Saturday, 12 October 2013

What Should Disability Equality Really Mean?

Why disability equality need not be the price of defending the welfare state

Neil Crowther, who is a member of Labour's Disability Taskforce posted a Blog with the above title. To see his blog go to but my response to his viewpoint is below. Enjoy it!

When Lord Freud made the case for the Welfare Reform Act 2012 it wasn’t the science that sold it to the Politicians and the electorate. It was the implication that disability was psychosomatic which allowed politicians like Osborne, IDS & Cameron to sell the electorate the idea that “We all know someone down the pub”, ripping off the welfare state for the generous “something for nothing” benefits. Thus the myth of the “Disabled Benefit Scrounger” was born.
Neil’s campaign phrase of “dignity and opportunities for all’ is something I believe we can all unite around and is not far away from the plea for “a better, fairer way to support and give opportunities to disabled people” which WOW pleaded for at the recent Service of Remembrance in Parliament Square, for the 10,000 plus people that have died within 6 weeks of being forced to do a WCA. Let us not forget that some prominent campaigners for the Rights of Disabled People have shepherded disabled people towards the Government’s Work Programme in the past and that all major Political parties have supported this approach.
Before I continue, there is a point to be made here that not all sick and disabled people can work and the causal impairments that cause this are much much more than those accepted by the WCA at the moment. My view is that every member of society should be provided with a basic level of state funded income but that people should be encouraged to work if possible through the “carrot” rather than the current “stick” approach. My points below are therefore directed at sick and disabled people that are both able and willing to work, stressing that being willing to work is not always a conscious decision. I am also basing my comments on the integration of sick and disabled people into society through employment opportunities.
I believe that the message we give should not be based on whatever fashionable model of disability is in vogue at the moment. It should be based on what is RIGHT!
Did Martin Luther King base his emotive speeches on a fashionable model of why race discrimination is wrong? Is our fight a million miles away from his? Are disabled people discriminated against because they are less than non-disabled people or because they are different?
Disability is not a model to me. It is a way of life.
Asking for more Training, Education and Skills to be transferred to sick and disabled people is to me a no-brainer, as in my opinion everybody needs to improve their skills and ability to add value – sick people, disabled people, yet to be disabled people , young, old, men, women, Africans, Asians, Europeans, Americans I could go on! However, will being better qualified/ experienced really solve all of the barriers to work we encounter? I hope we are not suggesting that sick and disabled people have to be more qualified and experienced in order to secure employment as in my personal experience being over qualified is a major barrier to empoyment?
Trust me when I say lack of qualifications, experience, skills or ability is not a barrier to working for me personally. People liking me or relating to me or being scared of me or not understanding me or assuming things about me or using office politics to highlight why I am less than them ARE the barriers. The Equality Act 2010 addresses removing many of the barriers to Disabled People fully participating in Society but hasn’t addressed the “hearts and minds question”.
As long as society gives us “Equality of Treatment” Society will expect us to react to things in exactly the same way as them, because we argued to be treated in the same way as them. We have to re-frame the argument so that we are demanding Equality of Opportunity. No matter how educated, qualified and experienced you are, if people don’t want any of “those disabled people” working with them you won’t be working with them, unless they are convinced differently (be it by legislation or public opinion etc). Supply side measures are welcome but in my opinion won’t help generate opportunities for talented disabled people.
Just as I think equality of treatment was the wrong target I passionately believe that by focusing on supply/ push side measures to get more of us in employment, both if we can or want to, we are promoting a model that is doomed to failure. Why work hard to improve yourself if the opportunities don’t follow the effort! My belief is that you should “Build it and they will come”. (With apologies to Kevin Costner).
Finally, I am different from most of you. I did not choose to be different but I expect society to make reasonable adjustments to account for my differences and give me Equality of Opportunity..

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