Much like the social construction of my own body, ravaged environments were “wounded space[s],” colonized and cast aside by ableist, capitalist culture.5 I found comfort in environments whose burdens were as heavy as my own and utilized these environments as partners for mourning as well as spaces of alternative strategy for practicing nonnormativity.6 Bringing disability into conversation with ravaged environments has been an essential part of how I’ve navigated and survived normative culture. These environments accepted me without complication: they taught me, before disability studies could, that physical disability is a condition of relational misfitting.7 Like me, these environments had been cast as misfits—unrestorable bodies—and under my gaze, they became a new baseline of correspondence, one that replaced ableist culture and its means of comparison.
Thankfully it’s been a long time since I had to fill out those Welfare Claim/Capability for Work forms that you get from the DWP (social security) here in the UK. However, there might be gentle readers of this blog who still have to go through that Orwellian nightmare.
Here is a very simple hack that I have recently been made aware of through the DPAC campaigning group. It sounds like a small thing, but believe me it can save you a lot of hassle.
I haven’t got around to watching I, Daniel Blake, although the angel of my better brain has. I’ve been avoiding it like sometimes I avoid the radio – a premonition that yep, things really are going to be as bad as they seem. For the occasionally fretful, doom-laden, check-the-clockers, wince-at-the-phone-ring and can’t-leave-the-room breed such as myself, it seems wise to manage our daily dose of despair. But I imagine that it will go something like this:
“Did you fill out these forms/look at these bills?”
“No, I couldn’t understand them/they freaked me out.”
“You do know you can get help with that, right?”
“There’s no Citizen’s Advice in my town, and the nearest operates every second Tuesday, under a full moon”
“Well, there’s a helpline?”
“They put me on waiting for an hour, and then just clicked off.”
“Why don’t you get a doctor’s/consultants/support workers help?”
“You can’t get to see your doctor, theres a six month to a yr waiting list to see a specialist, but you need a doctors referral before you get a support worker”
Why does it seem so impossible for the Tory Government to recognise these problems? Should we characterise it as an unwillingness or an inability? Both, perhaps, as the Tory’s response to the UN’s statement, through Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green refuses to acknowledge any of the UN committee’s findings.
Understanding the disabled experience can be hard. It’s even harder living with these conditions. As with the above examples, disability isn’t the same as, say, a car with a faulty engine [fix it and move on], but a congruence of, I suppose you would say “soft” forces. Not only is there the dangers and implications of whatever conditions the person suffers, but also the elaborate and messed-up network that the disabled person is most likely to swim through. Over-stretched GP surgeries, under-funded specialist departments, de-funded social care groups, layers of complicated automation designed to have the least amount of human input, for “efficiency” purposes. Access to justice in the forms of work tribunals or legal aid curtailed (funding scrapped). Punitive control measures. The answer doesn’t rely on, say, hiring a few thousand private ATOS and Capita doctors with the express mandate to fail 50% of the current claimants. Or of introducing payment-linked-to-performance targets for Health trusts, social care sectors, entire councils [creating a postcode lottery].
This debate is about the social contract (a dirty phrase, it appears in modern times), and how our understanding of it has shrivelled to that of a mummified pea. It’s not a phrase that deals exclusively with voting, or with law and order, civic duty etcetera, but it does contain those things. The first clause of the social contract is the notion that if we are to be governed (have to abide by laws, have to pay mortgages, have to go to work for wages, have to pay taxes) then at the very least we should be afforded individual and collective respect. In essence then, every attempt by the State to attend to individual needs, whether in the form of the GP surgery, the Out-of-Hours service, the specialist, the advisor, the lawyer, the consultant, is another instance of that social contract. A hundred thousand network of contracts, hopefully operating every day. If the State undermines all of those instances by scrapping funding and reducing access, then in effect and quite simply; they are breaking their promise.