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Disability Bitch, stop working now!

16th September 2010

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Readers, readers, readers. There’s so much disability news this week I can barely keep up. One of the stories goes like this: education watchdog Ofsted says that a fifth of all children are classed as having Special Educational Needs and that teachers should stop labelling them, teach them better and give them more support. Unsurprisingly, the teaching unions seem to disagree.
Jane Cordell - image courtesy of RNID
Jane Cordell
After reading the other big disability story of the week, in which a deaf diplomat got promoted and then had the job offer taken away because her employers’ believe her support needs are too expensive, I did begin to wonder why we bother educating disabled children at all.

If we're not going to bother supporting them in gainful employment as adults, what's the point? And - actually - how is the government going to get disabled people off benefits and into work if it's not going to support the costs of us being there.

Here’s the story: Jane Cordell, the diplomat in question, is suing her employers, the Foreign Office. Apparently they offered her a top embassy job in Kazakhstan, then withdrew the offer because they believe paying for the support she needs will cost too much. She disagrees.

As you may know, Britain’s Disability Discrimination Act requires employers to make so-called 'reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate their employees’ impairments. In this case, the Foreign Office do not believe the costs involved are 'reasonable’.

So here we are having to define what 'reasonable means; the term is not defined in our existing piece of anti-discrimination legislation.
The foreign office
The Foreign Office
Although I do hate to be well-balanced and sensible, I can’t help thinking that it might be quite sensible to lay down some ground rules in this area. I mean, when I started writing my weekly column of hate, I did request that the BBC provide me with a daily supply of candy floss and doughnuts, all delivered by semi naked male models, who would also provide me with a sensual massage whenever I might require one, and the BBC declined.

I thought this was unreasonable: after all, we all know that having cerebral palsy limits your stamina, and a burst of candy floss sugar would surely perk me up immediately. I also get very stiff and achy thanks to CP, so a massage is the clear remedy.

Only joking, readers! I do have an Access to Work grant but it’s extremely modest and pays for the occasional PA to help me out with the stuff I need a hand with.

If you’d like to get a general idea of the kind of adjustments this diplomat, Jane Cordell, might need, you can find them here, in an interview she gave to the RNID about her previous job.

And, incidentally, if you’d like to know whether she was any good at her previous job – Clue: the answer’s Yes – read this article written by a former colleague of hers.
hand signing
In all of the bleating about this particular case, I’m especially taken with the notion that, once you’ve spent a certain amount of money meeting a disabled person’s support needs, anything else is wasteful.

Readers, I don’t mean to brag, but – whether it’s my Access to Work grant or my Disability Living Allowance – that money almost always pays for people, actual human beings, who support me in my various life roles.

That’s right, readers, I’m an actual employer of support workers and if I didn’t receive the money to pay for them, those people would be unemployed. In fact, if all disabled people stopped employing all their state-funded support workers tomorrow, not only would most of us become significantly less functional, efficient human beings, but thousands of people would become unemployed as a result. In short: the economy needs disabled people who need assistants.


This week on Facebook, me and my 2800ish friends have been posting nonsensical comments on my wall and generally faffing around in the virtual world instead of having a life. Feel free to join me.

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