeable future. If you have your own means you can pay for increased care provision, but this is very expensive. Legally any act of disability discrimination is seen as an act against the person, meaning you need to take out private prosecution, financed either with your own money or via a "no win, no fee" agreement with a solicitor. There are few disabled role models, mainly top level sports people and occasional faces in the media, but you do find these an inspiration. On leaving home you are met with a mixture of attitudes. Alongside some of pity and sympathy, you confront regular aggression, from people who believe that you are either getting special treatment, due to the benefits you receive, or because they feel that you are not contributing to society. You find society strongly believes that it is a noble course of action for people in your situation to commit suicide. By doing so you avoid a life of suffering, save your family from a life of caring for you and save society the cost of assisting you to live. All of this weighs on your mind and you are left unsure of what your future holds. But you are hopeful.
You can pick and mix from both for a real world experience of becoming newly disabled right now, but what I want to know which world you think we should be working towards, World A or World B, and more importantly; why?