This year’s Disability Awareness Day we should be more “aware” then we ever have. In the UK, life for disabled people is getting worse, not easier. I firmly believe that the cuts by the Coalition government really are leaving disabled people the “hardest hit”. Articles like this by Sue Marsh, a wonderful disabled activist and campaigner, put the facts behind the experiences we read and hear from disabled people, and that I hear from my patients as I work as a hospital doctor.
Disabled people are losing out on social, practical and financial support, that many people need, and those who aren’t losing out are jumping through hoops like Atos assessments and tribunals to get it. The number of cases that are initially turned down but are then successful at tribunal is staggering.
I write this both as a doctor who’s heard experiences of disabled patients, and as a person with my own experiences – having previously self-defined as disabled (thanks to good surgery and better mental health, I no longer feel this applies to me) and as a sibling of a young person who has lifelong disabilities, and though she’s amazing and wonderful, my family could all really do with my sister receiving an awful lot more help than she gets. But social services are ridiculously stretched and the services just aren’t there.
Why is this relevant to feminists, I hear you ask? If we take an intersectional approach to feminism, then every type of prejudice or discrimination, such as that faced by disabled people, is relevant. Women of colour experience more prejudice than white women, LGBTQ women face more struggles than cisgendered-heterosexual women, and disabled women experience more discrimination than non-disabled women, because of multiple discrimination. If we want an equal society (which as intersectional feminists we surely do), we need to be aware of, and campaign against, other discrimination in addition to sexism.
In relation to the cuts, women are hit harder than men by cuts to child benefit, to tax credits, the closing of Sure Start centres, and public sector pay cuts, while the tax cuts for the rich will benefit men more than women. It could logically be argued then, that disabled women are being hit hardest of all. This is why it matters to feminists.
We need to not just be aware of “Disability” per se, but of what it means to be disabled by society, to face barriers that need not be there if society were more accepting, more accommodating, and had less discrimination.
We need to be mindful of what may be needed to make spaces for accessible for disabled people, and to decrease prejudice – not using disablist language, for example, and challenging people when they perpetuate disablism (or finding out ways of doing so – much as I want to, I’ve still not worked out what I can say when my friends use the word “spaz” which grates with me so much). We should join together to campaign against the cuts which hit disabled people so hard.
On that note, can I end with saying that Hampshire Feminist Collective meetings are held in an accessible building with a ramp to enter and two disabled toilets, and we strive to make our meetings accessible for everyone, including people with learning, mental health, and communication disabilities (if you need our info in an alternative format, please let us know!).
For further reading and info, all the links from the blogpost and a few more:
The Gender Impact of the Cuts by TUC (PDF document).
Disabled people’s lives will be ruined by sweeping cuts to services at the Guardian.
Women to lose nearly £4bn in latest household budget cuts at the Independent.
Francesca Martinez: Empty words don’t fund a full life for disabled people at the Independent (there are other awesome things written by Francesca Martinez that I can’t find right now).
Diary of a Benefit Scrounger
Join Francesca Martinez And The WOW Petition Campaign at Disabled People Against the Cuts.
Tag archives: Disabled Feminist at Sisters of Frida.
Post by Ro, who also blogs at Trying to be a (very) junior doctor.