I’m writing this week’s column after reading about a group of social work students in Portsmouth who are starting a campaign to raise awareness of people with invisible disabilities, and the abuse they receive when using blue badges or disabled toilets.
During the downhill plunge to my current state of health, I too endured a collection of invisible disabilities, from chronic never-ending pain to bladder problems.
I can understand that problems might crop up.
If I’m honest, what both upsets and worries me is the inevitable conclusion that the perpetrators of the abuse are other disabled people, and that those of us with ‘invisible disabilities’ are somehow third-class citizens, somehow even less valued than visibly disabled people.
I would hope that anybody so challenged would at least attempt to educate the challenger.
I used to have great fun explaining my need to use a disabled toilet.
There are sadly far too many able-bodied people using the adapted toilets, out of convenience, due to children, and because architects have blatantly ignored building regulations by installing baby changing platforms in ‘our’ toilets.
I, for one, really hate it when they fall on my head.
With that in mind, let us consider blue badges.
At the current time, according to gov.uk, one has to have ‘a permanent and substantial disability which causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking’.
This is further qualified with ‘This may include excessive pain and breathlessness, or a deterioration of health brought on by the effort needed to walk.’
In the majority of locations, one’s right to a blue badge would quickly become obvious.
I find myself wondering whether the root of this is hidden in the change from the medical to social model of disability.
In other words, the change from disability being defined by ‘what you’ve got’ to the newer ‘how whatever you’ve got affects your life.’
In my opinion, I feel that if there is a need for such a campaign, then those of us involved in this area are getting things very wrong.
I personally am employed by a large US company, and of 250,000 employees, a fair few have disabilities.
The sense of community, empowerment and co-operation within the various groups was amazing.
We British still have a way to go.
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