The responsibilities of impairment for individuals and state

In terms of having an impairment or health condition, everyone is happy to talk about rights, but few people are willing to discuss responsibilities, both in terms of theirs and the states. Many people seem to see having an impairment as a free pass to become victims of society, blaming everyone else for their problems and find it difficult to see the positive side of having an impairment when it is properly managed.

If we take any impairment, it is clear to see the individual has a responsibility to participate in its management. This is easy to see in lifestyle-related impairments like diabetes, asthma and obesity. Here, individuals have a responsibility to take the medications agreed with health professionals, avoid triggers that could worsen their symptoms, and make lifestyle changes to avoid the condition worsening or even to improve their situation.

Impairment responsibility also applies to me as someone with cerebral palsy, even though it is regarded as an impairment caused by no fault on my own. I have a responsibility to use the communication methods available to me to communicate as effectively as others as I can if I wish to be a part of society. I have a responsibility to be aware of my drooling and the social impact it may have on others.

Having a responsibility does not mean you have to do anything, and there are always consequences to what we do. Society, individuals and the state may respond differently to us if we do not take on our impairment related responsibilities and therefore people require the information to make informed choices, especially if they will have negative consequences, and this means being honest with people with impairments, which society is not always very good at doing.

The state and others have a responsibility to support us to manage our impairments, and to ensure the social disadvantage we face by having an impairment are as little as reasonably possible, expecting policies and practises to already be in place to reduce this in the long term even if we do not see the benefits currently.

I would like to suggest, as usual, different to the rhetoric of other ‘disabled activists’, that after the last 20 years, the state continued to have pulled up its socks in meeting its responsibilities to people with impairments in a manner that will never be perfect. Real inclusion requires uptake of responsibility by individuals themselves, which many are not emotionally ready to even understand, let alone achieve.

I believe it is now people with impairments themselves generally who are not playing their part and meeting their responsibilities if full and meaningful inclusion is going to be achieved. The rights agenda is being used within a ‘something for nothing’ culture to prohibit inclusion from being achieved because it suits the agenda of the many vested interests in keeping people with impairments disempowered, including activists themselves. Their identity is built on a struggle they can not afford to achieve.

The future prosperity of people with impairments comes from the take up of responsibilities, and now they have to decide if that is what they want.

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