2018 is drawing to a close, and I thought it would be timely to review the year from a perspective of disability, noting all that has been promised... or badly delivered.
The year started much the same as any, the sun came up, saw the chaos unfolding with Brexit and sensibly hid to avoid the childish ranting from both sides. Once again there were promises of mass inclusion, and the BBC decided that they needed to improve on their disability record (which was astounding as they only decided to do it every other year previously). However, I am not going to rip Auntie apart, as that sounds like a classy zombie b-movie.
Companies, brands and the high street again told us all they were going to do better on the access front, and the Government continued its heartless mission of austerity. Every year this contributing community seems to be getting poorer through legislation put through by Political types with as much compassion as a coco pop and as much mathematical nous as a Victoria sponge. Enough, this stops now. If Westminster was a school for mathematics it would have been eaten alive by Ofsted within 30 seconds of the doors opening.
Throughout 2018 disability campaigns came and went. I myself sat, with friends, resplendent in my underpants on a loo in Baker Street, part of a campaign that spread across the media like red weed, the Changing Places campaign. The shocking statistic that there are less than 1,100 decent disabled toilets across the UK rang with every parent of a disabled child. Thanks to maximum effort from a team of dedicated folk, many businesses decided to install better facilities. However, a majority of big supermarkets remained as effective as a mash potato hand grenade and replied to requests for installations with a response so withered it could be sleeping in the house of lords. It appears we will have to have another year of deliberately dehydrating our disabled children so we can spend hours shopping in Asda without bothering their inaccessible disabled toilets built by Mr Bean. I mean it’s not as if we are paying customers, is it! ...oh wait…
Other campaigns were launched. Scope began a petition to install a minister for disabled children and families, which will be going strong into next year. This campaign is headed by a stunningly handsome family, who shall remain nameless, and aims to create a network of support for families from diagnosis to birth and beyond. After the debacle and mishandling of disability by those in power, this is very much owed to families.
Mental health finally got the spotlight it deserved after so long. Of all the conditions likely to affect nearly everybody, disabled included, it was refreshing to see government determined to act! Sadly, their acting skills were more Danny Dyer than Daniel Day Lewis, and the promise and the finance was woefully underthought. Decent investment is needed, people would rather have mental equilibrium than see Prince Andrew given funds for a new Royal yacht.
The community was granted two days to celebrate in the latter half of the year. Firstly, retail behemoths across the country suddenly, as if by magic, became aware of the value of the purple pound, all £249billion of it, and decided to embark on a countrywide back slapping event where all their stores were lit up brighter than John Barrowman’s teeth. Come spend your money, they said, but the steps may be an issue, the aisles a bit packed, the lights and music ramped up for those on the spectrum, but hey! We love disability..just today though. Purple Tuesday was a trial, but so is watching anything on ITV2 and we can only hope both improve next year. What’s wrong with accessible shopping 365 days a year? I hear the economists choking on their salmon baguettes right now, wheelchairs clogging the aisles? Yup, install a Changing Place or the brakes stay on. Purple is now the colour of the community, why? Because it is the colour associated power, very apt.
The International Day of Disabled Persons was next. Those in the know realise that disability is worldwide – it’s the most diverse community there is. The media had a chance to help promote the day, to make it talked about everywhere, to highlight brilliance, but it was still obsessed with the soul destroying Brexit. Brexit, the media obsession that could have so many implications for the disabled, but no one’s talking to them about it, I should know, I was rebuffed from a live television debate for asking to discuss it. However, the message of the day was spread by the increasing use of social media and some bastions of change. Rock on.
In an ideal world Purple Tuesday should be irrelevant and the international day should be just a celebratory event of power, beauty and a battle for inclusion won, with a parade through London celebrating its diversity and culture. Disability shouldn’t have to constantly thrust a stick into the tyres of society for what is plainly right and obvious. Inclusion is not a delusion.
Speaking of Brexit, the implications for the disabled are discussed as often as the joy of coathangers. The EU has funded, and is continuing to fund projects for the community here in Britain. It has been influential in changing UK laws on disability employment rights and more. What happens when we break away? Does funding continue? Are rights upheld? 2018 has seen the media go above and beyond not to ask anyone with a disability what their fears are. The EU this year and every year, has been propping up the care system through wonderful immigration and it is irksome to see the panicking xenophobia of some folk about to disrupt a system that according to many think tanks could leave us 100,000 care workers short by 2026. Thanks, we will just drain all the melatonin from our bodies so we can forgo sleep to take over from essential carers helping us look after our children and elderly, oh and we will banish anxiety as the medical stockpiling includes all the communities essential pharmaceuticals...yes?
So that’s it, Disability 2018 in a nutshell. I know campaigns and people have been omitted, but no article can be infinite (sorry Superhero Tri, you were marvellous! spread the word Disability History Month!) Let’s hope 2019 will see a year when promises are finally acted upon. Indeed as I write there has been a 2 million pound grant awarded to NHS hospitals to install changing places...(holds breath). I hate to think we are all let down again next year, as I wouldn’t fancy my chances against my daughter leading a mass revolt against the world, she will be a teenager in a wheelchair, god help you all. Happy new year.