On Friday, Scope launched its 2016 divisive campaign called #endtheawkward. The basis of the campaign is that based on its own dodgy research, two-thirds of non-impaired people find interacting with ‘disabled people’ awkward. So a bunch of non-impaired people as Scope’s campaign staff with ‘consultation from impaired people’ have decided they are qualified to teach the general public how to treat ‘disabled people’, i.e., with kid gloves.
My first question is what do they mean by awkwardness and ‘disabled people’, and how exactly do people find us awkward? The whole basis of the ‘two-thirds’ headline is meaningless as it ignores the complexity of impairment and disability. Individuals may have felt awkward because the disabled people they have encountered are loud activists with large chips on their shoulders!
Different levels of impairments have a different level of acceptance within society and those with speech impairments who drool are indeed awkward looking. Scope have however avoided using anyone with an awkward impairment in the campaign. Last year they had a video of someone stressing about which hand to shake when confronted with someone with one arm!
My main criticism of the campaign is that it is actually creating an awkwardness where it does not already exist and puts the general public on political correctness red alert, requesting them to ‘act normal’ in a manner that is totally artificial and well awkward. One example is this is that the campaign’s guidance suggest that it is incorrect to ask someone in a wheelchair to ‘go for a walk’ because it is insensitive! I do not know any impaired person who would find this offensive and for me, this shows how unqualified Scope’s non-impaired campaign team is.
No majority group (white, male, straight, non-impaired) has the right or experience to design training material on how to treat a minority group (black, female, gay, impaired). The fact members of the minority group may be consulted and involved as individuals does not mean that consultation is likely with the groups and organisations that have curved their cultural history, and so it is an invasion of their cultural norms which is patronising and offensive.
We can all tell ‘light-hearted’ horror stories based on assumptions made about one or more of our identity labels (gender, race, sexuality, impairment) that have some interest to our friends and family. However, I am uncomfortable when people use this in a public setting as a form of oppression humour, often with an undertone of bitterness towards to majority group’s ‘stupidity’. This type of humour, widely used within the disability movement, often makes too much light of the many problems they and others face.
In reading Scope’s long-term strategy, you will believe they were the one and only voice and campaigner on disability issues when this is very far from the case. This latest campaign mocks people with impairments, labelling them as the awkward freaks from society who must be treated especially normal so you, the dumb general public, don’t look like fools to the Guardian readers type watching your every move.
In 2016, most impaired and non-impaired people know how to interact with each other, if they indeed want to, without Scope wasting money on this kind of nonsense.