When I was growing up disability seemed to be nice and easy. There appeared to be a distinct group of people who were clearly ‘disabled’ or rather ‘handicapped’ in those days and no one who did not have to be in that group really wanted to be there because being disabled had a lot of stigma attached to it.
Many disabled people were not happy with the lack of inclusion in being active citizens and this led to a lot of campaigning to gain civil rights which for the most part has been provided in the UK. This led to further campaigning for human rights which has also been achieved for the majority.
I always believed the gaining of civil rights under a ‘social model’ of disability would mean more disabled people would now be working and active in their communities as people focused to meet the access needs of differing impairments instead of focusing on the barriers of disability. The reality has been rather different.
The increased awareness of the new found rights of disabled people has meant that people have realised it is not so bad being ‘disabled’. Some have seen wrongly perceived benefits to being disabled and they wanted a piece of the action. This has meant that many people who were previously just impaired and would never been seen dead ‘being disabled’, now want to be disabled and pick up what they see as their rights and benefits, including the right not to work, which is not what people fought for!
This means that what used to be a great selective party for disabled people has now been gate crashed by a whole range of newcomers all wanting a say in the action as they change the music and eat up all the food. It is now harder to know everyone or understand what everyone needs, especially as people still keep coming.
My concern is that many impairment groups who now eat the cake of disabled rights did not help to bake it and therefore as long-standing groups feel squeezed out I must ask if people will remember me? Will they remember the journey disabled people had to travel to get where we are now?
It is now time for me and others to remind people of who it was and why we fought for the civil rights in order to stop people from abusing them. The next few years are indeed challenging times for the politics of disability!
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