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Intolerance

What is it about being a disabled person which means that everyone seems to think they have a right to know every grisly detail about your life? What is it about having a wheelchair that make you suddenly become public property?

I have not always been a disabled person, I used to be, what is laughingly called, ‘normal’. That’s how I grew up, but, when I was in my mid twenties, everything changed. I became ill and was diagnosed with an incurable and degenerating condition. Not my fault, not what I wanted, not what I was expecting, not my life plan, but it happened and there was nothing much I could do about it except to deal with it and carry on. Life is, after all, for living, whatever hand you have been dealt and however hard it seems to be. Plans change, situations change, everything can change. Nothing ever happens the way you expect so you just have to adapt and do the best you can with what you have. After all, you only get one go at life, what you have is not a rehersal, so, in my opinion, you have no option but to make the most of it and have fun, whatever happens.

But how much fun can you have when the world’s never-ending contingent of poke-noses come along? Sure, when you are diagnosed with a lifelong condition you can expect to be prodded, probed, questioned and cross examined by the medical profession, that is, after all, part of their job but then there is everyone else. All the other people that want to know everything.

There’s the people who decide if you are going to get all the equipment you need, such a wheelchair or a hoist. What do you need them for? How often are you going to need them? When do you expect to be cured? How heavy are you? We just need to weigh you. And, how tall are you? Are you sure? You look taller. We just need to measure you. And what’s your waist measurement? How wide is your bottom? Do you know how long your thighs are from knee to hip? I’ll just get my tape measure. Non-stop but seemingly justifiable questions. They’re fine – annoying but fine. 

Then there are the people who decide if you are going to receive any financial help from the State. They send you forms which include page after page of questions which need a written response and documentary proof if you have it. How does your impairment affect you on a daily basis? Are you able to get washed and dressed on your own? Can you brush your hair? How about your teeth, do you deal with brushing them yourself? Can you manage your own medication? Do you cook your own meals or does someone else have to come in to help you? Can you eat without help? How about using the toilet or having shower, can you manage to do that? Again, legitimate questions, but it’s still not nice. When you are disabled you really should focus on the things you can still do, not the things you can’t. If you focus on those things, the way all the legitimate questions make you do, then it is just so depressing and soul-destroying. You start to wonder what the point of carrying on is and whether you are just a burden. Not healthy.

But, at least there’s a point, of sorts, for all of those questions, money equipment, treatment, all bearable and understandable. No, the questions I’m talking about, the questions you really don’t need are the questions you get from random passers by. The taxi-drivers who ask “So, what’s wrong with you?”, the busy-bodies who seem to think it’s their right to know. Well, it isn’t.

When you’re waiting at the bus-stop in your wheelchair, you don’t expect to be asked by a small child how you use a toilet. You don’t expect to be quizzed by a teenager about whether you can still have inter-course. You don’t need to be challenged by a pensioner about your finances and told you are a scrounger. And you really don’t need to be interrogated by someone you’ve never met before on why you haven’t killed yourself yet. What are you supposed to say to that one? I’m a bit busy to do it today? Not this week thanks? Maybe next month? 

What is it that makes people think it’s they have the right to ask me personal, intrusive questions if they are not a specialist or a professional? Well, in my opinion, it isn’t. Not everyone has the right to ask me anything. Sure, the medics do and the Welfare Benefits assessor does and the Social Care Provider does and the disability equipment specialists do but that’s it. No-one else need to know anything at all about me at all unless I choose to tell them. I have just the same right to privacy as a non-disabled person. What is it about being disabled that makes me public property? If you’re not in the need-to-know category I would urge you to consider once again what right you have to know intimate things about my impairment, my business, my private life. Before you ask me that burning question, ask yourself if you would like to be asked the same thing and if you really have a right to ask me. Once you’ve done that, if your answer is that you wouldn’t and you don’t, then stop, swallow it and walk away. It’s none of your business and I probably won’t like it either.

Sticky-beaks and poke-noses would you just butt out and leave me alone, I’ve had enough.

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It’s horrible.

Yesterday saw a complete and utter tragedy in Japan when a man decided to attack and slaughter nineteen severely disabled people in a care facility outside Tokyo for the despicable crime of – being disabled. That was it, they were disabled. A cowardly attack by what sounds like a disgruntled employee, perpetrated against people who were unable to defend themselves against his blows and slashes and murderous assault purely because, to his eyes, they were not worthy of life. He attacked and mutilated and killed at least nineteen people in a frenzied knife attack before going to a police station to hand himself in, allegedly stating as he did so: “It is better that disabled people disappear.”

Why?

What was it about the disabled people living in this facility that he felt entitled him to snuff them out? Why did he decide that these people have no right to exist? What had these people done that was so terrible? Was it because they had been born in a less than ‘perfect’ body? Could it have been because he deemed them to be unable to function ‘normally’ in society? What gave him the right to play judge and jury and make that decision. We will probably never know.

But that’s not all, there’s more.

Earlier this year he wrote a letter to the Speaker of the lower house of Japan’s parliament in which he said that he felt it would be better if all severely disabled people were, with the agreement of their families,  euthanised if it was proven to be difficult for that person “to carry out household and social activities”. There was no description given of what those activities might be or what differentiated a disabled person from a severely disabled person, just that these people, whoever they might be, were not worthy of life and should, therefore, die. He even volunteered to carry out the killings himself and detailed how he would accomplish this atrocity if given the opportunity.

As far as I am concerned this is just the tip of a hate filled iceberg. Society is in meltdown. Disabled people are being hurt, disabled people are being abused, disabled people are dying because of it. Disabled people are  being targeted for no other reason than for just being who they are. This fear and hatred is prevalent from the lowest to the highest echelons of society and it’s getting worse. Only this week there was a report in the press about a middle-aged businessman who, apparently, decided, that bullying a disabled person because he himself had been made to queue to use a toilet was all right. Earlier this year, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump felt that it was acceptable to mock a disabled reporter because of their impairment without any obvious repercussions for his actions. In November 2015 it was reported that incidents of disability hate crime in the UK had increased by forty-one percent over the previous year. Name calling, harassment, physical and mental assault for no other reason than a person’s medical condition. Well, in my opinion this is not right and cannot be allowed to continue. What will it take for the hatred to stop? What has happened to make society so against people who are not the same, people who are different in some way. People who are different because of an illness, injury or accident of birth. Something that is out of the control of the person that is being abused.

We need to show that we have had enough and that all this unwarranted hostility and intolerance has to stop. People should learn to respect diversity and value their fellow men and women for what and who they are, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. We all have a contribution we can make, no matter how large or how small, how monumental or seemingly insignificant it may be.

We must make sure we all put our collective feet down firmly and just say ‘NO!’