I’ve often heard that disability can be invisible, and when I started canvassing, I learned how true this is. Disability definitely affects more people than I would have estimated it did before I began canvassing during the marriage equality referendum in 2015.
I’ve blogged about this issue in more detail previously.
Highest on the agenda here are work opportunities, educational opportunities and transport opportunities with a focus on living as independently as possible.
Broken footpaths, overcrowded buses, broken lifts and long hikes between public transit centres are a pain when you are able-bodied, but nearly impossible to manage when you are not. Fixing these things is something that benefits everyone, but can be particularly useful for people living with disability. As a result of my extensive canvassing, I’m pretty well aware of the various points where this needs to be done.
Something that also crops up fairly regularly are parents worried for their children’s future, especially as they grow older. As one person whose son had a serious learning disability once told me, ‘There are a lot of things my son could do that would still be useful and allow him to live a life with dignity. Why, for example, can he not help to clean the park? He would be able to do that and it would give him a purpose in life and a means to get along once we are gone".
There are some great programmes in this regard, and certainly normalizing disability in the workplace has come a long way since I was a kid, but there is still a lack of supportive education facilities (eg. for children with autism), as well as assistance in utilizing workplace technology for people with physical disabilities.
One of my closest advisors is deaf, but lived and worked independently in London for many years and he attributes that to the ease with which he was able to navigate transportation, as well as the support machinery he used to do his work (eg automatically transcribing phone conversations for him).
Another point that we are failing at here is in social housing. People living with disability are, of course, much less likely to be able to work or work full-time than able-bodied people and providing here is one of the core purposes the welfare state was invented for. The idea behind social security is that an accident or debilitating illness could happen to anyone and if it does, you would still be able to live decently. However, due to the mismanagement of our housing situation, many people living with disability are falling through the cracks and on years-long waiting lists for social housing.