A different experience of disability

As mentioned, there is only so much I can inform and inspire around my daily routine. If anyone has questions on how I manage working, getting around London socially and travelling do get in touch. My past week has been working hard, seeing 6 friends from university in Camden Friday night, my mum and dad yesterday before returning to work today! Has been another great week 🙂

Furthermore I have been aware that my experiences of disability are biased. Meanwhile my guest blogs have been generally from others with a similar impairment. Todays blog is a guest blog from a blogger name HossyLass. It lays out the recent government policy decisions’ effects on disabled people, but better still shows an insight to disability from an experience different to my own. I am writing a blog on my perspectives of the social model for later in the week, but have to say this article is fantastic at outlining the shortfalls of the social model. Enjoy!

I personally am furious about the Government reducing, or rather bastardising, the social model.

They claim in the Disability Living Allowance reform that the world has moved on since its inception, and is a very different place from what it was when they constructed the DLA. And hence DLA needs reforming.

Yeah, we had the DEA and DED’s. Powers that are only effective when wielded as a weapon of defence by disabled people. Now that has changed to the Equality Act 2010, but until the change is proved to be working then it is just wishful thinking, and they cannot rely on the world of wishful thinking. Not when that reliance is at the expense of disability benefit reductions.

Wishful thinking and the necessary retrospective actions are just some of the flaws in the Governments interpretation of the social model.  Given the reductions in Employment Law for small companies, the legislation promoted as the great social equaliser becomes not just a toothless beast, but a totally vacuous promise.

However the social model was never meant to be used in isolation. It is an academic tool to be used alongside other models, to be used as a framework for reference when discussing all aspects of disability. The use in isolation, and subsequent bastardisation, of the social model has left some disabled people in a very vulnerable position.

The social model is not a valid model for people who are sick, and disabled by illness. It leans towards those who are disabled without illness or pain, i.e. it leans towards those whom society generally recognises as disabled. It then leads automatically to the ESA and the whole “working” thing which is portrayed as a good thing, and I agree, because if the world was flat, and wheelchairs were wonderful and free, and all transport accessible, and all people could sign, and hearing loops existed in every cable in the land etc, etc, etc (fill in your own wish list) then disabled people would have a better chance of being equal regarding many aspects that disable them.

It is only a better chance, but the equality of access and communication will only be effective when the wishful thinking is fulfilled. It won’t be achieved by current legislation. It won’t be achieved by Dave’s “Big Society” either, because if society was such a nice obliging disability-friendly place then there would be no need for legislation.

However, even if this utopian idyll existed it would do very little for those who are simply too ill to participate, a point that gets ignored constantly.

Those who have chronic illnesses and disabling conditions often look totally free of disability. You can pass them in the street and not feel the urge to stare, pat their guide-dog or lust after their wheelchair, because you haven’t noticed that they are disabled. This is because people with chronic illnesses and disabling conditions have a tendency to stay at home, indoors, and usually in bed when they are disabled by their illness. Some are hospitalised when their illness becomes noticeable. At this point the social model, as portrayed by the Government, becomes irrelevant. All that matters is the medical aspects, the treatment, and the vague belief that “some day soon” the condition will go into some form of remission. Their lives are controlled by the random fluctuations in their conditions.

The medical aspects of life are what controls the behaviours and choices these people make – “Can I cope with a crowd today?”, “Will I have enough stamina to get me to the shop and back?”. When they do go out in society it is often dictated primarily by the medical aspects of their condition.

The reform of DLA and the horrific ESA are both heavily influenced by three significant beliefs;

The belief that society will somehow become accessible, and therefore remove all barriers disabled people face, the belief that all people will get better from debilitating conditions, and the belief that sufficient financial sanctions and enforced work participation will in some way bring about the first two scenarios.

Well society won’t become instantly accessible just because DLA has been reformed, and people won’t recover from genetic life-long conditions regardless of how many times they are tested. If we don’t remind people that the medical model is as relevant as the social model, and that these reforms and cuts are based on projections, unfounded beliefs and wishful thinking, then a significant proportion of the disabled community will, in the not too distant future, get seriously shafted.

And no amount of belief or wishful thinking is going to change that.

Guest post by HossyLass, originally posted on http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.com/ by @bendygirl


  1. Absolutely spot on. There are things that could be said more, but this is a blog post, not a book.

    The one thing I would add is that the medical model still as relevance to those with ‘conventional’ disabilities. There is no way to equalise access to an exhibition of visual art for the blind, for instance. I have balance problems. Mobility aids offset the worst part of this, but they firstly introduce new problems (uneven paving is a problem, never mind a step) and they don’t remove all of the existing problems – I still have to move slowly, can’t corner sharply without falling (yes, even with a rollator). That’s a medical issue, not a social issue, whatever the cause.

  2. I can see people at it, and one of the places where people seem to really struggle is in attempts to classify the experience of disability as universal. They will have the same experience of disability. It is also misleading. It is important that every opportunity should be taken to communicate research findings, both inside and outside the Scottish Executive Education.
    Disability Aids

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