elettaria: (Trans-friendly equal marriage symbol)
Apparently it is Blogging Against Disablism day. I am pretty tired today, so you are going to get random witterings. But hey, it's not as if there's a shortage of material.

One of my support workers went to an interview for a nursing course yesterday. She reported that they asked her to talk about dignity. "Excellent," I thought. "I had no idea they took patients' dignity so seriously. Frankly, I thought they didn't care a toss." Then she told me that she had to discuss the pros and cons of dignity. I was somewhat bewildered by this. How can there be any cons to treating a patient as a human being worthy of basic respect? It turned out that they were talking about the nurse's dignity. Because we all know that nurses have to put up with losing the right to decide who sees and touches them while they're naked, when to go to the toilet, when to eat, when they may talk to someone, whether they will be believed when they explain crucial facts about their health which may decide their very survival. This isn't worthy of discussion. What is more important is whether or not nurses should carry themselves with a lofty bearing.

And then we get to the media, who portray benefits claimants as all being scroungers when the fraud rate is actually 0.7%, and who encourage people to treat anyone with a disability as a burden on the state, who has lost all right to privacy. If you're on benefits, the standard response is to check whether you're really allowed them, whether you're really ill. I once had a landlord eavesdrop on my benefits medical assessment and then threaten to report me for fraud, even though I hadn't said a thing that was untrue and was actually receiving far less in benefits than I should have been. It was terrifying, and I thought I was about to be made homeless.

Merely being disabled isn't enough. You're constantly under pressure to perform disablement, and not in a realistic way either. Rather, you have to show that you're disabled in a way that will convince a random member of the public with no medical training. I've lost count of all the people who tell me, with an edge in their voice, that I "look fine". Subtext: you're stealing our hard-earned tax money, you lying scum. And as for using up more than our fair share of resources and living a life of luxury, 90% of people with disabilities live below the poverty line.

Of course, if you have worked all your life and paid into the system, some people will grudgingly admit that you deserve some benefits, although not the ridiculous amount you say you need (back to the BBC spreading the myth that people can live on £53 a week, even with disability costs). I am always noticing people say, "Hang on, be nice. If they worked for decades before they became disabled, then they're allowed to claim benefits." This is rather difficult for those of us who never worked enough to claim national insurance credits. I became disabled in my first year of university, when I hadn't done more than a couple of summer jobs (and working my backside off for those is one reason why I got sick a few months later). I haven't paid much at all into the system. How does this make me less worthy of the right to a basic standard of living, let alone happiness? It's not an equal in/out equation. It never has been.

As for "disablism", it's not a word I use myself. It sounds odd. People usually don't know what it means. It's not universally accepted. This shows just how bad the situation is: we don't even have the language to describe the hatred we face. I wish I were exaggerating when I said "hatred".
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January 2014

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