Two rulings this week served severed blows to the disabled community. Jane Bostock explains the ramifications.
On Monday, the Disability community were served with a double whammy. The High Court upheld the Government’s decision to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF), which provides more than 18,000 disabled people with high support needs to live within the community.
The ILF effectively transfers ring-fenced funding to disabled people to manage their own assistance. But, as of the June 30, 2015, this funding will be non ring-fenced and transferred to Local Authorities to be managed as they decide best.
So, I can see that’s going to go well. I expect the annual Champagne budget will be healthy. On the serious side, there are genuine fears people living independently may be forced into homes because “cost effectiveness” not “quality of life” will be the priority.
In addition, a court ruling on the right for Disabled people to have priority in the Disabled space of a bus was overturned. The court ruling, in favour of First Group, was sparked by an incident where a mother with a pram refused to move out of a bay of the bus upon request of a Disabled person wanting to get on. The ruling itself was sympathetic and agreed it was a priority for Disabled people but concluded moments of such rude ignorance were so rare the law did not need to be changed.
Rare? I beg to differ.
Many moons ago, when working with young Disabled people, in an “inclusion” project, designed to empower and challenge the daily onslaught of inaccessibility, I soon discovered the brick wall of exclusion. I’ve spent a good couple of hours trawling Covent Garden with wheelchair-using young people to find somewhere to eat and go to the toilet, which was not curtailed by a step. I’ve been told a venue is accessible, but found there are “just a few steps, but it’s OK, we can help lift”. Would you like to be carried up steps by complete strangers? A visit to the Blue Man Group was so inaccessible we were sent round the back through the rubbish bins to the service lift.
I’ve been told we cannot go to a comedy night because some of the people I had with me had learning difficulties and “it’s not for them, not that kind of night.”
Bus drivers and taxi drivers have not stopped because they can’t be bothered to get the ramp out or they have “bad backs” which preclude them from anything manual.
The times I’ve had people ask me what my friend needs and I’ve said back “why don’t you ask them? They are right here next to me”. Its staggering the level of exclusion and discrimination Disabled people face. And, the shocking thing is, I had not even noticed until I stepped into that world and spent time with the people it impacts upon. It brought me to tears, anger and horror. How did I not know this?
Every time this happens the message is loud and clear – you don’t matter, you should not expect the same as people who are not in a wheelchair. Don’t even try and get anywhere. There is no guarantee you will not be left stranded at a bus stop for hours. Or to be treated as an oddity that will have to just tolerate a lesser level of service, access and be grateful for what you do get.
I am a mum, I have had the buggy and wot not, and used a disabled bay in a bus many times, but I tell you something, if I see someone who is Disabled and needs it, I know to get out of the way because I have a good dozen spaces to choose from when I fold down my pram and sit little fella-me-lad on my knee.
There is a term called the social model of Disability and simply put, it is this – being in a wheelchair or having an impairment of any sort is not the problem or the issue, it’s the way we, as a “civilised society”, treat those people. Do we endeavour to make accessibility for all?
Well, you know my answer already…
A human, like you.