Disability – A Road Block or Just a Speed Bump?


When most people think about disability they think about wheelchair users and usually that the person is elderly but the fact is that the word disability does not mean the the individual is going to use a wheelchair.

Having a disability does not usually mean that you have mobility issues. They can affect other areas of a person such as sensory or mentally. So what is a disability? A disability is a condition lasting 12 months or more that affect the individual’s ability to function on a day to day basis. This means that things like diabetes are classed as a disability so the chances are high that you know somebody who has a disability.

So why is it that we treat people who have a physical disability different to the way we treat other disabled people. I think this goes back to the times when we were hunter gatherers when a physical disability would have been seen as a sign of weakness. This makes individuals with disabilities feel that their condition makes them less of a person and then as such society treats them differently. This also applies to the workplace as well as some of individuals with disabilities would rather not inform the manager of their condition as they feel they could lose their job or be offered less work. They forget that the manager could help by making reasonable alterations if they require them.

What about the individuals with disabilities who don’t have a job and want to work. Society fails these individuals as even the job application process can be cumbersome and often bureaucratic and this can rule them out immediately.

I also believe that job agencies don’t help jobless individuals with disabilities. As most agencies are up a flight of stairs and don’t have a lift so individuals with mobility problems can’t give them their CV and insist on them emailing it to the agency. I think all agencies should be either down stairs or should have a lift in the building so the individuals can hand their CV to the agency in person but this is the real world and things are not always that simple. Sometimes individuals with disabilities feel like they are the bottom of society and feel like they have no rights

But individuals with disabilities do have the same rights as any other individual. They have the right to work. They also have the right to any reasonable adjustments to be made to avoid putting the individual at a disadvantage. They also can’t be chosen for redundancy just because they have a disability and the employer can’t force individuals to retire if an individual becomes disabled. A disability doesn’t have to be a road block it could just be a speed bump on the journey off life

So how can we change the way that we act towards individuals with disabilities? Well this isn’t the easiest thing to answer. Personally speaking, I treat disabled people as I treat anybody with respect and dignity. I don’t take much notice of an individual’s physical appearance, but I do notice if they require help to get something of a shelf or if they require some other type of help and this has no impact on the way that I am around a disabled person. It’s hard because people are different but I guess treating them with respect and dignity would be a good place to start.



Written by Matthew Tew – A colleague and close collaborator

One Small Victory at Last!

I rejoice at the recent news of 5 disabled people winning their legal challenge (under the equality act) against the government in their decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF). The ILF as the name suggests has for many years been a crucial piece of funding that has assisted disabled people to live more independently. For a number of years now we have seen constant attacks on disabled people in the form of crucial cuts to benefits and services and indeed many disabled people are described as shirkers and scroungers.

In the court of appeal hearing the five disabled people argued that the previous High Court had misinterpreted the law and additionally there had been a lack of consultation.
The 5 disabled people also argued successfully that without the ILF funding they would be forced to live in residential care.

As I stated in March when discussing the compulsory assessments of disabled people by ATOS in receipt of Disability Living Allowance ‘….. these changes have added up to people living in poverty and potentially endangering their lives. We will end up seeing less disabled people being able to access services and the social diversity that we strive for will become a thing of the past.’ Clearly if this decision had been upheld and the Equality Act had not been in place then this would have had even graver implications for disabled people than currently.

The government’s idea was to devolve responsibility for the funding to local authorities. I must say that I was never overjoyed by this idea based on my experience over many years of local authority funding for disabled people being continually and systematically cut. I am also of the strong opinion; that once the devolved process had taken place that the money would in a short time cease to be ring-fenced. I guess then we all know where this would be heading.

It is interesting to note that the decision was quashed on the basis that ‘the minister had not specifically considered duties under the Equality Act, such as the need to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people and, in particular, the need to encourage their participation in public life.’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24834558 accessed 7th Nov. In this case the Equality Act has clearly done it’s job in protecting people as is the intention.

I have already mentioned on numerous occasions that the government are going some to try and save money and in turn appear to be wasting it at every turn. In this case I’m sure the legal bill has stacked up quite nicely. I am also concerned that the government is considering appealing the ruling and wasting more money in the process. Therefore, my final appeal to them is to accept the verdict and get on with improving the life chances of disabled people.