Disabled by the rest of society

WHEN black civil rights campaigner Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama on 1 December 1955 she made history. But in the year 2000 disabled people in the UK are still fighting to get on the bus - never mind sit at the front, branch member and disability activist Keith Armstrong said in a talk to LFB on disability.

London's Routemaster buses and the underground are not public transport, they are "non-disabled people's transport", he pointed out.

The problem of getting into offices (because of stairs, or lifts in which the buttons are too high for wheelchair users) is another hurdle stopping disabled journalists being "validated" in following their profession.

Coping with the work - and for people with dyslexia the language - is less of an issue because of spell-checkers and modern technology. Ambiguity in the use of language might be a problem, spelling should not, "after all Shakespeare spelled his name 11 different ways", Keith pointed out.

Many disabled journalists also face a "poverty trap" when a marginal rise in their income is more than lost by a reduction in their disability benefits, and the NUJ could play a constructive role by addressing this issue. Keith estimated that a disabled journalist would have to earn a minimum of £15,000 just to escape the poverty trap.

Most disabled journalists are probably freelance rather than staff members of the NUJ, as it is more likely they work from home, he pointed out.

Ultimately, a person's disability has nothing to do with a person's physical impairment, he challenged - it is determined by their "legal ability" to participate fully in day-to-day life. Disabled people come from all genders, classes and sectors of society. What makes them disabled is how they are treated by society. The biggest obstacle to their full participation is "attitude".

Nov 2000
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Last modified: 22 October 2000
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