Aye Right!

Here we go again! The government declaiming all us drains on society, aka The Disabled, will soon be sent out into the World of Work. Banks and other financial institutions have collapsed; after the biggest closing down sale ever, Woolies has vanished; firms which have been going strong since 1820 prepare to walk into oblivion. But thousands of jobs will magically appear, specifically tailored for us lot. Aye right!

Mind you, the government isn’t alone. Recently, on a radio phone-in, I heard a person say he was desperate to get a job. According to him, this is what all disabled folk really, really want. I wonder? I used to work; in a highly qualified but under valued profession. For just over twenty years. And, because I have worked, I know very well that, even with every techno gizmo available, I would no longer find that particular career easy. Making eye contact, reacting to body language, close scrutiny of text. No, my abilities would be much curtailed and anything which I could do would only be done at an extremely slow pace and with expert assistance.

Don’t jump up and down and call me a wimpish layabout! I’m expressing the opinion of a one-time professional. No-one chooses to be disabled; no-one chooses to live on benefit. I certainly miss my salary, miss my colleagues, well, some of them, and, perhaps the most important yet most intangible, that sense of contributing to society. And struggling with a job where total reliance on assistance, both human and technological, is essential and where previous standards are now impossible would be no substitute.

However, as a mere Blinkie, albeit with a degree, who am I to disagree with any man from a ministry? Soon, we’ll be blundering, tottering or staggering off to work. The only exception being a group identified as Severely Disabled. And how will that be defined? Outside my home environment, I can only move around with the assistance of either Mr. Dog or my Canadian cane, but I don’t qualify for the higher rate of Mobility Allowance. Yet, without assistance, I would walk into walls, fall off kerbs and bounce off any passing traffic. Of course, the DHSS has great faith in miracles. After all, they continue to attempt communication with me via print.

And yes, I know all about benefit cheats. Look at what our politicians have been claiming on their expenses! But I’m not talking about such stalwarts of society. I’m talking about ME and the thousands like me. Folk who have been on Incapacity Benefit for two years and more. Apparently, the government finds this perplexing; the only possible explanation must be our laziness and lack of ambition.

Here’s another possibility, straight from the University of Oor Hoose. People are still on Incapacity after two years because their disabilities are permanent! If a puir sowel is disabled enough to qualify for incapacity in the first place, then the condition must be extremely serious and probably permanent.

Ah, but I could retrain, couldn’t I? Where? And in what? In these last few weeks I’ve made several Christmas cakes, export amounts of tablet, various edible treats from Delia, and struggled with the plot of my current novel. I’ve even tracked down Christmas presents on a range of web sites. All of which, however, has been done at my own pace, in my own adapted environment with the help, and occasional hindrance, of technology. Ask me to achieve similar in a so-called normal environment, and the only outcome would be chaos; chaos, mayhem and slitter.

Have the experts considered any of that? Mrs. Disabled Person can’t just stumble straight into a job, even if she had the relevant qualification. Every building will have to be made accessible; vast numbers of employees will have to undergo Awareness Training. And what about the gadgets? In my experience, there is a great deal of pontification on the subject of accessibility and inclusion which when it comes to making real improvements in the real world, amounts to nothing but so much hot air. The building where I used to work has recently been refurbished, work which supposedly included making it fully accessible. And is it? Only to someone capable of driving right up to the entrance, preferably with accompanying carer. No attempt has been made to provide for anyone on foot. No handrails, no tactile surfaces, no contrasting colours. And this is a building belonging to the local authority. Awareness training is another laugh. I’ve had a hospital receptionist who thought being a sighted guide meant hauling Mr. Dog along by his harness handle; Then there are the staff who presume, because I have a guide dog, I must be deaf and daft; those who constantly use “there” when giving directions; and those silent souls who, I think, just stare at me across their desks. As for technology! I’ve recently had words with a Scottish institution unwilling to provide me with information in Braille because of the cost. To them! Whilst being so concerned about their own finances, they’re quite happy for me to invest in the not inconsiderable sums necessary to keep this machine and all its paraphernalia up to date and functional. The DHSS maintains I’m the only client they’ve ever had who has ever requested material in Braille. And, so far, they’ve ignored my request, anyway. Cost a whole heap of public money, redressing the balance; and, since staff retire and technology changes, would have to be ongoing. In fact, overall, the cost would be even more than current benefits.

Oh well, I suppose, at the London Paralympics, I could always carry a flag!

© Charlotte Bennie 2009