Should we write disabled people off?


On Thursday I attended the Disability Confident confidence and I was stuck by what Iain Duncan Smith said about how the benefit system fails many disabled people, regarding them as unable to work, and this was the crime, not the fact people are being declared fit when society is happy to accept an individual’s believe that they are unfit or desire to remain unfit.


Ignoring the politics for one moment, I feel we must accept change the deep rooted assumption disabled people, and those with many long term health conditions, are naturally unable to work and therefore dependent on benefits. It should be seen as bad that people are being denied access of education, training or employment opportunities or given the ability to make a contribution to society to the best of their abilities and talents. It is an attitudinal and cultural shift as opposed to people taking shops, especially when companies are creating special jobs around disabled people to make themselves look good. We are a long way off meaningful employment of many organisations.


We should never write disabled people off and understand how their campaigning often does this.


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Employing disabled people


When we talk about the employment of disabled people, people often just focus on what the disabled people can or can not do, but if we believe in the social model, than the real focus should be on employers on how they can develop their policy and practices to be more inclusive to disabled people, which as an topic is still in its infancy, especially the inclusion of those with significant impairments.
In the past, the business case for employing disabled people has focused on the fact disabled people are perfect employees who never go sick. I fear this ‘integration’ talk has been unhelpful as disabled people should no longer have to compensate with superhuman abilities to earn their existence in the workplace. Employers want the best out of people that helps their business and that means to find those diamond employees, employers need to be flexible in supporting people to work for them to get the very best from them, assuming they are the best applicants for the job.
Adaptations may include allowing people to work more from home, something which can been vital for me, being flexible on hours by focusing on agreed outcomes and deadlines, and much more we are only starting to see happen. It is only with this flexibility can we start getting a win win solution for disabled people and employers.
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My definition of employment


Like many disabled people, especially those with lifelong conditions, the idea of getting a job has always been a given as an attitude and the dramatic improvements in technology has made employment a reality for so many people. The welfare state has for 60 plus years has defined disabled people in terms of their ability to work but based on an outdated concept. I am never going to be able to work down a mine, be a builder or dustman. The idea of working nine to fine, commuting every day does not fit into my notion of suitable employment.


But give me a computer and the internet, and I am working, I am making a contribution to society which I should ideally be paid for. The notion of employment is changing and it is far more accessible to disabled people in a way many people would prefer not to acknowledge. With self-employment, it is not necessarily to keep complaining employers will not employ me because “I’m disabled” as I can directly promote myself to customers. I find it ironic how many disabled people write blogs or articles for national newspapers saying they can not work, when their actions clearly demonstrates otherwise.


I define employment in the widest sense of the word and disabled people have little excuse to at least be positive about their employment opportunities for their own wellbeing as well as their responsibility to society.


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Getting ready to work


I find it hard when people talk about being unfit for work because to me that implies a permanent state of being which is frankly negative. We have a benefit system and a generation of sick people who have written themselves off in the long time when this is not necessarily the case. I much prefer to think of people getting ready for work, even if that process will never be successful. To understand this, we must go back to the sick role.


I see sickness as something with three possible outcomes, it is either something who recover from, something you die from or something that becomes stable and manageable where it becomes an impairment. The later has only recently been acknowledge and demonstrates and acknowledges the employability of people with impairment as well people. The sick role states society will accept periods of sickness so long as people did everything they reasonable can to recover. Therefore periods of sickness are or should be periods of activity in terms of recover to a full state of health or a state of impairment, not periods of inactivity which the middle class media seems to be suggests.


If someone is sick then me question is what are they doing to reach a point of stability as they get ready to work.


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‘Fit for work’ is meaningless


If we need the papers at the moment, it is implied that all disability is about is whether or not someone is fit for work, and I for one is fed up of my life and my identity being boiled down to this. And what does ‘fit for work’ actually mean, while it is a label so many medical model thinking ‘disabled people’ desire and crave to avoid, for me saying I am not fit for work means I am not fit for anything, an inferior being better off dead!


What do we mean by work and what does being fit for work really mean? With so many types of jobs out there, are we really saying disabled people can not do any of them? I know in any assessment ATOS or anyone else wants to give me, I would easily be deemed unable to work but in my own way, I am never not worked and it is insulting to assume I can not work.


So the idea is a line where people are or are not fit for work is meaningless and we should move on and assess what people need to work rather than labelling them better off dead.


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Is saying disabled people can’t work "hate speech"?


It seems the middle class liberal media as well as the sick movement would like us to believe it is some kind of ‘hate speech’ to challenge a disabled people with any belief they can and should  be working just like everyone else. I would like to turn this on its head and argue the ‘hate speech’ could indeed be the culture of welfarism being peddled by this media and the assumption that anyone who is disabled is unable to work.


I am fed up of how the language of equality and rights has now been used to oppress real disabled people as unemployable and therefore worthless second class objects of pity. Welfarism is as bad as the BNP claiming to fight against racism, it has been an excuse to destroy the social model and revert back to the medical model where equality has been replaced by pity.


Campaigning for pity is a form of hate speech against real disabled people I am no longer prepared to accept as I try to change attitudes and make people understand what they are saying.


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Measuring Employability


A lot of the conflict between the sick and the government is simply about how someone measures employability, but both sides are simply arguing over at what point a person can be described as physically, emotionally or otherwise unfit to work based on medical model ideologically, despite how hard both parties may protest.


I would like to argue that employability can be measured through people’s attitude and their environment rather their impairments or conditions, and further to this, employability is a moment by moment measurement rather than anything absolute. So this firstly means that it is people’s own desire to work and the way their environment enables work that is going to decide their employability. And secondly, any measurement of employability is only valid for that moment in time especially since sickness is a journey rather than anything absolute.


I fear Society and the sick movement is a long way off accepting this more social model definition of employability which means many disabled people are going to be continued to be written off as unemployable. 


If you like what I say, have a look at my site at or follow me on twitter, @simonstevens74, or even leave me feedback on +44 (0)121 364 1974 or email  


We should campaign for equal pay

I want like to argue that rather than demanding disabled people keep their benefits and remain dependent burdens of society, we should instead go to the next step and start campaigning for equal pay for disabled people.

Like equal pay for woman, this is a complex concept as what I am suggesting is that disabled people should be paid properly for their contributions to society. I have worked hard for 20 years with many organisations and sitting on many committees where almost everyone else around that table to being paid to be there.

As a disability consultant, I am so often expected to work for free because “it helps me”, as disabled people are consulted again and again with no pay by systems that profit from them. If I was paid for all the work I did comparable to my non-disabled middle class peers, I would be a very happy person. I would not need to worry about benefits.

So we must start saying no to the charity model many user led organisation have accepted and start demanding equal pay for disabled people to move the agenda away from just being about the welfare state.
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They assume unemployability

I fear that when the media, especially the middle class media, talks about disabled people especially in terms of the welfare reforms, they assume disabled people are unemployable. I know I keep returning to this issue but until people get it, it is important to understand.

I hate the pity which is trusted upon disabled people and now demanded by a vocal minority of disabled people, portraying themselves as activists. They argue that the welfare reforms are an attack on the most vulnerable section of society. This makes us look sub-humans, sub-normal.

When they talk about the WCA and being declared ‘fit for work’, it is on an big disgraceful assumption that is it absolutely wrong to believe disabled people can at all work. It is deeply worrying when this is the view of people like the editor of “Disability Now”, a previously leading publication and Scope’s mouthpiece, who is personally outraged people with learning difficulties and those with mental health issues are deemed able to work as shown here. As someone who claims to be the voice of all disabled people, his views are shocking.

The last few years are not helped the inclusion of real disabled people at all. I believe as I will say again and again, everyone is able to “work” in some way or another and it is about having a positive attitude, especially when we are under attack from the media and people who claim to represent us!
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Workshy are portrayed as disabled

Many people argue that many genuine disabled people are now being portrayed as ‘workshy’ and this is hate crime and an attack on the ‘deserving poor’ but I would like to argue that maybe if we could reserve the statement and say that actually the problem is that the genuine workshy are actually being portrayed as disabled people.

Because of society’s continued difficulties confronting disabled people in a normal way it is very easy for anyone to claim to be disabled without being challenged and so this is where the workshy can hide themselves in political correctness. People believe they are disabled if they say they are disabled, they become protected and deemed to too many to then be employable.

We should not let political correctness be used to enable the workshy to exploit and abuse the label of being disabled, especially since many disabled people can work or make another meaningful contribution to society.
If you like what I say, have a look at my website at or follow me on twitter, @simonstevens74