Understanding the Disability Oppression Industry

Having worked in the disability field over 25 years, at just the age of 42, I have worked with, or at least become familiar with most players as my appearance and outspokenness has made people notice me! The longer I have worked in the field, the more I realise that the task towards inclusion and liberation is bigger and further away than I believed when I started. Many of the players who I believed for a long time were part of the solution are in fact part of the problem.

The industry that keeps people with impairments oppressed is huge, larger than people realise. For too many people, people with impairments are merely either financial commodities to make a living from, or political pawns, especially within left-wing politics. I would like to show 3 examples of the Disability Oppression Industry.

The first are special schools. Special Schools were the birth of this industry and have existed in one form or another for over a century. What started as principal based eugenic motivated segregation quickly became a profit centre. Not only do special schools not provide pupil’s a proper education or the social skills needed for the real world, but they act as feeders to adult day and residential services.

This means oppressive services can profit from people with impairments throughout their life. While the terms may change and services may receive a lick of paint every few years, the desire to profit from oppressing people with impairments remain the same.

The second example may surprise people because it is user-led organisations, who are supposed to be the good guys. While user-led organisations did begin with good intentions, as soon as any organisation is formalised, its main objective becomes one thing, its survival, especially if it employs staff. This means it requires people with impairments to remain dependent on them so the need remains high and the funding keeps flowing. This means whether they like it or not, hey are as much a part of the oppression industry  as special schools, despite being more socially acceptable since why would people with impairments running their own organisations oppose their own inclusion and liberation?

The third and final example may have been around for many years, but it has only been in the last 6 years that this part of the industry has been obvious and apparent. The example is the  wave of ‘disability activists’ now keep ‘disability issues’ on the agenda, or so it would seem. The reality is that a large portion of the activists are people with various levels of impairments who campaign with a clear left-wing agenda.

This section of political activists have reduced the issue of ‘disability’ down to just being a welfare issue, where their aim is to restore welfare spending and allocation to pre-2010 levels so that people with impairments can remain comfortable with their oppression. Since people with impairments were not as a majority either included or liberated before 2010, this political wing of the industry is unknowingly using its own hidden prejudices towards people with impairments to keep them disempowered and oppressed.

If there is an oppression industry, then there must be a liberation industry. This is indeed true although it is certainly not as strong, and relies on pockets of individuals around the world, often working in isolation, trying to make a difference. The purpose of this industry is to achieve the inclusion and liberation of people with impairments that promotes interdependency, and certainly not dependency on the industry itself.  This is an also industry in the making.

Going forward, I need to focus my attention at work and at home away from the oppression industry and towards the liberation industry as it is only positive action that will change the balance of power drop by drop. Those of us who truly believe in the liberation and inclusion of people with impairments all have an important part to play.

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