This is only one of a decade’s worth of reports about the impact of austerity on disabled people in Britain. Disabled people were an early target of welfare cuts, and have suffered increasing social prejudice as voters have rationalised their support for them.
The thing that gets me about this casual demonisation and punishment of the disabled is that it’s so fundamentally distinct from other forms of social prejudice and bigotry, as it’s demonising one of the few groups of people that any of us could join in an instant. Racists and xenophobes can rest safe in the knowledge that their skin colour or accent won’t change overnight. Misogynist men and homophobes don’t become women or gay overnight. Few people become rich or poor in an instant, unless you win the lottery or bet the wrong way, whether on the horses or on the stock market. The old will never be young again, and the young don’t yet feel in their bones that they will one day be old.
But you could be hit by a car on the way home tonight and be in a wheelchair tomorrow, and for the rest of your life. You could be blinded or deafened or lose an arm or suffer a stroke. Your child or grandchild could be born disabled. It could happen to anyone—even to Tory ideologues moulding an entire bureaucratic regime in their own heartless image. Even if they can’t muster up some basic empathy, what about self-interest? Do they never take out insurance?
True, the ones at the top are more likely to be able to cushion themselves from the economic effects. But I’m still baffled by the two people in every five who vote for them; they can’t all have independent means or rich mates. As for the bureaucrats who have been issuing instructions to wheelchair users to use the stairs, if they don’t support the Tories’ approach, why aren’t they looking for ways around such obvious barriers, like using accessible venues for meetings? If they’re happy with keeping them in place because they’ve bought into the ideology, they’re just as bad. If they’ve tried to make it better but have been blocked, there are other parts of the civil service one can work in—or non-government organisations that need people with bureacratic skills.