In my last post I suggested that some people were likely to use the paralympics as a political tool to demonise disability benefit claimants.

Lo and behold, we have this tale of a local newspaper editor telling motability claimants to ‘hang their heads in shame’. The disability news service reports an odious arse dribble named Tony Hines claimed ““fake” disabled people “do not work or contribute to society one iota and just sponge and bitch all day while sitting at home eating cream cakes watching Loose Women”, and compared them with Paralympians, who were “genuine people with some bad disabilities but not giving into them and actually trying to overcome them”. In a festival of anti-benefits rhetoric, ableism and classism and a general scorn for humanity. There is this idea that you must always be striving to ‘overcome’ your disability and if you accept that it’s probably realistically going to be a part of your life for quite a while and you admit to needing support, you’re not ‘trying hard enough’. Believe me I have tried to carry on like I’m fine, fit and healthy and sooner or later, usually sooner, it all ends up with my body and mind going ‘erm we can’t just ignore this, help!’ and crashing. As much as I hate to admit it, I have limits and if I push them too far I make myself worse, why should I be ashamed to ask for help and support if I need it and that help comes in the form of benefits?

This is a perfect example of the kinds of attitudes I worried about. The  rise of “armchair ATOS” crusaders who feel fit to judge the disability of strangers, people whose daily lives they have no idea of and thus have no idea how a person’s health may be affected. This is a dangerously narrow minded view of disability, it assumes one can ‘spot’ a disabled person. Millions of disabled people look perfectly healthy, but it doesn’t mean they are. Sadly these attitudes are not just confined to wankers whining from a newspaper column, or on-line or letters to the editor. These attitudes are responsible for incidents of harassment and disability hate crime. Rebbecca of Half a Giraffe  has an excellent post about her experiences of being judged by a nosy busy body whilst daring to use the blue badge she is perfectly entitled to use.  More than 9 in 10 people surveyed by Disability Rights UK linked the hostility in the press and from government towards disabled people with the rise in disability hate crimes.

Mental health and other ‘invisible disabilities’ seem to suffer disproportionately from accusations of ‘scrounger’ and the associated bullying, there is a widespread lack of education about disability, with common perceptions focused on visible impairments. There is little recognition that one can ‘look fine’ but be disabled, often severely so. Mental health also bears the stigma of not being seen as a ‘real’ and there is still an unfortunate amount of people who assume you can ‘snap out of it’ or just ‘try harder’ . Even amongst those who claim to be supportive there can be a real lack of knowledge of just how severe conditions such as depression can be. To use an example from comments on my blog which, in asserting that depression is not a disability, it was stated; ‘Not being able to return to your job or participate in a majority of the activities you once loved, this is the reality of disability for me’  a statement which I assume implied that this wasn’t the reality for people with depression and mental health problems, when in fact I am sure many of those with mental health issues recognise this as an all too familiar daily reality. In addition to often being unable to look after ones self, being unable to cook, go shopping or keep on top of housework or even get out of bed without help and encouragement. Again all things I that I have had people assume I, or any other person with mental illness, can manage without difficulty and are thus ‘not really disabled’ and don’t deserve any support we may get and spend our days rolling in wads of cash, watching giant tvs and riding round in free cars.

Hearing the trumped up opinions of armchair ATOS, back-seat doctors, medical geniuses who can judge a person’s health by snatching a glimpse of them getting out of a car or just by hearing the name of their condition, day after day, in general discourse, in the media , from the politicians in charge of the welfare state and healthcare, hearing all that, it hurts. Having people assume you’re not ‘really ill enough’ or ‘lazy’ or not entitled to whatever support you might get and casting  aspersions on your personality as a result; insinuating you are a cheat, a liar, lazy or seeking a pity party, it really fucking hurts.

It’s discrimination based upon false assumptions and lack of evidence. It has to stop,  to see people using the exceptional achievements of the few to belittle the everyday hardships of the many makes me sick, it makes me fume. Doubly so when it is candy coated with a layer of ‘but I don’t hate disabled people, I’m being nice to paralympians!’ doublethink, enemies dressed up as allies. When terms such as ‘depression’ , ‘fatigue’ and ‘bad back’ are used as shorthand for ‘making it up’ or ‘faking it’, it hurts, especially when the proportion of fraudulent claims is minute, by backing these reforms you are de facto backing denying support to genuinely ill and disabled people. This hatred is often framed as being for the benefit of ‘genuine’ disabled people and thus those spouting this discriminatory , outdated and just plain wrong bullshit claim it as ‘support’ for disabled people in society and as somehow progressive and for ‘the greater good’, words haven’t been invented yet to describe how angry it makes me. It’s still shit under the candy coating.

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  1. Amy says:

    Chloe, yet again you’ve hit the nail on the head. I too knew that the paralympics would breed armchair experts on disability. I have cerebral palsy and depression, the depression was a recent development so I’m still adjusting and rebuilding what it took away from me. Unless you’ve experienced mental illness first hand it’s difficult to understand how disabling it. CP leaves me physically disabled, but I found the depression far more disabling. I do feel that the paralympics leave people with unreal expectations of disabled people. Like it’s now expected that we can all overcome our limitations because the super human paralympians did. Frankly this notion is ridiculous, it’s like saying all able bodied people should be like Usain Bolt. The fact is, disabled people do want to contribute to society as best they can. We have ambitions, hopes and dreams. However we face obstacles and challenges along the way. We need proper support and compassion and not to be condemned or judged for circumstances beyond our control.

    Your blog really is excellent, you capture the mood perfectly. Well done xxx

  2. Pooja says:

    God bless you for sharing this post. very informative

  3. Rebecca says:

    This is an excellent post that highlights a lot of problems that are continuing to arise, despite our supposed ‘paralympic legacy’, which in some ways is working against those with problems. Thank you for writing it!
    It really is a sad state of affairs.

  4. Gina says:

    Thank you for this post. I’d like to add that people like myself, who have conditions that affect them intermittently, or “flare ups” of ongoing condtions also suffer discrimination. I am going to make a bumper sticker for my car, (and desk at work) and a t-shirt and a mug etc etc etc that says, “just because I can walk OK today, doesn’t mean I was faking it yesterday. Or might be tomorrow”. I won’t beat my colleagues / casual observers round the head with said mug, t-shirt or bumper sticker, cos that would be wrong (I do know that), but I really wish I could and that it wasn’t.

  5. Hi.

    I’ve written an article looking at the negative effects of work capability assessments, in particularly for people suffering from mental health problems.

    Feel free to have a read, I think we might agree on a few points.

Feel free to comment, I do love a good debate

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