Let’s Get Political: Inaccessible Workplaces and Why the Welfare System Needs to Do Better

The Government has recently put forward a Green Paper, which highlights the efforts that are now going to be made, aimed at helping disabled people to fully integrate within all areas of society. They are so proud of this, calling it “the most ambitious plan in a generation”, particularly focusing on bridging the employment gap, ensuring that the disabled community are theoretically able to find and keep work more easily. Not only that, but they also placed emphasis on tightening the laws around building accessible housing, too. So, here’s the thing: all of this sounds exciting, right? Some might even argue that it’s progressive. With that said, reaching this point has been so painfully difficult, both locally and globally. For example: just a few days ago, it was announced that the US Paralympic team will be paid the same amount as their Olympic counterparts for the first time ever. Yet, we are expected to be grateful for the bare minimum — the smallest signs of progress —, after consistently being told throughout the pandemic that our voices should remain unheard? Not today, thanks.

When I was in the early years of secondary school, we were once learning to sew as part of a textiles class. I find stuff like this embarrassingly difficult because my fine motor skills leave a lot to be desired, so I had been heavily relying upon help from my Support Worker. I mean, you would think that’s literally what they’re there for, huh? Still, the teacher waited for everyone to leave as the day ended before launching into a speech about how I would never amount to anything if I insisted upon moving forward with a bad attitude and expected other people to do everything for me. She then went on to imply that I was simply too lazy to try, as if she was suddenly the expert in all things Cerebral Palsy, which was an interesting take. I left the room without saying much and she called my mum to apologise before I even arrived home, but the damage had already been done. It’s funny, how quickly you can begin to doubt yourself once this message has been sent your way. Maybe I really wasn’t doing enough. Maybe everyone would get bored of me. Maybe my presence just makes people roll their eyes.

I have many examples like this one, but there’s a lot that this leads into, so I’ll just give one more: when I was later in a wood technology class, I was determined that I could do this independently. I wanted to be seen actively participating, almost as if to prove that I deserved to be there. I remember this distinctly because I was initially allowed to do it independently, after I had been given some gentle direction. I was so genuinely proud of myself, until it was decided that I was being too slow, so the teacher just wordlessly came to finish it for me. Worst of all, he made it took easy. Again, the message was clear: even my best efforts would always hold other people back.

With this, I have always found it hard to settle on a career — or even the idea of one. Do I have enough to offer? Is it actually possible to earn a decent wage on the amount of hours that I’d physically be able to put myself through? How flexible are employers likely to be, really? What would I even be good at, anyway? So many questions. Of course, it’s easy for people to assume that the welfare system is a dreamy alternative, although it’s the opposite. The money that you receive is alarmingly minimal and it’s almost impossible to build up any meaningful savings. I was once told by an assessor that they expect me to only be able to afford a holiday if my parents paid for me, as an example. Of course, that’s without even talking about how deeply invasive and distressing the process is in itself. I was asked to talk at length about all the things my disability prevents me from doing — the very things that I’m constantly pushing to the furthest edges of my mind —, to the point where it made my mum cry. There is no dignity in this.

A screenshot of a Tweet by Kitty Strand, which reads: “it just seems wild to have a minister for disabled people who isn't disabled”.

In summary: we live in a society that equates working with having value, yet are already beginning to scale back on the most accessible remote job opportunities, in light of restrictions being eased. Then, we use this to dehumanise disabled people altogether. Disabled people deserve to live the fullest of lives, no matter what, but employers also need to recognise that we are worth more. It’s really not that hard, okay? It would be nice to be given a chance.

Owen, you will forever be my favourite person in the whole world. I still don’t know what I did to deserve you, for the record. xxx

6 thoughts on “Let’s Get Political: Inaccessible Workplaces and Why the Welfare System Needs to Do Better

  1. Oh, yes, we are so proud over here across the pond. I’m still kind of scratching my head. I mean, I know the wages are supposed to be corrected so disabled folx who are working 30 hours a week can no longer be exploited for 70p an hour just because they have the designation of disability. But I suspect the reward for wages being corrected is that either the jobs will be eliminated, or rent will be increased.

    The question I get constantly is, “Why don’t you just get a job?” Well, if I were physically able to keep a regular schedule, I’d be all in. If my brain acted like a brain, I’d be all in. If my muscles and fat and bones flexed and stacked and snapped like they should, I’d be all in. But I filed for disability because these medical conditions are thieves. I just had a guy tell me he was from a particular city, and then two minutes later I asked him where he was from. I don’t think he believed there was anything wrong with me until that went down.

    Do you know what your purpose is in life? Some people think it’s to become a parent, or to become a teacher, or to become an astronaut. Because I have so many medical conditions and because I don’t suffer from hero worship, I think my purpose is to teach doctors. They learn more about multiple conditions, plus I fight them if they tell me something is my imagination. So what is your purpose in this lifetime, in this body?

    Props to Owen, it is absolutely fantastic to have someone in your corner!

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    1. Right????? Honestly, you understand me so well and it makes me happy. I really am so grateful to you for existing and making your presence felt here so brightly.

      I totally and completely relate to what you said about purpose. I think that’s perhaps why I struggle so much with this stuff as a whole — I’m not really sure that I have found much purpose at all, ever. At least not in any kind of meaningful sense. People keep telling me that I should go back to university and finish my Masters programme (even my GP) buuuuuuut nobody understands that the ableism there was too damaging to continue, even at the final hurdle. So, I don’t know. Do you have any words of wisdom on that?

      I have decided that I would love to send you a card or a letter or an email or something. You are very important.

      PS: I talk to Owen about you!!! I’m sure that they will be very impressed by your kind words 🤍

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      1. You are very kind in all of your responses, and that is probably one of your best qualities. I think people who have been hurt probably know what it’s like to be hurt, and they turn into the best grown-ups. 🙂

        As far as your master’s program goes, well, I’ve never really been big on college. I don’t have the same opinion as your GP and others. I don’t think you should finish that degree just to kill time. I have a bachelor of science, and that’s probably all I need until the day I die (I finally lined up all of the credits the same week as my 40th birthday). What would getting your master’s do for you? Would it open doors for you that would forever be shut unless you had that completed degree? And maybe it’s tempting to you because the courses would have a beginning, a middle and an end. I think there’s time for you to decide if that’s really what you want to do. We’re still in a time of chaos. I think much more will be revealed and things will be flipping yet again, so if you don’t have to decide this very moment, then don’t. BUT: You are the captain of your ship.

        And absolutely, we should email/exchange info, but I couldn’t figure out how to send you a private message. WordPress isn’t always logical. I do have a way to contact me on my page if you want to try that. http://www.thanksforfindingme.com

        Cheers for now! Hello to Owen!

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      2. Thank-you for saying that. I find it hard to show myself much kindness, so it’s always nice to challenge those thought patterns with the perspective of other people.

        You make so many good points about the education stuff. Now that I think about it, I don’t think that it would really add anything to my level of opportunity, if only because it’s so similar to what I have already. It feels like I haven’t always been the captain of my own ship because I spent a lot of time being defined by my limitations, you know? Buuuuuut I’m trying to do better. Trying to broaden my horizons and stuff.

        I’ll send you a message via the contact page right now. You can just get back to me whenever. There’s no rush ☺️

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    1. THANK-YOU. Thank-you so much. Your belief in my words always seems to find me at exactly the right time and I hope that your day is filled with a little extra light today 💜💜

      Like

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