Vulnerable, disadvantaged, poor, ill; disabled people are currently being increasingly described as all of these and more. Meanwhile caring, compassionate champions, ready to save these poor unfortunates, are suddenly crawling out of the woodwork. What’s going on? Well, I have to tell you that Iain Duncan Smith is not the only one practising self delusion: most of the journalists and politicians commenting on the IDS resignation are perpetuating a cloud-cuckoo land when they unquestioningly repeat the tired old phrases about care. Here’s the grounded reality:
Like growing old, being a disabled person is not for softies! You need a range of physical and attitudinal qualities to manage day-to-day living with an impairment: you need to be resourceful and to have good planning skills. I have also found a hint of stubbornness to be very useful.
Disabled people are not magically endowed with ‘vulnerability’. Lack of access to decent education, poor and unsuitable housing, exclusion from employment, inaccessible environments, pitiful levels of social support – these and more are what render us vulnerable, not our impairments.
Although we are disadvantaged, it doesn’t necessarily need to go with the turf: see (2) above.
Poor? Well now, I’m guessing Steven Hawking isn’t poor, along with quite a few other disabled people, but the majority are surviving on benefits and we know how they’ve been cut to the bone. But it’s not just about income – it costs more to be a disabled person too, whether it’s an adapted car, extra heating, an accessible house for goodness’ sake. So it’s not a level playing field at all.
And ill? Well yes, some of us are ill some of the time, some are ill all of the time, others hardly at all. Just like anyone else. Geddit?
Do we intrinsically need compassion? This is a whole essay, if not a PhD. If you believe – as many popularly portray – that to be disabled is ‘a bad thing’ then maybe you think we do. But if, like most disabled people, you think that we need a fair crack of the whip so that we can get on with our lives, you’ll recognise inappropriate compassion for the red herring that it is.
And last but not least – do we care? I care about (ie I am concerned about) the fact that people automatically assume that, as disabled people, we need care (ie we need looking after).
Nobody, but nobody, does absolutely everything for themselves, it’s all a spectrum with varying degrees of interdependence. It’s time the rhetoric of care was challenged. Time that disabled people were properly supported: time that ‘carers’ were properly recognised and supported: and time that the need for ‘child carers’ was past. A proper system of support that recognises all needs would transform the concept of care.
So no, I don’t want you to care.
PS this doesn’t apply to my family and friends, for whom I care (ie love) very much.