Reflections on Disability.

This is my second offering on the “Pictures from an Autism House” theme and shows the view from our front bedroom window. I like this picture because it flies in the face of political correctness and concerns about labelling. In these enlightened times we are encouraged to only use appropriate language when talking about disability. Now don’t misunderstand me I believe this to be an important part of disability awareness and understanding. I’m all for a move to a more accepting society but since we began living with disability every day some of my perceptions have altered. Local authorities and service providers put a considerable emphasis on the use of correct language and strive to avoid stereotyping on the surface (not of the road!) at least.

In my experience though local authorities, health boards and other service providers need to be careful not to use  political correctness to blur or mask resource cuts or to avoid meeting needs properly. When pursuing essential resources it is very important that accurate descriptions of a person’s needs are used and as a parent I would rather be (mildly)offended than see my precious boy short changed in terms of identified needs and resources. Bill Gates may be autistic but he is not the same as Andy in terms of support needs. If we need to use the qualifier “severely” to get some illumination on the subject, so be it! Similarly I feel strongly that laudable concepts in name at least, should not be used to pressure or mislead people.

When service providers talk of a desire to integrate those affected by disability surely this must be with the correct level of support to make this possible. It should not be used to justify a lack of proper service provision, for example. Promoting independence and choice are also concepts that can be misused in some cases. When terminology sounds too good to be true I am often wary. (Getting it Right for Every Child, Brighter Futures, Fairer Access to Care, Self Directed Care, Same as You all spring to mind in this category)

Language is a powerful thing and in relation to disability has to be used accurately, honestly and respectfully by all.

When you look at this picture however you become aware that these efforts may be somewhat futile if you write DISABLED in foot and a half sized letters outside a person’s home! It does though state what my son is (among many, many other things!) and we are extremely grateful to have this facility. It is essential to his well being and safety on the busy road outside and makes the job of carers a little bit easier too. For now at least this over rides my feelings about this very public description.



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