By Dawn M. Sanders
Last week witnessed the unleashing of, not only a budget and economic pledges or predictions we all feared, it was laced with the all-too-familiar ideologies embraced by the Tories.
We have a complex housing bill not yet understood by many, the rush to make every school (primary or secondary) an academy and most noteworthy, the further cuts to welfare benefits – adding to the despair of austerity.
So, focusing on the ‘dis-ability cuts as they are inevitably coined, I’m taking this opportunity to turn it all on its head by trumpeting my passions for equality, empowerment and true dignity…
Take note: I won’t be placing that all-prevailing, crippling label the main stay in this country insist on preceding before us as ‘people first’!
I have argued this point of contention time and again – mostly with ‘people’ with additional needs themselves and, I’m sticking to my guns!
My visual impairment is of course an integral part of my identity, but certainly not the first among equals in being a woman, mother or journalist…
A ‘dis-abled computer mouse is one that doesn’t work, ditto for toilets, cars etc.
Is it overly PC nit-picking? I think not…
As a journalist and writer, words, the connotations behind them and what they represent are hugely meaningful – especially when you’re on the receiving end of those negative connotations, such as lesser than, subordinate, weak – I could go on, but you get the gist.
The point is, just because I and others are visually impaired (or otherwise) doesn’t mean I can’t raise my son single-handedly as I’ve done; I still cook clean and maintain my home; I still have relationships with people in the human way most would expect and, I even enjoy some of life’s more clandestine pleasures…
This all isn’t to say for a second, that I and others don’t get blatant discrimination, especially in looking for work, social environments or on an equal playing field in the game of meeting a possible partner – in fact, being visually impaired, hearing impaired, wheelchair user, with learning/cognitive difficulties, is often an extremely isolating place to be.
However, the argument of the so-called “social model” which dictates all of these social/practical constraints should dub us as ‘dis-abled to the tune of how society sees myself and others is simply backwards.
It all hinges on, what one cannot do, rather than, what one can do…
Enough said, so when people go out in force – protesting their benefits are being taken away against a backdrop of: “Is This Any Way to Treat ‘dis-abled People” as the banner read, I’m insulted at being considered inherently vulnerable or fragile.
These people who, insist on milking an entrenched victim culture, one I have to fight against every day to “prove myself” a capable parent, employable or dare I say it, a sexual being, are ‘not doing me any favours’!
I’m forever infuriated at being lumped in a category of the “sick and ‘dis-abled” as people with long term illnesses have their own specific circumstances and anyone with severe/complex needs, is an individual – there’s never a one-size-fits-all…
Ultimately, do we not have the right ‘not to be impoverished’?
Why aren’t the likes of Dis-abled People Against the Cuts crying out for more equality in the workplace, employment or closing the loopholes within the so-called anti-discrimination act.
Yes, this government and its ideologies have handed us a double-edged cross to bear: on one hand, because we are rarely taken for our hard earned merits and qualifications when job hunting. For example, when employers take one look at me I get: “’Uh, how would you manage the stairs, finding the toilets – all delivered with an uncomfortable demeanour…
On the other hand, we’re told we’re scroungers if we’re not working in an environment which doesn’t give us half a chance and, supposedly the government is trying to get us into work?
So, what are they, the ideologists, doing to close the gap of discrimination for those of us who want to use our skills?
The DPAC (‘Dis-abled People Against the Cuts) movement is a short-sighted reactionary group – not offering solutions to the poverty trap most people with additional needs find themselves in – clinging onto the benefits system like a life raft.
In milking the victim culture, they don’t place us on an equal footing when the perfectionist bandits – standing outside nightclubs refusing to let us in under the guise of, health & safety or, we just couldn’t cope with a rough & ready mosh crowd.
By insisting to maintain the lowered status within society’s pecking order, those protesting against benefit cuts really should be protesting on why we are sentenced to a life absent of the same opportunities, most people simply take for granted.
Yes, the benefits we rely on help with added expenses: such as increased taxi fares, holistic therapies managing specific conditions or mobility equipment; (all of which should be secured) but being on state benefits is not an independent or dignified path and one which leaves us wide open to the shenanigans of the state.
Granted, there are those who cannot work due to their conditions, be it mental or physical, yet that should never be the thrust of what is perceived to be living “dignified lives?”
No, in my book of cross-cultural experience, dignity hinges on what I ‘can do’ and making it possible!
I want an empowering campaign which says: yes, I have limitations and additional employment/educational/support needs, but can still contribute to society in a meaningful way.
I want a campaign which says, I have to work harder, so deserve EQUAL PAY, OPPORTUNITIES promoting me as a social/sexual being. Not a campaign/culture of downtrodden, institutionalised oppression…