Our own Bob Williams- Findlay wrote:

If you accept, as I do, that the experience of disability arises from the negative interactions between people with impairments and their social environments – then technology can play a major role in “bringing this reality” to life by exposing it, offering solutions and demonstrating the ability of technology to both enable and disable people with impairments.

Read the rest at his guest blog at beyondclicktivism

What is disability?

January 12, 2011

Bob Williams-Findlay

Bob Williams-Findlay

What is disability? If you were to ask a mixed group of disabled and non-disabled people that question, the chances are that the different answers given could almost add up to the same number as those present in the room! The problem is that there are many different and often opposing ways of defining disability.

In general terms these definitions tend to fall into two basic approaches. In the traditional approach, developed mainly by non-disabled medical and social care professionals, the focus is on to what degree a person’s condition or impairment prevents them from fulfilling the roles and expectations usually carried out by so called ‘normal people’ (sic). This is how the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) sees it.

This approach has been criticised as it tends to present disabled people in ways which are often considered negative and, as a result, increases the possibility that a disabled person could experience either discrimination or be forced to accept segregated services. The emphasis here is on disabled people’s lack of ability, caused by their condition, to ‘fit into’ the mainstream activities

Disabled people argue this approach misrepresents the facts. The alternative ‘social model’ approach has as its starting point the recognition that often having a condition or impairment does have an impact upon our lives. However, the trouble has been that this impact has often been viewed wrongly or as the individual’s own problem by those who create what is sometimes called the ‘social environment’ – these people design structures and organise activities within our communities.

If more time was spent ‘taking into account’ how the design and organisation of things affected disabled people then we might see real change. The emphasis within the social model approach is on looking at the differing ways in which people with impairments encounter what we call ‘disabling barriers’.

Disabling barriers are created when not enough attention is paid to the issues which impact on disabled people’s lives. For example, their access needs, the surroundings in which disabled people find themselves in or simply the negative attitudes people hold. Our conditions or impairments may reduce our functional ability , but more often than not, the disabling factor is external and could be reduced or removed by planning ‘disabled people in’ or if needs be, adapting the world in which we live.

Bob Williams-Findlay

Source: republished by Miss Dennis Queen

The Coalition have said they accept all of the recommendations made by Professor Harrington in his report on the WCA, but what does this mean in reality?

I think the first thing we should note is that Prof Harrington, who will continue in his role as independent reviewer, said:

“This is not about ripping up the current system and starting all over again. I am proposing a substantial series of recommendations to improve the fairness and effectiveness of the assessment.”

The WCA  involves a “functional health assessment”, denoting an individual’s ability to work, rather than the previous “diagnostic medical assessment” which focused on particular conditions. Some would argue this new approach was a step forward and moves away from ‘medicalising’ disabled people’s lives. Others, like myself, argue that these assessments are in reality no better than the previous and therefore they remain the epitome of the ‘individual model of disability’.

A major problem we have to contend with is that very few people outside the specialist medical professions and academics within the Sociology or Medicine or Disability Studies have ever heard of let alone understand the nature of “disability medical assessments”. Of course it would have been foolishly naïve of campaigners to expect Harrington to acknowledge that the methodology behind the assessment is in direct opposition to the approach recommended in the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. We remain in the same position we were before the report was published; is difficult to demonstrate to the ordinary person in the street how flawed the methodology is and why, despite all the review’s recommendations, the disablism found within the WCA will remain intact.

A major problem we have to contend with is that very few people outside the specialist medical professions and academics within the Sociology or Medicine or Disability Studies have ever heard of let alone understand the nature of “disability medical assessments”. Of course it would have been foolishly naïve of campaigners to expect Harrington to acknowledge that the methodology behind the assessment is in direct opposition to the approach recommended in the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. We remain in the same position we were before the report was published; is difficult to demonstrate to the ordinary person in the street how flawed the methodology is and why, despite all the review’s recommendations, the disablism found within the WCA will remain intact.

Secondly, the fact Mr Grayling said the government accepted all the review’s recommendations, suggests that the changes already in the pipeline aren’t going to be derailed by this report. It is the opinion of the Benefits and Work website that Coalition are still going ahead with changes to the WCA which they set out earlier this year and that these change are going to make the assessments more harsh and unjust rather than ‘fairer or just’.

One very positive outcome of the Harrington review however is the recommendation that the audio taping of medicals should be piloted to see if it is a practical possibility.

 

To see my personal take on the WCA go to:

 

http://www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/?location_id=1228

Bob Williams-Findlay

Bob William-Findlay

Bob Williams-Findlay

One of DPAC members, Bob Williams-Findlay, will be writing commentaries on issues arising from the budget cuts and the spending review. This is the first one on the DLA mobility component and people in residential care homes.

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Unexpectedly, George Osborne announced as part of the comprehensive spending review (CSR), that after four weeks inside a residential care home those who are state-funded residents would have their DLA mobility component removed. How has the Government sought to justify this policy change and would it be lawful?

The Department for Work and Pensions began by offering a two part rationale for this policy change. Firstly, they sought to argue that this would bring residents in line with hospital in-patients. This absurd argument demonstrates a high degree of both ignorance and prejudice; the mobility needs of the majority of people who live in residential homes can in no way be compared with those of hospital in-patients. It also indicates that the DWP want to impose ‘the sick role’ on certain groups of disabled people in order to paint others “economically active” when it suits the Government’s needs.

The DWP’s second argument, as equally absurd and bankrupt, suggested individual residents didn’t need the DLA mobility component because their needs were already being met by local authority funding for transport for care home residents. Let us consider what this really means. To begin with there is firm evidence to suggest that many care homes simply integrate the money into a single pot and therefore each home determines how much is spent on ‘days out’ or ‘necessary travel’ for residents. This implies that individual residents should have little or no control over their mobility needs; the expectation is to be totally ‘dependent’ on the home and more often than not have no independence in terms of going outside the home. This is to treat disabled people like convicted criminals and must call into question disabled residents’ rights under Articles 14,19, 20 and 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD, *see below) because it is a form of ‘house arrest’ and among other deprivations, denies them the right and opportunity to associate with whom they please. Are we going back to the days of ‘warehousing cripples’?

Disability minister Maria Miller said: “Local authority contracts with care homes are designed to cover services to meet all a resident’s assessed needs, including any mobility needs. So an individual’s care, support and mobility needs should be met by residential care providers from social care funding.”

Everybody knows that local authorities aren’t meeting these needs at present and with huge budget cuts, rises in VAT and petrol duty, it will be disabled people who are ‘out of sight, out of mind’ in residential homes; people with minimum or no direct contact with the ‘outside world’, who are going to be punished. John Nawrockyi, from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, acknowledges that, ‘With councils facing a 28% cut in government funding over the next four years they will struggle to maintain existing services, let alone fund new ones.’

In hard cold cash terms this policy change will result in saving £135m a year or in percentage terms just 0.2% of the public spending cuts announced in the CSR. Is this really a “fair price” for the loss of independence, freedom and choice of those on the end of state funding? This policy flies in the face of the approach found within the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People – it supports institutionalisation rather than independence, it is both callous and ill-liberal. Back to Victorian values and I’m in no doubt Osborne, Duncan Smith and Miller would’ve made ideal characters in a Charles Dickens’ novel.

–  Bob Williams-Findlay
* UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
from
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/disabilities-convention.htm


Article 14
Liberty and security of the person
1. States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others:

(a) Enjoy the right to liberty and security of person;

(b) Are not deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily, and that any deprivation of liberty is in conformity with the law, and that the existence of a disability shall in no case justify a deprivation of liberty.

2. States Parties shall ensure that if persons with disabilities are deprived of their liberty through any process, they are, on an equal basis with others, entitled to guarantees in accordance with international human rights law and shall be treated in compliance with the objectives and principles of this Convention, including by provision of reasonable accommodation

Article 19
Living independently and being included in the community
States Parties to this Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that:

(a) Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement;

(b) Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community;

(c) Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities and are responsive to their needs.

Article 20
Personal mobility


States Parties shall take effective measures to ensure personal mobility with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities, including by:

(a) Facilitating the personal mobility of persons with disabilities in the manner and at the time of their choice, and at affordable cost;

(b) Facilitating access by persons with disabilities to quality mobility aids, devices, assistive technologies and forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including by making them available at affordable cost;

(c) Providing training in mobility skills to persons with disabilities and to specialist staff working with persons with disabilities;

(d) Encouraging entities that produce mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies to take into account all aspects of mobility for persons with disabilities.

Article 30
Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport

1. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to take part on an equal basis with others in cultural life, and shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities:

(a) Enjoy access to cultural materials in accessible formats;

(b) Enjoy access to television programmes, films, theatre and other cultural activities, in accessible formats;

(c) Enjoy access to places for cultural performances or services, such as theatres, museums, cinemas, libraries and tourism services, and, as far as possible, enjoy access to monuments and sites of national cultural importance.

2. States Parties shall take appropriate measures to enable persons with disabilities to have the opportunity to develop and utilize their creative, artistic and intellectual potential, not only for their own benefit, but also for the enrichment of society.

3. States Parties shall take all appropriate steps, in accordance with international law, to ensure that laws protecting intellectual property rights do not constitute an unreasonable or discriminatory barrier to access by persons with disabilities to cultural materials.

4. Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture.

5. With a view to enabling persons with disabilities to participate on an equal basis with others in recreational, leisure and sporting activities, States Parties shall take appropriate measures:

(a) To encourage and promote the participation, to the fullest extent possible, of persons with disabilities in mainstream sporting activities at all levels;

(b) To ensure that persons with disabilities have an opportunity to organize, develop and participate in disability-specific sporting and recreational activities and, to this end, encourage the provision, on an equal basis with others, of appropriate instruction, training and resources;

(c) To ensure that persons with disabilities have access to sporting, recreational and tourism venues;

(d) To ensure that children with disabilities have equal access with other children to participation in play, recreation and leisure and sporting activities, including those activities in the school system;

(e) To ensure that persons with disabilities have access to services from those involved in the organization of recreational, tourism, leisure and sporting activities.