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Blogging the week: business journalist Johny Cassidy

Guest Guest | 17:01 UK time, Thursday, 24 January 2013

Businesswoman in wheelchair with laptop

Do some companies employ disabled people just for PR value?

What are you reading on the web this week? BBC business journalist Johny Cassidy is blind and gives us his online findings, and insights, around the subject of disability.

"In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage." - John Steinbeck

It's not always obvious to those who aren't directly involved in business and economics on a day to day basis just how important they both are to society, but the last week or so has really brought it into stark focus how the downturn is effecting real people.

The raft of retail administrations has led to thousands more losing their jobs. This is going to have a very harsh impact on anyone with a disability looking for work.

An interesting blog by Barbara Otto questions some US models of employing disabled people in factories and on assembly lines

She makes some really valid points, namely, the PR that companies get from employing disabled people is the real driver behind it and not their altruistic nature shining through. Cynical? Perhaps, but I'd say undoubtedly true.

Another post that caught my eye was from campaigner Sue Marsh who was guesting on the award winning Benefit Scrounging Scum blog. She was voicing concerns over the imminent changes to the Employment Support Allowance.

The changes are due to come in at the end of the month, with the DWP hoping to cut millions from the disability benefit bill by forcing people back to work. It's bound to have an impact, but I suppose only time will tell how much. A rather tongue in cheek look at the benefits system comes from the parody Twitter account @UKJCP - that's Job Centre Plus. Well worth a follow.

Undoubtedly the big talk at the minute around the blogosphere for disabled people is the cuts. There's very real fear for a lot of people about what exactly the government will allow to happen. It's this fear that has pushed a lot of people into political activism, with the internet being the vehicle that has levelled the playing field. Together Alone, an article I read this week by Agnes Fletcher at Disability Now, gave a very succinct overview of the disabled activist landscape.

The article was written over three months ago, but hey, that's the beauty of the web. Things stay around forever.

A dangerous and worrying thought for disabled people getting involved in activism is no one knows what impact it might have on employment opportunities in the future. This week has once again seen the controversial construction blacklist story being brought into sharp focus.

On Tuesday, Cullum McAlpine, a director at construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine, confirmed to MPs that the company had checked workers against the list to protect against "deliberatively disruptive or unlawful" behaviour on sites.

One of the most notorious cases of construction blacklisting happened in the 70s. A group of workers who became known as The Shrewsbury 24, were jailed for standing up for their rights as workers. The most famous of this group is comedian Ricky Tomlinson who blogged about the issues and their continuing fight for justice.

There's no evidence to suggest any disabled activists are on any sort of employment blacklist, but by the same token, there's no reason to think that it's not a real possibility. Hopefully someone will do some work on this in the future.

This week has seen the great and the good of the financial world gather at the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Whilst we've all been floundering in two or three inches of snow, hundreds of the worlds richest and most influential business people have come together in proper snow to discuss the economic future of the rest of us. A report published earlier this week though by @Oxfam paints a rather bleak picture of how the spread of wealth across the globe has changed.

In the report, Oxfam's Chief Executive Barbara Stocking says that the £150billion amassed by the worlds 100 richest billionaires would be enough to lift the worlds needy out of poverty 4 times over. A sobering thought and proof, if proof be needed, that the gap between the haves and have nots, is growing ever wider.

Despite the obvious chimes of doom and gloom in my choice picks from the web this week, there's also been quite a few funny moments. If you get a minute or so, check out the latest offering on YouTube from @Cassetteboy.

Very funny and proof that cynicism is alive and well and doing just grand thank you very much. I'll never look at President Obama in the same way again.

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