In the past year, verbal abuse towards disabled people has increased by 41%. The governments demonisation of disabled people claiming benefits, presenting them as fraudulent, lazy and responsible for robbing a recession sunken country of its precious funds.
In a recent survey that public misconceptions about welfare have been wildly out of step with the actual figures. When asked about the proportion of the welfare budget that is fraudulently claimed, on average people placed it as 27% instead of the 0.7% that is actually estimated.
This is a context for what happened to me tonight. I was at the station waiting for a train, when a man came up to me and said:
And he said “why have you got a stick?"
I was startled and said “pardon?"
“what's wrong with you?".
“It's complicated to explain" i replied
My train had come, and I was waiting to get on it, but because he was standing between me and the train, I couldn't get on it straightaway. At that point he moved towards me, I moved back and he said aggresively:
“You're not really disabled are you? Are you, are you? You're not disabled. You're one of them aren't you, you're one of them that's pretending, you're draining this whole fucking country"
He got on the train, I didn't because I don't want to get in the carriage with him, and I sat back down at the station and burst into tears.
My disabilities have ruined my life, they make it so hard for me to do almost everything. Every day it's a struggle, and it is terrible to be told that you are not as ill and in pain as you know you are by someone else. And it's terrible to have the government who will not believe disabled people when they tell them what they need, and what they can't do.
Picking on minority groups to divert attention from the actual problems is not something new. Jewish people, gypsies, women, gay and bisexual people have, and often still are, blamed for the ills in society. Freud says that persecution is a way of externalising your anger and hatred, by making the Other a scapegoat for the ills of society.
And I am scared: scared for myself and for other disabled people, who face loosing their income, their transport, wheelchairs, and independence and i suspect probably their lives in some cases.
With the benefits cut back by coming in during the next year, there is going to be a witchhunt on disabled people claiming benefits. Maybe they should go back to the old way of trying people: by throwing them in water and seeing if they float. Because the way that people's disabilities and benefits are being assessed is just as ridiculous and unfair, has just as little grasp on reality, and just as little understanding and compassion and plain common sense.