Today I had my final “work focused interview” with my Job Centre Adviser as my 365 days In the Work Related Activity Group is coming to an end. I could adjust my claim and fight with all my might, but after the horrendous time I had with them over trying to have a home assessment and the bullying I experienced at the hands of ATOS staff and the ineptitude of the DWP, I have decided to switch over to Carers’ Allowance. I will lose £2000 per year but it’s a price I’m accepting for the sake of my mental well –being. Few people can understand how petrifying it is to have your survival entirely dependent on a brown envelope, an envelope which could come through your door at any time. To be on ESA is to have your fitness decided by none medical staff, paid to keep the balance against you, in a system which tries to erase your existence. It will be a relief to have time away from that level of fear. As such, this is a bitter-sweet time for me.
There are wounds which run deep though, and the main one is my inability to work. So many left wing friends & acquaintances have tried to convince me that work is overrated, that disabled people should simply enjoy not having to work. But what of those of us who are desperate to, even if the state was properly able to support us? The government keep selling the lie that they are helping people with disabilities into work. This is a lie. They are putting vexatious systems in place designed to make claiming a pittance almost impossible. My work adviser has repeatedly stated that she doesn’t believe I’m well enough to work at this time, she hasn’t been able to assist me into work, there are no jobs I could currently perform.
This is an ableist world where employment is designed around the non-disabled person. Going to a place of work would entail me overcoming several hurdles. I would need to be able to bathe on a regular basis, I would need to be able to get myself dressed every day, I would need to be able to use public transport, self-propel my wheelchair, open doors, and have the energy to maintain this every working day. With my health conditions those are insurmountable barriers. Work for me, at this time, would need to be home based, it would need to be flexible, and it would need to be for a company who accepted someone who is educated but with very little work experience. I spend my whole life looking but never find such a job.
In order for work to be truly accessible to people with disabilities we need to entirely reimagine what work looks like. Only then can people with disabilities become on an equal footing with abled workers. We now have the technology to enable home working. Companies need to seize this. Surely a government with such tight bonds with business should have the capacity to come up with imaginative solutions rather than forever just hitting disabled people in their pockets and leaving them with absolutely nothing to live off?
Today I asked my followers on Twitter what they feel would need to be in place for work to be accessible. Here are their responses:
“@Openyoureyes89: @LUBOttom …would be lost from an employee working away from the office if technology is used effectively :)”
“@theoriesofminds:@LUBOttom @mburnhope adequate staffing so that I’m not burdened with excessive stress and overwork on top of disability.”
“@vulpeculiar:@LUBOttom I’d love to start my own business from home but covering the startup costs on ESA is impossible.”
“@vulpeculiar:@LUBOttom Even if finances weren’t an issue, the fear of relapsing further is a major barrier to well, anything really.”
Do you have any of your own ideas about how we could improve access to work for people with disabilities? Please comment below.