When Dylan sang about the murder of Hattie Carroll he ridiculed the idea that the ‘ladder of law has no top or no bottom ‘. It’s a powerful and moving song that challenges the inequities in the American justice system in the 1960’s.
Listening to a lawyer talk about present day Scottish legislation affecting children with disabilities at recent training events it struck me how little our modern Acts and legal system has improved. Inequality is sadly still very prevalent despite promising terminology. Furthermore our contemporary Scottish Acts have ‘no bottom ‘ in the sense that they are weak and are largely not enforceable by ordinary families. Dip into the Education (ASL) Act, the Equality Act or the Regulation of Care Act and see how far you get against the ‘ big fish.’ Terminology is often almost impossibly vague and when challenges are mounted local authorities and health boards have the legal resources to bankrupt most individuals who would put up a fight. No wonder they thumb their nose at ‘statutory’ obligations !
Pursuing ‘statutory ‘ entitlement is so often a highly complex, emotionally challenging and draining system for families living with disabilities. It brings ridicule to any notion of social justice and shame to us all.
Today a small victory occurred for a family I work with at IBA. It was not perhaps of huge significance in the grand scale of the inequality faced by people living with disability. It was however the culmination of a 7 month struggle. It was a determined effort to stand up for the rights of a child let down by a system that had shown a cumulative lack of understanding and compassion. That is all it takes to fail a young person and family who bravely face great challenges on a daily basis.
The conduct of those who had influence and power in these matters stands in stark contrast. Self interest and a refusal to stand up and speak up lest they risk their position and privileges characterised their failures.
A safety net that should be a cornerstone of a civilised society has been fought for and won. I’ll sleep a little bit better tonight knowing that.
10 examples of real discrimination experienced by people with disability right here and right now.
1. Despite all our disability legislation most individuals and families could never afford to make legal challenges. Service providers and local authorities know this and often behave accordingly, rendering our laws worthless.
2. Tolerance of diversity is limited and mocking people with disabilities is sadly still common place – from the President of the US to the young woman who was mocking Andy in the Co-op tonight. ( if only she had any idea of the challenges he faces and the courage he shows everyday)
3. Professionals displaying their “we know best attitude “ based on nothing more than arrogance and self importance.
4. A widespread abuse of parking bays for blue badge holders by people who simply don’t care. (I’ve stopped challenging – it’s embarrassing, stressful and often dangerous.)
5. The targeting of essential services , facilities and support by individuals in power and their organisations based on lies masked by jargon and unproven concepts.
6. The frequent practice of government and politicians using disability as a way to score points.
7. The impossible demands made by society on unpaid carers.
8. The reduction in social workers, Welfare right officers and an almost complete lack of independent advocacy.
9. The all too common usage of dehumanising language when referring to people with disabilities.
10. A pervading culture of fear around making a stand against these discriminations based on threats to employment and being ostracised for not behaving like sheep.
The need for listening, honest judgement and displaying real courage has never been greater for the wellbeing of those affected by disabilities.
I am writing today as I used to do , on Thursdays as I travel to work on the boat. I have simply not had the energy or inclination for blogging recently.
Andy’s recent difficulties and the festive holidays had been problematic, often beyond words and we have been in something of a survival mode.
Happily Andy’s demeanour has improved and we are cautiously returning to some sort of normality.
Jen and I are trying to put some contingency plans in place for any future difficulties and have reluctantly engaged with our local CAMHS. After what has seemed like an eternity we are technically in the system. Nothing has actually happened though such is the dire crisis in paediatric psychiatric care. We have to try however.
At Inspired by Autism I have been arranging for some of our parents to attend training events on the legislative process around our education system principally because there is so much misinformation around. I also need to share the burden a little in terms of making challenges. We hope it will be productive. My big concern is that regardless of laws local authorities tend to know that parents and families can not afford to mount legal challenges.
Over the festive period we received some donations at the charity and I would like to say thank you for those.
A friend of our good friend, Jamie at Coast Coffee, donated a laptop that was surplus to their requirements and we are delighted to have it as a backup when providing training.
Finally can I wish one of our directors a continued speedy recovery from his illness and prolonged stay in hospital?
Get well soon Michael!
2017 has been a hard year for Andy as he has appeared to struggle with emotions, puberty and hormonal changes. Thankfully the last week has saw a marked improvement in his general demeanour however, and we are hopeful of a calm festive period and a continued improvement for him.
This time of year must be very overwhelming for many autistic people and Andy appears confused and at times almost trapped in the events around him.
“Christmas decorations and lights all around
Parcels, tinsel, sweets ,cards abound”
Andy often seeks refuge in his bedroom from the excitement that is going on and it is important that he has this space to restore his calmness and to escape any unwanted stimulation.
“My brother and sister cry with glee,
While it’s all a bit of puzzle for me”
Tomorrow it is unlikely that Andy will get out of bed early to open his presents but of course that is fine. We will attempt to contain the noise and joy of his siblings downstairs and let him stay in his current sleep routine.
“Excitement and fun the main sound
But normal routine cannot be found”
We will, as always try to accommodate and meet the needs and wishes of all our children over the festive period. A respect for neuro-diversity and tolerance of individuals need for flexibility must surely reflect an appropriate Christmas message?
“ So please have a thought also for me,
And if I don’t join in, just let me be”
May your Christmas be full of love, peace, tolerance and respect .
Merry Christmas X