by Rab Bruce’s Spider

According to the Disabled Living Foundation, there are around 13.3 million disabled people living in the UK. That’s almost one in five of the total population. Of these, only about 17% are born with a disability. By my rough calculation, this means that anyone reading this article who does not currently have a disability has around a 15% chance of developing one either as a result of an accident, an inherited condition or simple bad luck in their health.

If you are lucky enough not to have developed a disability already, then I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen to you because, as we know only too well, the disabled, along with the poor and the unemployed, have been a primary target for the Tories’ Austerity-driven policies.

But the harm is not confined to economics. The resurgence of hatred and division as political tools has also resulted in people with disabilities being targeted for attacks ranging from verbal abuse to actual physical harm. That’s what happens when picking on the vulnerable becomes State policy.

All of this is over and above the daily problems faced by people with disabilities. Simply coping with daily life can take huge amounts of effort for people who just want to be able to participate in society like everyone else.

But, bearing in mind the statistics mentioned above, perhaps those people who support Tory policies which are designed to harm disabled people ought to take a few moments to reflect on how they would feel if something bad suddenly happened to them. Would they still back the degrading PIP assessments and the callous disregard for actual health problems which Work Capability Assessments seem to delight in? How would they claim Universal Credit if they find themselves unable to use a computer to register online?

Of course, nobody ever thinks it will happen to them, but the reality is very different. And if you are one of the 80% who are fortunate enough to avoid disabling accidents or health issues, then you ought at least to consider your good fortune and not look down on those who have been less privileged.

Right Wing politicians are very good at directing hatred towards minority groups because they understand that they can only maintain their control by ensuring that the populace remains divided. People cannot alter their ethnic background, the colour of their skin or their sexual orientation, but their status as an able-bodied person can certainly change. So why do so many people discriminate against a group of people they might well suddenly find are their fellow sufferers? There is probably no simple answer to that question, but a part of it must be the daily diet of hate coming from the media and Right Wing politicians and councillors which encourages people to behave with animosity towards anyone they perceive as different.

Hatred of others is learned, and far too many people seem happy to take the opportunities our society is now giving them to express their hate. Some of these people are probably beyond redemption, but others may yet come to see that they are being influenced and encouraged. It is important that we do not answer hate with hate. We should call out discrimination when we see it, and we must encourage people to join us in speaking out. It is likely that we will never eradicate discrimination because there will always be self-serving politicians who understand that encouraging division will help their own cause, but that does not mean we should give up. What we need to aim for is a society where any form of discrimination, in word or deed, is viewed as socially unacceptable. If people harbour such hurtful views, then they need to understand that they should keep them to themselves. And if they are directing their hatred at people with disabilities, then they ought to be reminded that they may well find themselves in that same position one day.