Labour is not the party for all disabled people

While this election will be remembered as the Brexit election it has not stopped many disabled activists from trying to bring their concerns of the welfare reforms to the forefront. While campaigns like #cripthevoteuk proclaim themselves as non-partisan, it is clear that it is in reality a left-wing rant against the Tories. For these activists, they believe passionately and arrogantly that every disabled person, all 13 million of us, will want to vote Labour without hesitation regardless of the fact that they see it as our moral duty.

WIth the core message that the Tories kills disabled people through the benefit assessment system, something yet to be properly proven in an unbias setting, their see Corbyn’s still publicly undisclosed economic utopia as the future for disabled people. This seems to be solely based on the idea of anyone with any impairment has nothing to contribute to society and merely inferior beings who require paying off and warehousing, prejudice and bigotry disguised as fairness and compassion.

While a minority of people with impairments at the frontline of the welfare reforms who have come from the vulnerability machine of the NHS will be convinced their victimhood lifestyle, celebrated by the immorality of the left wing, is the experience of all disabled people, it is simply foolish to believe all 13 million disabled people will vote against the government. We are not a homogeneous group but rather individuals who all have our own issues and beliefs. There is however a level of implied anti-government support that I find slightly intimidating. No one wants anyone to experience unnecessarily and preventable hardship but implying it is entirely the fault of the government is unhelpful.

One of the main reasons I am not voting Labour is because last year and directly to my own face, my own Labour MP was unwilling to even pretend to show his opposition to the Assistied Dying bill. Labour support for Assisted Dying, the legal killing of disabled people because they are disabled, is greater than the Tories. I also fear that deep down, the attitude that disabled people should not have to be assessed for benefits, because ‘it is obvious’, is the same attitude that would justify mercy killings of the ‘really disabled’, like myself, who Labour sees as the problem of heroic unpaid carers. It is an attitude that makes me sick to my stomach and I get so frustrated other people do not see this inhumanity that history will berate!

Protecting the ‘vulnerable’, including disabled people in a way that is simply historically abusive, seems to be the last message a dying Labour Party has. Labour is not interested in me making a contribution to society but rather simply paid to be thrown on the scrapheap because it makes other people feel good inside, especially when this modern day oppression can be framed in terms of human rights. There may be a proportion of disabled people who want this equivalent of black slavery, those the complicit media are happy to interview with their career-long sob stories, but there is a silent majority of disabled people, who have no motivation to rock the boat, who simply get on with it and will vote the way they feel.

Disabled people are individuals and they will vote as individuals. Labour and the left-wing activists who have hijacked disability as their issue may assume they have our votes sewn up but this is very far from the case.

Has things really got worse for dysabled people?

A recent report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (an organisation I am trusting less and less) suggested that things have got worse for people with impairments in a number of areas. This is based on an analysis of a whole range of reports that fit in the current fashion of being negative and anti-government, focusing on a desire for a welfare model of dysability. The fits into a current trend that can be seen by an article I read that suggested bullying of people with impairments had increase without any real explanation.

I think it is firstly worth pointing out that any form of large scale statistical analysis is basically meaningless and unlikely to be without political and other bias. Culminative research around people with impairments is particularly problematic as the definition of disabled people changes according to the issue being discussed and now covers a extremely varied population. Most research is now feeling based and will include people with impairments who were not impaired ten years ago for example, and therefore they would have nothing to compare with. They will assume that things have got worse, being oversensitive to their situation simply because of the anti-government feeling created by the left wing media.

Statistics are often based on a welfare model of dysability and ignores both lived experiences and the many new opportunities for people with impairments. People like myself accept that while a lot has already improved, there is still a lot to be done and that it will be a never ending task as expectations will always rise. But this is something that could be said about any issue and do we really need to waste endless amounts of money telling us what we already know?

I believe that technology and other factors have made things better for many people with impairments, the majority who are not affected by the welfare reforms. Society does not wish to wrap us up in cotton wool, and therefore our more mainstream interaction with others will result as unpleasantness. Bullying may not be great, but surely it is a sign of our meaningful inclusion within society? I feel my life is improving and this should be celebrated as opposed to criticised.

Where I do believe things have got worse for people with impairments is the more public display of welfarist bigotry towards people with impairments by the left and liberal activists, which the EHRC report is a part of. People with impairments are considered by these groups as passive burdens of a welfare system. They talk about our rights but only in terms of being inferior beings who need protecting from the mainstream, individuals are must remain passive members of society.

I disagree with this fashionable bigotry. If in line with my idea that hardship is a part of life, I believe people with impairments myself has some responsibility to decide their attitude towards life, and that we all have a responsibility to determine if things improve or not. If something is not right in our own lives, we have a duty to ourselves to put it right. It is time to be a person, not a number!

Having Pride, Understand Tips and more

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April 2017

I am a leading independent dysability issues consultant, researcher, trainer, controversial inclusion activist, campaigner, and social change agent, based in Coventry (UK) with vast experience and expertise in a wide range of fields including dysability equality, independent living, health policy, social care, lifestyle advocacy, employing personal assistants and Secondlife. I have worked with many organisations of all types since 1990 nationally and internationally and I am also the founder of Wheelies, the world’s first dysability themed virtual nightclub, and star of Channel 4’s dysability prank show, I’m Spazticus as well as being a blogger for the Huffington Post. I also have cerebral palsy that affects my speech, balance, hand control and sense of humour (in a positive way).
Having Pride is the story of Simon Stevens, a man with significant impairments who has defied many social norms and expectations to achieve more than anyone could ever imagine. Born in 1974, within an era when society had little expectations for what people with impairments could achieve if anything, Simon fought to be heard and be able to reach his full potential as a leading and experienced independent dysability consultant, trainer and social change agent. This became a lifelong mission for him as he battled against an oppressive society to achieve his goals and outcomes.
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Understand Assistance is an e-book guide for People who employ Personal Assistants. It is be a comprehensive guide exploring every aspect of the employment and management of personal assistants, as well as the qualities and skills a personal assistant may need. The guide will cover the preparation needed to successfully employ personal assistants, the recruitment process, employment law, disciplinary and grievances processes, managing finances, interpersonal skills, active safeguarding, guidance on specific issues, and much more. The aim of the guide is to a straight talking guide that is also sensitive to the diverse range of needs of employers and personal assistants.
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This ‘Achieve Support’ discussion paper details a concept for the implementation of a fully integrated impairment related assistance and support assessment and allocation system and process as described by Simon Stevens, an independent disability consultant working in the adult social care and disability field. The intention is that the proposed idea would replace much of the policies, systems and structures of adult social care and disability related welfare benefits within the UK. The concept can be seen as a combination of ideas and principles that has been brought together in a coordinated and coherent concept in how social care and disability related support, designed for children, young people, working aged adults and older people, can be delivered effectively and efficiently in a manner that is truly personalised and able to meet future funding requirements.
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Hardship makes us stronger

If we read the endless articles written about people with impairments we would get the impression that as a group we have the right to somehow not experience any form of hardship or ‘stress’. This worries and frustrates me because I believe that everyone can experience hardship regardless of their background, sometimes in a manner that is not obvious, and if we want equality, we need to accept hardship is a part of that.

I am defining hardship as experiencing situations that are harder than normal to resolve and something we can all experience regardless of our background. In this context, we can not ignore the fact that being or becoming impaired is a hardship in itself simply because it is a change of circumstances. While the systems people with impairments have to navigate could always be improved, they will always appear hard to those who are new to them or see them from an external position, which is where the media’s pity comes in.

I believe the problem is not hardship itself, but people’s attitude towards hardship. If you always see hardship as a bad thing then you will always been angry and frustrated at the world. It is all very well demanding the government makes everything easier because ‘stress’ is wrong but any system is going to cause stress. How the media and activists have defined stress to specifically relate to people applying for welfare benefits, linking them to suicides, has been politically motivated and ignore many other areas of hardship and stress people with impairments can face.

I see hardship differently, as a necessary part of daily life that we need to embrace and overcome. As oppose to trying to endlessly demand there should not be hardship in our lives, we should simply battle on to go pass the hardship. This requires hard work, determination and a positive attitude to life in general. While this may indeed not be easy, developing these qualities make us stronger and I believe better people.

It is important to understand that I am not saying that hardship is something we should celebrate and allow to increase, if hardships can truly be removed then they should be, but we can not make the fact something is hard a valid reason to simply avoid doing it. Mankind has progressed through the ages and made advances in all areas because of a willingness and desire to overcome hardships. If some of the politically correct liberal thinking was around when we lived in caves, the invention of fire would have been prohibited because of the dangers involved as well as the stress and anxiety it could cause!

Hardship is a part of humanity that makes us stronger as individuals as well as a collective. My determination to overcome any issue I have faced has been a core part of my identity, impairment or not, and helped me become a strong and proud person. I am unprepared to allow currect notions of political correctness take that away from me!

Disabled people should have their exact extra costs met


It is no secret that I am not a fan of the current range of benefits for people with impairments and for reasons that are very different to the normal concerns from other activists. As opposed to helping people improve their quality of life, I believe the current range of benefits feeds passivity and dependency, reinforcing notions of poverty and disempowerment.

This stance makes me appear callous and cruel because I don’t conform to the dominant exclusion agenda, but I do believe people with impairments should have a better type of support that actually supports people in their unique journey of life. I believe fundamentally that people with any form of additional difficulty to what would be expected from the norm should get the exact support they require when they require it within the realms of reasonableness.

There are three important points here that makes my system very different and hopefully better than the current system. The first point is that labels will be irrelevant but rather the focus should be what the impact is in creating barriers towards someone achieving their immediate and long term goals. This means that labels like cerebral palsy, diabetes and so on have little meaning in describing how the condition affects an individual, which is unique to them. It is therefore better to focus on the specific impact any condition creates in terms of everyday life as well as fulfilling longer term goals.

The second point is the determining and agreeing the individual goals of a person, and the support they may require, it is important to compare what is a reasonable lifestyle amongst their peers. This means that their reasonable outcomes will be determined to some degree by their peer group, so students will be compared with students, those in work, people in a specific career and so on. This could mean it will acceptable for a student to have support to go back packing for a gap year in the same way as their peers and offers intercultural learning, but the same request could not be made by someone in their 40s. This fits into an idea of a right to equal opportunities as opposed to specific rights to access activities without question.

The final point is that support should meet the specific extra costs a person has in performing activities in comparison to their peers without additional difficulties. Importantly, they need to be able to afford the activity as if they did not have any additional costs, as well as the activities being reasonable in comparison to their peers. This means that in the spirit of fairness, unless framed in terms of education or meeting specific mental health issues, the support for leisure activities for someone out of work is going to be less then for someone in work because leisure is a reward of work as well as a method of managing the stresses of work.

I believe my system will be fairer and stop the idea of winners and losers that the current system provides. It will be unpopular for many who feel they should be compensated for how they feel being impaired, or are reluctant to acknowledge their additional costs are not as high as they would like others to believe. But this is the only way we will ever move away from the victim culture of current system of benefits.

Accessibility in Technology is the new Norm


Accessibility within technology and particularly computing used to be seen as something bolted on. When it came to the internet, it used to be mainly focused on the needs of people with visual impairments. But things are changing and accessibility is now becoming a natural part of how technology and software is being designed.

In terms of technology, accessibility can be regarded has making something easier to use for everyone, since if you make something easier to someone with a specific impairment, you are making it easier for everyone else. For various reasons for people with a wide range of difficulties, each unnecessary click or keystroke is a barrier to using software which designers are now starting to consider.

We are also entering a silent revolution in what technology can allow us to do with ease. Personal assistants like Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Voice are still in their infancy in terms of how they can change how we interact with technology, not just computers and tablets, but also many other household devices in a way we can only imagine. Where ‘environment control’ used to be something very specialist reserved for people for very significant impairments, ‘internet of things’ is slowly revolutionising how we interact with every day devices. I already have a video door-bell that shows me who is at my front door, as well as automatically recording any movement at the door.

There are now apps for absolutely everything you can think off, again gradually changing our habits with clever little features. There are translation apps that enables users to take photos and translate the words in the picture into any language, other apps can translate speech from one language into another. I personally find this useful in assisting me to ask my Colombian Volunteers to do things like cook me food from recipes or simply reading the back of the packet.

Since I started using computers in 1981, I have never stopped being amazed to how improvements in technology as enabled me to do more things, as well as enabling me to be included in society as an equal member who as able to contribute as much, if not more, than others. And the revolution continues as accessibility in technology becomes the new norm.

Many Activists are hypocrites when it comes to opposing assisted dying

I have been vocal in my opposition to assisted dying because it fits into my belief in the rights and responsibilities of citizens. I believe that it is not justed about blocking formalised mechanisms of assisted dying, but also to change the culture the enables people with impairments and families to desire assisted dying by properly valuing the contribution people with impairments make and enabling further contribution.

There are three prominent activists who have played a major role in campaigning against assistied dying; Liz Carr, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Jane Campbell. But as I will show, there hasve been individually committed other actions that as to make you wonder what their understanding and commitment to the issue is. There is little point opposing assisted dying for people who in reality are offered little respect.

Last year Liz said in a fringe meeting at Labour’s Party Conference that the Government ambition to support more people with impairments into work, as opposed to leaving them on the scrapheap, was comparable to sending them to nazi concentration camps. Ignoring for one moment the disgraceful offence to the survivors of the holocaust , Liz is saying that meaningful inclusion is ‘evil’ and that people with impairments are better off on the scrapheap, regarded as unfit for society. Being on the scrapheap, waiting for god, will only cause the emotional mixture required to desire assisted dying. Liz is therefore demanding people with impairments should not die, but should not live either, condemning them to hell on earth in the name of socialism because of her opposition to the meaningful inclusion of ALL people with impairments.

Tanni has used her time as a member of the House of Lords to focus on many issues but mainly opposing welfare reforms as well as opposing assisted dying. Tanni has always come across as someone easily swayed by political correctness to her approaches many issues with a lack of lived experience due to her privileged position by background or opportunity. This means her political correct moral compass shows her to oppose assisted dying, and to support Labour’s attacks on the inclusion of people with impairments because it is ‘hard’, and it is better to exclude people with impairments in the name of support, compassion and human rights. But denying people with impairments the responsibilities associated by citizenship by labelling them as vulnerable all the time means she is defining us as either children or animals, especially when Tanni opposes sanctions for those who refuse to cooperate and take responsibility for their actions.

Jane used to be one of the few role models in my life. She indirectly taught me the values that are key in what I now believe. I sadly now realise many of my teachers in the old disability movement did not really believe what they were preaching. The movement loved the social model when it worked in their favour in terms of rights but as soon as the government and others called for the responsibilities to be delivered, proposed by the movement itself, they quickly reverted back to the medical model, which can be seen by the UN Convention of the Rights of Disabled People.

Jane has been a fierce opponent of assisted dying, something to be undoubtedly admired, but a recent conversation with her has questioned her commitment to all people with impairments. The government recently said in an awkward fashion that in a world with limited resources that those with high support needs in terms of resources, should be prioritised. This should be very uncontroversial but it was mercilessly attacked by many including Jane. Jane told me the any hierarchy of impairment was ‘unhelpful’. But it is a reality that should not be ignored and it is something that those at the top will always say as they are not a part of the forgotten voices. It opens up the idea of a double standard where the right not to die is exclusive to the impaired elite. Those at the bottom often have their voice controlled by their families, an potential of abuse that is ignored by the old disability movement and the sick movement, which can be seen by the celebration of Fiona Pilkington, and her murder of her impaired daughter, Francecca, was justified by ‘disabled’ activists in the name of ‘hate crime’.

Liza, Tanni and Jane’s hypocrisy are a sign of a much bigger problem in terms of the many double standards of activists in a range of movements. Sadly, few activists interested in dysability issues are willing and maybe able to think for themselves and question everything anyone says.