Increased Expectations of Disabled People

The end of Black Slavery was a great and defining moment for human civilisation, but I have always wondered about the practicalities that a new generation of free black people had to ensure. I would never suggest being a slave was a good thing, but many of them had a good set-up where their meals and board were taken care off. Any institutional environment, however bad society perceives it, has some good qualities, and this is often why people reoffend to go back to prison, an institution that makes them feel safe and secure, with little responsibility.

But when black people became free from slavery, I imagine they had to learn to fend for themselves as citizens and consumers, rather than as commodities, and find themselves housing, a job, and learn to manage money like anyone else. It must have been a great and exciting experience, and also a terrifying one at times as it would be new to them, without the safety net they were used to. To add to the complexities was the fact that while they may be free in law, this did not mean racist attitudes towards them suddenly stopped, and it would be a couple or more generations before racism would not be the dividing issue.

I would like to suggest that this is where disabled people are right now, as the first generation in the UK who are slowly free from institutional care. We are not entirely there as our freedom has not been won outright but I know I am a part of a generation of significantly impaired adults who escaped institutional care, and live ‘in the community’ with support. I live in my own rented flat, pay my own bills, and I am totally responsible for every minute of my day, in a way there would have been impossible a generation ago.

The rights disabled people have secured within my lifetime has meant that there are greater responsibilities placed on many disabled people although not as much as I would like. I believe while I have the moral responsibility to work, society is still happy to write me off as unfit for work if I so choose. But the reality is slowly and steadily, as disabled people gain more rights and independence, society is returning the favour by slowly and steadily having increased expectations of what disabled people’s role in society is.

I believe this is fantastic news, but some disabled people do not see it in the same way. I could discuss the welfare reforms and how they are based on increased expectations, but with the poor delivery of these policies, it is hard to see the wood for the trees and so it is a bad example. But what I do find interesting is some disabled people’s current concern about increased hostility from the general public, what they refer to as a rise in disability hate crime, although I see it as something else.

My biggest complaint about being disabled is not that people are hostile to me, but that they are too kind to me with patronising pity, and believe me people can be harmed by kindness as much as hostility. During my childhood, disability was a taboo subject, the public could not make jokes about disabled people, or even confront disabled people when they did something wrong, because we were regarded as fragile dolls. So I personally believe if the public now feel they can mock disabled people, confront them and actually say what is on their mind, then I see this as a positive step. I am not saying it is nice or fair, but it is a part of being equal citizens and being included into society. While many disabled people may disagree, true equality and inclusion is not the same as having everything perfect.

I am not excusing or justifying the true hate motivated crimes against disabled people, but I am merely suggesting what disabled people see as hostility from other people may just be a part of the increased expectations placed upon disabled people, and this is a price, or a part of the success, however you may wish to look at it, of the equality and inclusion disabled people have achieved.

from Simon Stevens


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s