I like to think that I am a fairly intelligent person, and yet one thing continues to baffle me: the idea that disabled people enjoy claiming benefits. No disabled person chooses to be dependent on others, whether those people are family, friends – or tax payers.
Of course, some people claim benefits unjustly, but here is the key point: those people are not disabled. Those people – who are in the minority despite what the scaremongering media might lead you to believe – choose living off the state, despite being able to work for a living. This is just as offensive to the disabled as it is to the able bodied – if not more so.
I desperately want to be able to work. When I listen to my friends discussing their duties in the workplace, their colleagues' habits, even the irritating person on their train that morning, I feel a pang of envy. I would love to experience that, to know that I am a contributing member of society. I don't need any more incentive to work than that. Instead I am reminded every day that a section of society subscribes to the worst opinions that I have of myself: sponger, worthless, a drain on the state.
I can't work because I was born with a genetic skin blistering condition called epidermolysis bullosa (EB), of which I have a severe sub-type. Having rampaged around my body for the past 24 years, EB has cost me the sight in my left eye and caused great photosensitivity in the right, the majority of the dexterity in my fingers and my toes (which have fused into a solid mass on each foot), the ability to walk more than a few yards at a time and the ability to swallow (leaving me with a feeding tube in my stomach).
Now, tell me, would you employ me? Would you give me sick pay for lost time, adapt your office, or supply me with an assistant to act as my hands and feet? Could you afford to fund all of these needs?
At home, I am still almost totally dependent on my mother, who is my carer, 24 hours a day. However much we love each other there is an inherent feeling of humiliation at having to be put to bed, helped into your underwear – even sometimes helped on to the toilet – as a grown woman. There is also the knowledge that, however much it may be denied, you are a burden to those you love. Read more>>
Melissa Smith is a member of the Broken of Britain and blogs at Blogeration