It is generally assumed that the way to improve the inclusion of sick and disabled people is to focus on providing them access to rights. However, rights simply exist, they are passive and meaningless without responsibilities. Anti-discrimination ‘civil rights’ legislation, like the original ‘Disability Discrimination Act 1995’ is really about the right to take responsibility in terms of employment, transport and so on. It is easy to provide equal rights on a piece of paper, but it is much harder to create equal responsibilities, the true sign of inclusion.
At a time where the agenda should be shifting from rights to responsibilities, it has instead been halted and maybe reversed. As more people identify themselves as disabled people, there is an assumption that being associated with this label means it is acceptable to make excuses to avoid responsibilities. Society seems to be backlashing against this next step to the full and meaningful inclusion of disabled people as full contributing members of society.
By this, I mean that the media, politicians and activists have framed disabled people as the most vulnerable members of society who needs protecting at all costs. The misplaced prejudice reduces disabled people to the ranks of children, unable to take responsibility for their actions. We now reached a point where even asking disabled people to fill out a form results in public outcry because it is too stressful for them!
The mock outcry is partly designed to attack the government, as the stressful forms only ever relates to DWP, as opposed to anyone else. If we look dispassionately at the experience of the average hospital stay, people are subjected to far more violations of their human rights. They do so to get better, and so to receive welfare benefits, you need to fill out forms and have assessments. This is no different to getting a mortgage and millions of other every day stresses.
If you really believe an assessment is too stressful for some people, redesigning it will be meaningless as someone will always complain its not right for them. And when did it become the responsibility of the state to provide disabled people, or anyone else, a stress-free life? Any change in circumstances is and will always be stressful. Wrapping up disabled people in cotton wool will keep them vulnerable and fragile.
While the term is now hated by many over politically correct activists, ‘tough love’ is exactly what disabled people need to be enabled and empowered to be included into society. There must be consequences to my actions and I must have the right to make a complete mess of things. I always found it hypocritical many activists demand the government treats people with mental health issues with ‘kid-gloves’, yet they are happy to personally insult me with no empathy for my own mental health issues, and how that affects my management of emotions.
Too many people are willing to play the disability card to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. It is acceptable to explain the reasons why you may have difficulties performing specific tasks, but simply saying “I am disabled, I can’t …” should no longer be acceptable. If you do not want to work, just admit it as saying “I would love to work but…” annoys me greatly. We all have a responsibility to make a contribution to society, or take the consequences of not doing so.
The ability to take responsibility, or simply take, is going to be the key differences between the Conservative and Labour manifestos at the next election. Labour wants to take social responsibility away from disabled people, making us no different to children. The Tories are bravely fighting against the prejudices that exist to give disabled people the social responsibility they deserve.
– If you like what I say, have a look at my website at http://www.simonstevens.com or follow me on twitter, @simonstevens74