The Discourse of Disability…

Sometimes I don’t know why I even bother commenting on the media’s and politicians’ reporting of ‘facts’, but constant critical assessment of the ‘truth’ needs to continue if we are to undermine the stigma and discriminatory views that politicians and the media purport when it comes to the rights and position of disabled people within society. For example, The Sun lead with the heading “It’s sick Britain” – whereas The Guardian uses words such as ‘incapacitated’ when referring to disabled people- and even the political ‘jokes’ regarding the word dwarf illustrate their incredible ignorance to how important language is for many within the disability movement. The social model of disability is central here – where the focus is on the social relations and barriers which create disability as SOCIETY fails to accommodate for people’s impairments.

However, the press and the politicians – typified by Ed Miliband’s generalised and stigmatised attack on welfare, claiming that New Labour didn’t go far enough; have no conception of the need to change social relations (specifically those endemic within capitalism) that marginalise disabled people from many areas of life – respect goes to the Greens however, who support the social model of disability.

Instead there is a focus on those atypical examples, the ‘liars’ or ‘frauds’ – ignoring their own bureaucratic faults – so as to concentrate on the individual, separating them from the wider context. You know what “hacks me off” Ed Miliband? It is people like you professing to know and care about the people you pick on as examples of the ‘immorality’ ‘undermining’ our society, the people who ‘don’t’ work and ‘drag’ society down as though they are parasites.

They focus on disabled people, ignoring the importance of reforming the workplace and society in general. They claim they want to maximise work opportunities, but they ignore the real social relational causes for why many disabled people don’t go to work. For example, I don’t know the details of the OECD report documented within the press today (the articles linked to above) but wider policies (such as the structural and environmental context of the work places) and reasons for why this may be the case aren’t explored within the mainstream reporting – and maybe not even within the report, I haven’t read it so don’t know. It is just asserted, indirectly, as a ‘fact’ that in Britain people are ‘lazy’ and they have just moved from job seekers to disability benefits to avoid going to work. Again, remember, it’s the individuals fault, not society’s. For example, there are citations to:

More children growing up in workless households than in other parts of Europe. Growing up with high levels of dependency shapes your outlook.

Government’s logic: this is the family’s and individual’s fault – not a society that will never achieve full employment and RELIES on people being in unemployment.

A key finding is that disabled people are getting younger, mainly due to more people claiming for mental health reasons. This has risen since the 1980s – this is interesting considering that this is a generation influenced by the damaging policies that Thatcher introduced (and remember, she obviously didn’t look at society causes when she so famously claimed there is no such thing as a society). The OCED profess that there will be no change in results even though the recession hasn’t been taken into account within their findings. But it was only the other week I saw a Sheffield Star reporting that suicide rates are increasing in correlation to the recession, as more people’s livelihood are crushed. Again, mental health is divorced from context. Also, more people claiming for mental health reasons provides evidence of the success mental health campaigns and awareness have had, especially since the 1960s, in helping dispel the myths regarding mental illness and helping people gain more access to support and the like. Again, all these contextual factors are ignored for a blown up media story.

Oh, and another thing that is reported more as an aside, if at all:

The OECD found that nearly a quarter of British people with a disability live in poverty – slightly higher than the average for the developed world, and twice the level of penury found in the general British population.

Hardly rich benefit claimants. And clearly illustrating the dangers of cutting and undermining DLA. But does the government care? All they care about is reducing the figures and stigmatising people with restricted channels within the mainstream media. But the counter-resistance movements are growing stronger, and the more this government pushes, the more Labour offer no alternative channel for anger, the more people will protest and undermine this damaging government.


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