"Scroungers, cuts, unfair tests", how dare anyone treat us thus, people cry.
"Incapable, unfit, inferior", this is how you make us look, others despair.
"Pain, misery, poverty", why do you refuse to see?, more shout.
"Welfarists, pity seeking, anti inclusion", this is what you have become, some accuse.
"A few" becomes "most".
"Most" becomes "all".
Miscommunication, anger, fear.
Won't anyone stop to listen?
Fragmented, upset, distrustful,
We will not have a voice until we do.
Until then "They" laugh and carry on.
And harm is done to all.
For BADD 2013 I talked about the difficulties we, as disabled people, faced in simultaneously pursuing two goals to fight disablism.
The first was challenging the perception that disabled people are by definition incapable of working, particularly at the highest levels.
The second was challenging the "if you can type you can work" type argument. This meant ensuring that the general public understand that it is possible to be unable to do sustaining paid work and that appropriate support must be in place without social condemnation.
I am sorry to say that we have failed miserably, with unspoken disagreements over which goal to follow and crucially, how to go about it, causing rifts and friction.
What I see around me today are disparate disability "groups" often at odds with one another, unfounded accusations flying back and forth, and increasing stereotyping and disablism, all coming ironically from disabled people ourselves.
Here are just some of the types of things I have heard repeatedly from many different sources.
- "Disabled people with chronic illnesses feel sorry for themselves and don't want to work"
- "Disabled people who work look down on those who don't and don't understand what it is like"
- "All disabled people could work if they really wanted to"
- "Disabled people with chronic/mental health illnesses who work/go back to work can't have been that sick to start with"
- "Disabled people with visible impairments have it easy (insert uninformed rant)"
- "Disabled people with invisible impairments have it easy (insert uninformed rant)"
- "Disabled people who campaign about welfare have never worked on or know anything about any other issue, and are against true inclusion"
- "Disabled people who don't directly campaign about welfare issues don't care"
- "Person A campaigned about Issue B, therefore they think "this" about Issue C!" (argument ensues)
(Those of you thinking "but it's true" at this stage might want to reconsider the earlier lines "a few becomes most, most becomes all" and apply the result in reverse to the above statements.)
What is this if not disablism of the very kind we strive so hard to eliminate?
And so, I call for people to pause. To communicate. To try to understand each other's concerns and goals. Most importantly, to unite.
Until we do, we cannot create strong messages and policies which leave no one out, which both enable and support every one of us, whatever our impairments or current situation.
Unless we achieve this, in every sphere of life, be it education, welfare, employment, social care, health, family and social life, access and transport, many new policies will be unfair, unsupportive or even intrinsically disablist.
As a new government is about to be formed, there has never been a better time to get our act together and make our impact felt over the course of the next 5 years.
Post written for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2015, #BADD2015