It’s the feeling of being completely invisible.
From the people who step around you in queues, or those who look the other way when you’re doubled over crying in pain in the middle of Next, or the people who don’t look down as they walk, and you’re saying, “Stop!” but they walk into your wheelchair anyway, and exclaim, “Oh, I didn’t see you there!”
It’s sometimes down to ignorance, a feeling of it not being their problem, or the person simply being lost in their own world.
38% of people believe disabled people are a burden on society.
But these attitudes spread quickly, and seep into all parts of life. That mindset becomes casual and mainstream, and people feel they can share their thoughts with friends, in public, or even in the workplace. Take one of my managers who said dyslexic people were just stupid, or another who after someone who had two children with Autism asked for support, received a response of, “You should keep your children under control.” Or after an office-place visit from a group of servicemen who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder got a comment afterwards stating, “Well, they all looked fine to me.”
It also means that despite the Disability Discrimination Act being introduced 19 years ago, and strengthened in the Equality Act in 2010 – so much of the country remains completely inaccessible. Shops, facilities, services and buildings still haven’t complied with the law, and continue to get away with it.
47% of disabled people currently work compared to 77 % of non-disabled people.
I’m a wheelchair user, along with 1.2 million other people in the UK. Last week I had an appointment at my new doctor’s surgery. Their website proudly states the following on the front page: “We work from a purpose-
More than 1 in 4 disabled people say they frequently do not have choice, or control over their daily lives.
My doctor eventually heard the bangs and came out, and it turned out the door had an automatic opener – which for some reason had suddenly failed. That alone was annoying, but I then had to dismantle my wheelchair part by part, with my GP watching me. I have never had an issue getting my wheelchair through a standard width door before. I then had a very awkward drive into her room, trying to hold everything, control the chair and navigate the packed room.
I was mortified. I thought, ‘She’ll think I’m a bad driver!’
Only later did I think – that was their fault. Why should I now be afraid to go to see my GP as I can’t face it happening again?
This happens time and time again. I can’t get into the vast majority of the shops in the town I live in. Those I can have difficulties – narrow sections, steps, are too packed, put displays in the aisles, don’t have a lift, and so on.
65% of people have admitted they avoid disabled people because they don’t know how to act around them.
Over the past few years it hasn’t been possible to pick up a newspaper without finding a story on the welfare state within. Quite often these stories have focused in on people with disabilities, painting a picture that many are claiming fraudulently. How often do you see headlines such as ‘Disability benefits cheat caught out when she was spotted walking the Great Wall of China’ from The Express, or ‘Benefit cheat who claimed £21,000 in disability benefits while working as a boxing instructor spared jail’ on the Mail Online. Or vague headlines that cast doubt on the system itself, such as another by the Mail Online, ‘ Disabled benefits farce: 94% of new claimants have never been assessed by a doctor.’
180 disability hate crimes are committed every day in this country.
While obviously every case of fraud is one too many, the fraud rates of disability benefits are very low. The scrutiny over benefit claimants has had consequences. It has become quite clear that certain sections of society feel that because some people with disabilities receive a form of state assistance, funded by the taxpayer, they should then get a say over their lives. A judgement, a decision over who exactly fits into the category of ‘disabled’ and who does not, and how they should be living their lives. Also over the last few years the support systems available to people with disabilities have been slashed – within the NHS, Social Services, charitable funding and the benefits available to them. Yet the public outcry to this has been minimal. Perhaps they’re too busy reading stories of the lavish lifestyles of benefits claimants, and mainstream documentaries portraying a vision of exactly what these ‘scroungers’ get up to behind the scenes, which increases support for further cuts.
The reality of the situation is completely different – the vast majority of claimants are genuine, and live in fear of the brown envelope arriving from the Department of Work and Pensions saying their support is being reassessed, causing stress and anxiety it may be lost entirely, or reduced. This fear isn’t unfounded – it’s a stated aim by the government. The money is vital in paying for care, transportation and all the high costs associated with having a disability, of which there are many. The Joseph Rowntree Association has found that people with a disability should be receiving at least £200 more per week just have to have an acceptable quality of life, with the rate increasing significantly depending on their needs and disability.
The poverty rate for disabled adults in the UK is twice that for non-disabled adults.
Disabled people shouldn’t feel dehumanised, excluded and invisible. But how do we stop this trajectory from happening, and make inclusion a priority?
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