For my first HuffPost blog for a while I intended to write a deep political exploration of the election result and what it meant for disabled people through out the UK. I got started but found the whole thing just too damn depressing. You see I intended to link the story to a video of debate I was involved with on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire program just after the election, where myself and Tory MP Nigel Evans got into a spat about the way the cuts had impacted most on disabled people. You can watch the sparks fly below, but in short the attitude of Mr Evans was that the Tory party had won so who cares how any future cuts might negatively impact on many disabled and sick people. Nice.
Current government thinking is driven by the BioPsychoSocial model of Disability, and this attitude drives a less caring ideology. But what is BioPsychoSocial? It states that disabled people have issues around function, which are called impairments, and issues around how they interact with society and it's barriers which cause them to be disabled, but the key element of this model is that each person is at the centre of how they cope with both their impairments and the barriers they face. If I use my own experience to explain, I cannot walk so my paralysis is my impairment. However thanks to the use of a good wheelchair I can get around with ease and it is only when I face a flight of stairs, for example, that I face a barrier. Now we could fix this barrier by building a ramp or installing a lift, or as the BioPhychoSocial Model expects we could ask the disabled person to crawl or be carried up the stairs. If they say no then they are to blame for not being able to access wherever the stairs end up. When I was younger I would readily climb flights of stairs to go clubbing, see a band or even go to work, but I also injured myself on many occasions. Now I am older, and no longer see life in a "live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse" manner, I refuse to climb stairs and being carried is right out after being dropped on so many occasions. I am left with the choice of not being able to gain access or to find a way of making said building accessible. This is why I now run a small but successful access consultancy, advising business how to become more accessible and inclusive.
How does this apply to the current government? Well once upon a time, governments agreed that if you could not work through ill health they would support you as it was not your fault. They would also try to help you into work, and if you did gain work they would also support you if needed. On top of that they said that some parts of society would cost so much to make accessible and equal that it was cheaper to pay most disabled people a small weekly fee to make the playing field level. Payments like Disability Living Allowance for example, were created to pay towards the extra costs of getting around and day to day care as opposed to the vast costs of creating a fully accessible public transport system and providing carers for all who need them. However the current thinking now lays the blame for the lack of inclusion disabled people face squarely at their own feet, paralyzed or not. They should try harder to overcome their impairment and the barriers thrown in their way. Thus hearts have grown harder towards those who just cannot magically overcome. Mr Evans attitude encapsulates this approach. Could you really imagine anyone from a previous government saying tough luck to a disabled person who pointed out the fears of many of his community about policy, live on national TV?
Ironically, I could be said to conform with the current way of thinking. I could be described as inspirational and brave, and I have smashed through almost every barrier I have faced ever since I was a child. But I refuse to agree that if I can do it, so can anyone else. I know from the people I meet that I am lucky. I have a great job, that pays well and allows me to take time off if I need it without needing to claim benefits. I have a superb support structure around me, especially my wonderful wife who is self employed to allow her to work from home in case I need help when taking time off. Not everyone is this lucky, and they are not to blame for that. They also might not have the confidence and strength of character to be able to fight for their legal rights as I do, and this is also not their fault. Surely any government should be there to support all of the people it represents, and not penalize any who are not able to fend for themselves? But even those disabled people who work need some help. I get weekly Disability Living Allowance payments and claim Access To Work, which allows me to have my career. Both of these are also being targeted by the government and so even those who could be said to living up to the BioPsychoSocial Model's requirements are being impacted by the cuts, leaving only those who can manage to live without any support at all to get by.
All disabled people really ask is that we are involved in the debate around cuts and changes to any support we receive. At least if we are listened to we know we have played some role in the outcome. We cannot allow politicians to maintain a tough luck attitude to our future, and I would hope nor would any of you, dear reader.
Hang on, I did manage a deep political article... Yes!