In 2005, I started working on a careers magazine for disabled graduates called the Arberry Profile. The problem with the word disability (apart from its dictionary definition) is that it covers a very wide range of people from those with Dyslexia through to people who are as debilitated as they can be.
However, amongst the majority of people who never have or will experience disability, anyone to whom that label is attached is assumed to be less able or useful than someone without any disabilities. I can show you why this is simply not the case.
The Employers Forum on Disability provides very interesting and useful information, all extensively researched, which ought to be of interest to anyone who employs people. Contrarily to the way human beings get spoken about or treated by politicians, blind people are not lining up everyday to apply to become commercial airline pilots. In fact, people are put off applying for work if they feel they will be rejected out of hand, even if they are totally suitable for the work.
This organisation is now called the Business Disability Forum and its work is certainly cut out.
What’s she on about?
Recently, in the West Briton was an article about a young man who had received over 200 rejection letters for jobs because he was deemed too expensive to hire because of his injuries. But notice: he wanted to work. Employers were able to say no. Does anyone ever look into employment decisions to see how fair they are?
The point of this blog is to highlight another aspect of why the Atos Healthcare Work Assessments are cruel beyond reason. The fact is that people with even the severest disabilities want to work, apply to work, go beyond their limitations to find work despite all sorts of odds. Yes, this was happening before people’s Independent Living Funds were threatened. In fact, this wanting to work thing was much easier to do before Victorians introduced philanthropy for overly-fortunate people to get their kicks by going to coo over any people charities could ring-fence for the purpose of being patronised, now disabled people had been forced by do-gooders to stop trying to fend for themselves, ‘because it’s insulting to disabled people to see them humiliated by earning money in these ways’, said the do-gooders.
Here is the link to Michael Meecher’s blog. For whatever reason, this MP is working tirelessly to challenge the Atos Healthcare (health? care? give me a laugh) work capability assessments. In the cold light of day, the Atos are not capable of doing the work they’re paid to do. People have died, as Meecher’s blog reveals.
The Guardian, of course, are also fighting for a just outcome to all this.
Things I learned while working on the Arberry Profile include:
- Employees with disabilities take less time off sick than people without disabilities.
- If access was increased to ensure disabled people weren’t barred from their consumer activities, billions of pounds more of disposable income would be finding its way into the economy (this was 2006).
- Human beings learn to compensate for their weakness, which produces problem solving skills and unique abilities.
There were various other points too. This website is bang on! Check out the New Economics Foundation (NEF) for some findings that our ( ) government might find so surprising that, like Mark Hoban (in charge of Atos, see Meecher’s blog) would find it so confrontingly real, that it is easier for him not to use that free facility called ‘communication’, developed over millenia to get things done, by refusing to even discuss anything for fear of his livelihood being tickled. (OK, I’ve been watching too many Charlie Brooker programmes).
Essentially, the NEF focuses on welfare and states that a basic human right is to be useful and contribute to society. Why, I ask, is being allowed to contribute made so difficult for people with even the mildest disabilities? But doesn’t this also show how much economic waste is created by disempowering sections of society? Take the unemployed for example. Up to the end of the previous Conservative government, quite a few “benefit scroungers” made themselves useful by writing, rehearsing, performing and recording songs which brought millions of pounds into the economy and many of these poeple, Annie Lennox, David Bowie etc, were cheerfully wheeled out for the Olympics. Surely, people out of work need CONFIDENCE to help them back into work, not being kicked and tied up in red tape?
This is the saddest part of human nature. People tend to be bullied as the bully is the weaker one and they see you as a threat and find ways to bring you down so they are in control. The best part of human nature is we are have had thousands of years practice in surviving threats to our survival that were way more vicious than anything we face today. We are by our very nature extremely resourceful. Hard luck anyone whose had an easy life with everything on a plate.
Now I’ve bored your pants off, I’m going to talk about me.
I was born with hearing loss (which is moderate, over 50 DbHL in both ears) and when I was 35 a thorough test proved I had adult Dyspraxia.
This means I’m very clumsy and don’t make very good first impressions. This is a real XXXXXX in job interviews.
I have never needed Independent Living Allowance and believe I can perform the jobs I can do very well, enthusiastically, I don’t take time off sick, I work hard, I ask people if I don’t know something, I have achieved many excellent results for employers and in voluntary roles and am loyal to my employers.
However, out of 18 years since I graduated from my art degree, I have been in full time pay for 9 of those years. I am not entitled to any benefits. I have spent 14 years paying £500 a month to live in my flat, whether I am earning or not. You’ve got to admit, that is tough? I want to work. I want to be useful. I like delighting people. I like getting good results. I like winning. I like being punctual, reliable and honest. I like to work with people. I have been to many job interviews where the person recruiting has made absolutely no effort to find out who I would be in their workplace, ask my previous employers what I was like or how I performed or what I could achieve for them.
I think, people who take an income for granted really aren’t bothered if their company does its best or not.
Lastly, in 2003-4, I worked with Deafblind people as a communicator guide. I was amazed at the obstacles these two guys faced every day. Many obstacles were added by people assuming they couldn’t do stuff, or who didn’t do what they were supposed to do. One client, Mark, who was 46 when I guided for him, was Deaf, Blind and had cerebral palsy. This is known as Rubella Syndrome. He wrote a song about politics, performed it to an audience of 100 people and on a live radio broadcast. He called into BBC London after getting a parking ticket in Westminster because, being blind, he hadn’t read the information about needing different badges to park in central London. We were on a yellow line, right behind a space for ‘an ambassador’ and Mark had a wheelchair, white cane and hearing aids. Who needed the access, hmmmm? His call to BBC London got a great discussion going. I could never do that.
This guy would walk unaided to his local post office. This worried some guides too much, but he did it safely, using a pedestrian crossing en route. He liked nothing more than to be around people and do stuff. He would have given a limb to have a job. I took him to meet the local paper and he wrote an article about getting about on his own. The guide who took on after me continued to try and get Mark a job in a charity shop (unpaid). This was after he was released from going for an hour each day in a taxi, paid for by the council, to a factory in Watford where he worked for no pay to receive his benefits. All very well, but the other employees all had advanced learning disabilities and he couldn’t chat well with them. Also, being blind and having cerebral palsy isn’t ideal in a factory, now is it?
Maybe people with disabilities are treated this badly because they are a personal, powerful threat to spoilt, complacent, didn’t-earn-any-of-this-myself-but-aren’t-I-great, people who, frankly I wouldn’t want to be around in a crisis.