There have been a number of different items in the media about disabled people which I feel is another reason I have learnt to question what I am told and find out the truth, as unfortunately much of what the media portrays is not the truth, as you can imagine this adds to the feeling of inequality. As I learn more I gain confirmation of how lucky I am, yes I am disabled and have many problems to deal with but this is nothing compared to the troubles that many sick and disabled people have to face.
There has been one good thing come out of media coverage and that is showing the truth about what really goes on in care homes. Panorama reported on the abuse which was occurring at a hospital for adults with learning disabilities. It was shocking to see some of the things carers got away with and unbelievable to think it was allowed to go on for as long as it has done. Panorama has put such abuse into the forefront of peoples minds and has made people sit up and listen to what really is happening and for this I am hopeful that some of the abuse that occurs will stop and be challenged. The sad thing about what has been occurring at this facility is that I am sure it is not the only place that allows such awful things to happen. Again this made me realise how lucky I am because I have not had to go through such an ordeal and will never have to due to the nature of my disability and the support network that I have, whereas it is the harsh reality for to many people living with disability and illness.
I have had negative experiences throughout my life but from them I have grown as a person and only recently have realised that I can use some of my negative experiences to help others and campaign for change. Recently I was in my local pub and there was a man who I hadn't seen before and he started to get involved in conversations that were being had by the people I was with. I have recently been getting on a bar stool with help from friends, so that I am truly involved in all that goes on at the bar, rather than be someone on the outside looking in. After a while I decided that I needed to go to the toilet so got back in my wheelchair and headed to the toilet. It wasn't till I got back that he started to treat me noticeably different, using phrases like 'trapped in my wheelchair' and generally looking at me with a pitying look. This experience set me back a little bit because I hadn't had people say things like that to me for a while and so wasn't really prepared. The next day I went in the pub again and spoke to the landlord and lady about my experience the night before explaining how it made me feel and their reaction was great, I felt valued and realised how lucky I was to have friends like these. The man who upset me came in while I was there and he was told quite nicely he was not welcome and told to leave which just confirmed that feeling that I was valued.
When I speak about people who are sick AND disabled I am referring to those people who often have hidden disabilities like M.E. My disability is a physical one and so people can see the difficulties that I may have, but those who have hidden disabilities are grossly misunderstood and treated extremely unfairly. This can be seen when looking at Employment Support Allowance (ESA). ESA is split into two main categories, that of which is for people who are unable to work and that which is for people who it is anticipated that they would be able to work at some point. This sounds fair until the stories of people who really aren't 'fit for work' are found to be. It has been made one of the hardest benefit to get, and the assessment process is ridiculously flawed, the form is complicated and if the claim gets as far as having to attend an assessment it is completed by someone who has no medical knowledge in an appointment that lasts only 20 minutes and they take everything literally even when the person being assessed may have insight problems and is not fully aware of all that they cant do. As I said at the beginning this makes me realise how lucky I am. I may be in a low paid job and feel trapped at times, but at least I am able to work and have a job unlike many people who are seen as 'fit to work' as well as an employer through all their faults are flexible and encouraging.
I was talking last night to some friends about the problems I and others face and what it is to be different. We were discussing what it was meant to be 'normal', I explained that what I mean by this is to be an equal part of something and not to be treated differently. In many situations I am lucky that I feel normal but there are times and will always be that I do not feel normal quite simply because of the way that I am treated. We were also discussing the abuse of the system and how it is those who really need the support that don't receive it. Over the past few weeks I have grown closer to the people I was with last night and I feel I am beginning to make them understand some of these problems that I face. They are all in support of me and agreed there are some people who abuse the system, which they do not feel is right because they see there are people who are more deserving than someone who doesn't make any effort to find work, the group of people I was talking to know someone like this and they are losing any respect that they had for this person.
The above are just some of the things that I have experienced over the past while that have firstly made me realise how lucky I am but secondly that I need to continue to fight for those who are worse of than me because it is often not that easy for them to show they have a voice. I will continue to open my eyes to other people and the difficulties they face with the hope that I can help support them to challenge and campaign for change. On my own I have a small voice, together we can work towards change.