One of the biggest lessons I learnt in my life is that life itself is generally unfair, especially for good people, those who really want to make a difference in the world. Once you understand this then you can get on with making the most of life, enjoying every second you can. Accepting life is unfair does not mean you stop campaigning for a better world, but it is about having a more positive attitude to bad situations.
The media is currently hypersensitive to people with impairments, turning everything people with impairments say into news stories, so long as it fits into the victimhood culture. The media represents society current fear of talking properly about impairment issues, allowing the complaints of people with impairments to go unchallenged from the proper debate required. Instead, these complaints are used to keep people with impairments in the role of other and so reinforced their exclusion.
If we take the recent media outrage on broken train toilets and its potential impact on people with impairments, we can see how what looks a valid concern has been used to reinforce notions of other. The reality is these toilets, while accessible, are for all passengers and therefore if there is a systematic problem with them breaking down than it is a wider customer services issue. But life is not perfect and often unfair as I said at the start, and so there are going to be times that regardless of how many policies and practises are in place, a toilet on the train is still going to break down, and it will be no one’s intention or fault.
I was quite disturbed when a broken train toilet hit the headlines as a ‘disability discrimination’ issue with accusations of a deliberate attack by the train companies upon people with impairments. However unfortunate a specific incident may have been on a personal level, it is a part of the rough and tumble of life. There should have been a complaint and an apology, but at the same time, everyone needs to be prepared for things to go wrong and have a plan b, c, d and so on.
While the politically correct will hail highlighting the issue was a step forward to society’s acceptance of people with impairments, I will argue that it actually did the complete opposite and part of the trend of the subtle bigotry in the media since 2010 and the coalition government’s commitment to the meaningful inclusion of people with impairments, which so many activists and organisations oppose.
By abnormalising the toileting needs of people with impairments as something different and special to the rest of the population, the media has reinforced the notion we are other, freaks and not a part of the mainstream society. While this could be argued the same for changing places, that is a campaign for a specific accessibility solution. Train toilets are mainstream toilets used by everyone.
If people with impairments really want equality, then they need to accept like for everyone else, they need to take the rough and tumble of life, understanding life is not perfect and mostly unfair. But we now live in an era where universal human rights have been translated into ‘whats in it for me’. Disability is now regarded as a desirable label when people can demand benefits and treatment that is not provided to the rest of the population, and this is personally something I am quite ashamed of.
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