Disabled people – cheats, scroungers and skivers
Here is an article that appeared in the UK’s Observer newspaper on 4th December, the day after the annual International Day of People with Disability
It talks about the depressingly widespread “demonization” of disabled people – and a climate of hostility that is made more common in this era of global austerity.
Without doubt it is the case that possibly in the whole of Europe, and definitely in the UK, in recent times the tendency to label disabled people as cheats, scroungers and skivers has grown. It seems that if the intolerance of dishonest behaviour in society at large has doubled, then that attitude has risen tenfold towards disabled people.
Despite many well-intentioned people and disabled groups protesting at this unfairness, it’s almost like you can hear the voices still clamouring no one likes a cheat at the moment, let’s single out one of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups we can!
Unfortunately, language like the following does people with disability no favours at all:
“…[disabled people] remain locked in a state of virtual apartheid. They are forced to the fringes of society, ostracised from things the rest of us take for granted…”
This is 100% true. However this statement assumes that the public can feel this “apartheid” – the reality is that the majority of people, whoever they are, do not naturally have the empathy necessary to feel that “apartheid”. The statement lacks power because it doesn’t resonate with most peoples’ own lives.
Disabled people, more than anyone, should know this – after all, few people can understand what it’s like to be blind or in a wheelchair unless they have experienced it. It’s the same thing with understanding what it’s like to be a marginalised disabled person.
If we want disabled people to stop being seen as the scroungers of society, we need to stop knocking our heads against a brick wall, demanding more empathy, and instead use ways of communicating real emotion that resonates.