On the 7th of November, 2016 the a United Nations committee declared that the United Kingdom was in breach of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Disabled People (UNCRPD), after a two year investigation. What should have ideally been a turning point, to positively change the “grim reality” of life for disabled people, was quickly snubbed by the current government as “offensive”. The government reassured the public it was “continuously seeking improvements for disabled people” and the findings were soon dismissed and forgotten. However, disabled people continue to face the human rights abuses the UN report outlines. It’s 3 months later, apart from the promise of reassessing a lot of people’s Personal Independence Payment claims, not much has happened. I’m angry about that.
Since starting my MA in disability studies in September, Ableism is the concept that I’ve come across, and one I like to use. In a similar way to racism or sexism, ableism is the idea that disabled people are part of a disabled: non-disabled dichotomy. Being disabled is seen as inherently negative as a result. Ableism permeates all aspects of the social world, from social policy, to everyday interactions with others. The UNCRPD aims to combat ableism, by regularly following each signatory country to ensure they are doing more and more to meet all the articles.
Raised in the UN report into the UK violations, were 11 recommendations, many of which centred on the changes to the welfare state, that hugely affect disabled people, infringing on their human rights. Many of the UN’s concerns are about the changes to welfare, adopted since 2010, as well as the rights to independent living and to be included in the community, social protection and employment of persons with disabilities.
I cannot stress how important this report should have been, in changing the government’s policies towards welfare for society’s most vulnerable.
But, since much of what we see in the media and from our government centres on ableism: where disabled people are ‘scroungers’ and hear things like ‘Oh I wish I didn’t have to work and get free money’ – is it really a surprise?
There has been an alarming rise in this sort of rhetoric across all areas of life. What society needs to do is recognise that disabled people have a lot to give. We need to move on from the poles of ‘inspiration overcomes disability’ and ‘tragically suffers from disability’ – what happens to all of us who fall somewhere in between? Is disability really as scary and negative as society thinks it is?
As a woman with a chronic pain, joint problems and dyspraxia, I don’t necessarily suffer. I know that’s hard for many people to understand. I still go to university, see my friends, and live my life. Shocking.
What I suffer from is a society that would prefer if I were ‘normal’
That I should attempt to continually ‘fix’ myself, to pass as able bodied / non-disabled.
My answer to that is, no.
Fix society’s attitude.
Fix the welfare system.
Fix the access issues
Fix the pathology and medicalisation.
Fix the lack of awareness and understanding.
I do not need fixing.