I was chatting with a staff members at Camden Disability Action a few weeks ago and he mentioned trolls on social media harassing disabled people. I reflected on my own experiences as a disabled person and began to realise that underlying many of the discriminatory statements made to me was a worrying and fundamental attitude problem.
In one instance, for example, I was effectively discriminated against by ‘a warm room’ coordinator, a person responsible for organising facilities and services for people in food and energy poverty.
I began to realise that underlying many of the discriminatory statements made to me was a worrying and fundamental attitude problem.
I mentioned that the premises he’d hired in Gospel Oak was not very accessible to me following an eye operation and my existing mobility problems as it had steps. This produced an example from him of people with Zimmer frames who could access the building. Further, a series of posts on the Gospel Oak Mutual Aid app gave an example of a person with similar disability problems to me who could access the building.
The implication is that as the persons cited in the examples could access the building, and thus the facility, then somehow it was my fault that I could not.
I now suspect that unempathetic attitudes are what underlie much of the behaviour of those who make decisions that blight our lives.
I was told that this was not the intention of providing the examples, but for me it was the message received, intentional or not. Imagine if the persons concerned were gay and one of us had said we’d experienced prejudice, only to be told that our perception wasn’t valid because the other people in the group had not had the same experience. People wouldn’t stand for it would they? And rightly so.
I now suspect that unempathetic attitudes are what underlie much of the behaviour of those who make decisions that blight our lives and the problem is more widespread than I thought. Such outlooks are not attacks in themselves but foster a climate in which they can occur or in which disabled people can be excluded from services and mainstream society.
Stories like this shouldn’t be getting told in Britain in 2023. The fact that they are shows there needs to be a fundamental shift in attitudes in many quarters before disabled people can hope for meaningful improvements.