There are 14 million disabled people in the UK, and we make up a fifth of the population. We are not a homogenous group, but we all want to live in an inclusive society where everyone has a fulfilling life and feels connected and valued.
Last month, the government refused to show up to the United Nations meeting called to scrutinise the violation of disabled people’s rights happening under their administration. Such a display of contempt for our lives comes as little surprise to those of us who have seen and experienced first-hand the erosion of our rights under this and previous governments.
In the UK, we seem content to leave disabled people silenced on the margins, with the government refusing to size up to public scrutiny and the inhumane policies we regularly face barely making the news. This rising tide of ableism, which has come with deep cuts to services, is working hand-in-hand with the government’s anti-migrant, anti-trans and racist policies and has left ever-increasing numbers of us in poverty, homeless, incarcerated or killed by state neglect.
Earlier this year, it was leaked that Bristol City Council are considering a policy that would place disabled people in care homes if it was cheaper than providing the social care we deserve in our homes.
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This could be a frightening return to institutionalisation, the era of locking up disabled people in institutions so we were segregated from society and less ‘burdensome’. The 19th-century lunatic asylums like the Bethlem still stand and are still used to detain disabled people against their will. It’s clear that these systems never completely disappeared but were merely reformed with a more palatable veneer for the conscience of a wider, non-disabled society. But we still face the same dehumanisation.
The Conservative government is ramping up policies to force disabled people who are too unwell to work back into employment, a cynical attempt to impose conditionality and cut our social security to the bone.