Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Still Curious About Britain ...

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Frances Ryan, The Guardian - April 1, 2014

This is a fine and full-throated editorial against a set of policy changes and budget cuts that have been instituted in the United Kingdom by a coalition government led by the Conservative Party (a.k.a. “Tories”) and it’s coalition partner, the Liberal Democratic Party. Depending on who you ask, the drastic changes in disability-related support programs were intended to save money, nothing more … encourage more disabled people to work and be self-sufficient … or identify people who are intentionally or not “wasting” scarce government resources.

Appropriately, this Guardian piece doesn’t discuss motives, but rather focuses on effects one year later, and the effects are, by all accounts terrible.

What I still haven’t seen and would very much like to see is some point by point reckoning with how the results stack up against the stated purposes of these changes. My guess is that the real motive behind them is simply saving money, since austerity seems to be the coalition government’s ideological fixation. However, it should have been possible, at least in theory, to identify any real and unnecessary disincentives to gainful employment. Likewise, any benefit system is going to have some waste, and some people who probably shouldn’t be getting help … that is, unless you decide to go for something like a Minimum Basic Income idea that doesn’t depend on eligibility.

So, have the UK government’s “reforms” fixed work disincentives? Are more disabled people now working, happily, in jobs, with more wealth and financial security?

And how many total fraudsters did they find? By that I mean, how many people were receiving disability assistance of some kind who simply were not disabled?

As long as I’m asking questions, how about one more. What is happening to people who, rightly or not, have had benefits cut or eliminated? Are they pulling themselves up by their bootstraps? Or, are they leaning more heavily than before on other parts of the British social service system, including the National Health Service?

I appreciate The Guardian’s moral indignation, but it’s kind of a shame they’re not contending directly with what the UK government says it set out to do. It isn’t always wise or right to fight an enemy on the enemy’s terms, but now and then it can be instructive to at least give it a try … if only to apply an objective test to the enemy’s honesty.

Photo Of The Day

Young woman with red, medium-lenght hair sitting in a dark grey manual wheelchair, taking a selfie. Has boots and bright blue pants and a dark blue sweater
From the Beautifuloddity Tumblr blog, via The Disability Fashion Project.

3 Ableisms: Part 1 - Well-Meaning Ableism

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Yesterday, I proposed that there are 3 main categories of disability prejudice or “Ableism”: Well-Meaning Ableism, Systemic Ableism, and Asshole Ableism. Today I’ll try to describe the first category, Well-Meaning Ableism.

“Well-Meaning Ableism” is the idea that the ableist thoughts or actions in question are motivated not by hostility, but by misguided good will. I would also include unexamined assumptions; it has never occurred to the Well-Meaning Ableist that their beliefs or practices might be off-base or offensive. They often think that their beliefs about disability are progressive, when in fact they may be two or three decades out of date. Also, while they are well meant, they are based on faulty assumptions about living with disabilities and what people with disabilities actually care about most.


- Referring to us as “differently abled” or “hand-capable” because “disability sounds too negative”.

- Using the word “retarded” to describe anyone or anything weak, boring, or uncool. (Might be “Asshole Ableism” … I’m not sure).

- Describing disabled people as “wheelchair-bound,”  “victims” of disabling conditions, or intellectually disabled adults as “at a mental age of 8 years old”.

- Giving a disabled friend the ultimate compliment: “I don’t think of you as disabled”.

- Unquestioning, incurious support for sheltered workshops, nursing homes, “special schools”, and any disability charity, no matter what their philosophy or rhetoric.

- Angrily confronting a driver parked in a handicapped space because he walks away from his car, without thinking that he may have a hidden disability.

- Collecting and sharing “Inspiration Porn” … photos and videos about disabled people, with “inspiring” messages or captions.

This is the one kind of ableism that most people agree exists. Even some disabled people operate on the assumption that all of the real-life disability prejudice or “ableism” they experience is due to misinformation, honest mistakes, or lack of proper “disability awareness”, not hostility. Well-Meaning Ableism is also often thought to be more annoying than harmful. That said, the persistence of these erroneous ideas and habits can itself be debilitating when experienced over a whole lifetime. They also indirectly help preserve "Systemic Ableism", and leave room for more the  more covert and sinister notions I have decided to call “Asshole Ableism”.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at Systemic Ableism … which, though also largely unintentional, maintains literal barriers to mobility, independence, and self-sufficiency.

Let me know if I’ve got any of these wrong, or you can think of better examples.