The term 'disability' is something I have grown up with all my life but I was 17 before I understood what it meant at that time, in terms of being a part of an oppressed minority. But the term has changed over the last 20 years and I fear it has now become meaningless, a political term that is over-used and under-valued.
Those who understand the social model should know the disability refers to the socially constructed barriers faced by people with impairments. If and when these barriers are removed, people are no longer disabled and this could be a minute by minute state of being. When we can accept everyone experiences impairment in one way or another, we can understand not everyone who is impaired is disabled, in fact a minority of people with impairments are actually disabled and this is reducing as environmental and attitudinal barriers are removed.
The problem is that the majority of people refer to their impairments as disabilities and now used the fact they see themselves as disabled as a weapon of mass annoyance. Those of us who have experienced the prejudices of real disability, not just impairment, want to get away from being disabled and have full equality and inclusion. But we have a generation of newly impaired people who do not experience disability and simply see being disabled as a benefit since they see the financial benefits and perks, rather than the prejudices that go with true disability.
I hear people on Twitter every day say they are disabled, like it is an excuse for the fact they have decided not to make any effort to work, or to complain about everything and anything just to be miserable. Many of these people do indeed have impairments and are experiencing physical as well as emotional difficulties in the same way as anyone experiences ill health or change, but very few of them understand or experience the prejudice of disability. Yet because of the public's deep, dark and hidden prejudices towards disabled people, they are happy to permit anyone sorry enough to want to be labelled disabled to have the second class existence afforded to those who truly experience prejudice.
Labels have a huge impact on people's lives, more than anything else, and being referred to as disabled, even if you just have an impairment, significantly limits your opportunities and experiences, as you are sadly regarded as an inferior being who has very little hope in having equality in the true sense of the meaning. I fear too many children are labelled as disabled, particularly learning difficulties, and often out of some kind of fashion, and this label pushes them onto a conveyor belt of special schools and adult day care, where having the wrong label has denied them a proper education and reduced their quality of lives because of society's low expectations of disabled people.
The reality is saying "I'm disabled" is now meaningless as it provides no information on a person's ability or difficulties, and in fact I fear can no longer be trusted as too many people mistake any kind and level of impairment as a disability, and I fear is often to provoke unwarranted sympathy on what should be a statement of fact. I always say I have cerebral palsy and more than happy to describe my difficulties so people can get a true picture of who I am, something I believe a lot of 'disabled' people wish to avoid.
Matters have been made worse when the so-called anti-cuts campaigners have taken the term disability to a whole new level as being synonymous with poverty, magnifying the prejudices towards disabled people for their own horrendous political agenda. They would like the general public to believe anyone who claims to be disabled is penniless, needs a spare bedroom whatever and therefore suffers from the bedroom tax, definitely unemployable, and now uses food banks on a weekly basis to top up their income despite the fact this is not how they work. And on top of this negative portrayal, Carers UK just this week released a report and statistical manipulation to say carers will lose £1bn in cuts, on an assumption carers have total control of disabled people and more importantly, their money, and seem to suggest even those pretending to be 'disabled' to get DLA/PIP need full time carers (35 hours a week!) so they can get Carers Allowance.
My identity as a 'disabled person' is being eroded by those who have decided to abuse the term for political gain, showing the true prejudices they have for disabled people. They claim to be on the side of disabled people, often claiming to be disabled themselves, but they are very quickly destroying what people who really experience the prejudice of disability have fought for over the last 50 years, our true inclusion into society as full equal contributing citizens.