It Is the Lies That Kill Disabled People

Back in August I wrote an article on what I considered to be some urban myths of the welfare reforms asking for any evidence there was any truth to them. My article created a lot of response and anger towards myself, but in my opinion, no proper evidence was provided that any of the myths were true, merely a lot of people demanding I had 19th century pity for a 21st century situation.

I feel that anyone that is rational on the issue, can and should understand that ATOS does not murder people, that Independent Living Fund users will not end up in residential care after 2015, or the majority of disabled people will not be effected by the changes to DLA. This however does not stop disability charities, so-called disability activists and the anti-government media peddling these conspiracy theories like they were facts set in stone built upon myth upon myth.

The latest ‘lie’ to shock me is from Phil Friend, Chair of Disability Rights UK, who suggested to his organisation’s recent AGM that disabled people were better off in the 1950s because they did not have to worry about managing their finances. Now considering in the 1950s, if I was not already dead from pneumonia, I would have been locked away in a mental hospital with no technology, no internet, no voice and no meaningful existence, it is ridiculous to suggest I would have been better off. A part of the inclusion his organisation has supposedly fought for includes managing finances through the tough times as well as the good ones, and it is extremely insulting to suggest disabled people are better off locked away because a minority of people can not manage their finances!

But the lies keep on coming from organisations and individuals desperate to disempower and control disabled people for their own agenda, and I would like to argue this is what is killing disabled people, by pushing them towards suicidal feelings. I fully accept and acknowledge that applying for benefits, managing sickness and impairment, having social care assessments and so on can be very stressful, however confident we are. But as human beings, I feel we can cope with any situation we have to face when it is in isolation, the problems arise when we have a face many difficult situations at once. This is when the level of stress can feel unbearable, making it harder to think straight and see things are not as bad as they seem.

Now, It is perfectly acceptable to understand how people can reach a stage where they feel suicidal, especially if they already have mental health difficulties to manage as well, and I have been there myself more than once. When they are at this stage, they need proper support to calm down and see things as they really are, having the opportunity and help to unpick each problem and understanding what is the worse that could happen, which is often far less than what has been feared. I do strongly believe with the right emotional support, people can work through their problems successfully, becoming stronger people.

But very sadly this is not happening as the conspiracy theorists metaphorically encourage disabled people on the ledge wanting to jump, to jump right now as there is no other choice. It is criminal that when disability charities and activists should be spending their time providing disabled people with the emotional support they need to manage the changes of the benefits system, they are instead shouting their lies as loudly as possible and I fear in the hope of encouraging suicides.

And the reason for this disgraceful behaviour is simple, in the light of no evidence of supposed cuts to ‘real disabled people’, the only way to grab the media’s attention, with the intention of embarrassing the government into an U-Turn on welfare reforms, is to have some suicides they have caused, which they can blame the government for. Since the general public has already been willing to accept for many years it was okay for disabled people to want to kill themselves, it has been easy for the charities and activists to transfer the blame.

I find it horrifying that we live in a political era where those who oppose the government feel the need to continuously lie to disabled people in the hope they will kill themselves, simply to score political points. Things like the WOW Petition are not the sign of a new era of democracy but more like a new era of social media terror, where it is about losing hearts and minds, not winning them. Until we reach a point where the general public demands the real hard facts on ATOS, Independent Living Fund and the many other things being lied about, the killings will sadly continue and more sadly, be written off as a product of the welfare reforms, not the actions of those who oppose the government.

from Simon Stevens


Accessible Transport Is Good for Everyone

Public transport is an essential part of the infrastructure of any civilised society and therefore if disabled people are to achieve full equality as contributing citizens, it is important that public transport is as accessible as it can be, and by this I do not just mean wheelchair access but also a whole range of features so that transport is accessible to a wide range of people with differing impairments.

By accessible transport, I am also referring to the whole journey from the front door to the final destination. This means that the dropped curb from someone’s front door to their nearest bus stop is as important as how accessible the bus is. By removing these small barriers, the benefit can be enormous, and this is not just for disabled people, but a whole range of public transport users. A fully accessible public transport system is an easier, quicker and nicer system for everyone since everyone can benefit from lifts and so on, that has been originally installed to meet the needs of wheelchair users.

While I do accept that public transport is not yet fully accessible as it should be, and I am sure that it can never be the case as standards and expectations rise, I do not accept that in every location, public transport is terrible enough to be considered a barrier to disabled people. I find it odd that poor public transport seems to be one of the main excuses to why disabled people can not get a job, despite the fact they do not know where they are working, and often already have access to a car!

I live in Coventry, and for myself as an electric wheelchair user, the public transport is excellent, there is a very good and fully accessible bus service throughout the city and the train station are very helpful, even when I do not book assistance, and I never book assistance! The public transport system is so good, that along with the fact I can now have my groceries delivered with online shopping, I got rid of my car when I got my electric wheelchair, as I was not using it anymore.

If I had a complaint, it would be about using taxis. The problem is not so much that they are inaccessible, but rather that the poor attitude of the drivers mean they often ‘attempt’ to refuse to take me, making all kinds of excuses about my wheelchair being too heavy and so on. I have had my wheelchair fully okayed by the council and I have done everything I can to make people aware of this issue, being interviewed on local radio twice! The worst situation is at the train station, especially during peak times, when the drivers act like a mob, refusing to take me on mass, shaking their heads to me like I am stupid. My personal assistant eventually coaches one of the drivers to take me, like they were a frightened cat stuck up a tree! I have learnt to bite my lip in this frustrating matter and just try to see the funny side.

I believe that for some people with impairments, a fully accessible transport system will removed the need for them to have the mobility component of DLA or PIP, because their needs will be fully met. This is why I believe in an outcome based single disability payment, like the one currently being proposed by Labour, since it could and should provide a balance between what is spent on supporting individuals, and what is spent making the wider environment accessible. This means that providing dropped curbs and other features may be more beneficial than any amount of personal benefit, especially since it is not possible for any individual to ‘buy’ a dropped curb!

The political argument for accessible transport has been won some years ago now, and I personally find it boring when people assume otherwise. It is only a matter of time and money, which has been difficult of late, before the UK has a fully accessible public transport system we should all be proud of, especially as it will be one less excuse for disabled people not to work!

from Simon Stevens