I’ve always found it a bit hard identifying myself as disabled. By that I don’t mean I’m in denial about my disability, an electric wheelchair and portable ventilator are pretty hard to ignore, but for me identifying as disabled meant I would have to take on a responsibility I wasn’t ready for when I was younger. I felt like I’d have to become a full on advocate for disabled rights and if I didn’t then I was being a bad person, so I guess I thought if I ignored issues facing the disabled as much as possible then I would be fine. Don’t get me wrong I would get mad if I couldn’t get in somewhere because the building wasn’t accessible but I wouldn’t really feel the need to point out the illegality or the blatant unfairness of the situation.
If you’ve read my other posts or checked out my Twitter (@emmavogelmann) you’ll have noticed I no longer stay quiet on disability related issues or shy away from identifying as disabled. I think one reason for this is simply because I’ve grown up and am ready and equipped with enough life experience to take on these issues and do what I can to change them. Another, perhaps unlikely, reason I now advocate for disabled rights is none other than our Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr George Osborne.
The recent Budget announcement stated there would be a cut to the Personal Independence Payments by over £1billion and a reduction to corporate tax. (The PIP cuts might have been “U-turned” but don’t expect there to be no other cuts to benefits relied on by the disabled.) I like so many others, was outraged by this announcement. When it was first mentioned to me I thought it was a joke, I thought not even the Conservatives would go THAT far. How they thought this plan wouldn’t turn so many against them is really beyond me. With all the highly educated people who would have been involved in drafting the budget how did not one person stop and think “hang on this is a lot of money we’re taking away from the most vulnerable people in society, is there a plan B George?”
My reaction to the announcement was how dare the government try to take away money from disabled people like me who, without that money, would be forced to sit idle at home instead of contributing to society and at the same time give companies a tax cut. (Talk about messed up priorities!) I wouldn’t have been able to go to university with a carer everyday if it wasn’t for the payments I get from having a disability and if the proposed cuts were to go through I wouldn’t be able to go to work with a carer. I joined the many outraged voices on Twitter and Facebook and now the Huffington Post, but not just as an angry citizen but as an angry disabled citizen. I tweeted my disapproval of Stephen Crabb’s appointment given his voting history on benefits and welfare and said the new budget “targeted” disabled people. You could say there’s not a lot in a tweet or a Facebook share, but for someone who used to be uncomfortable saying my disability had anything to do with my identity, it is a pretty big deal. I didn’t think twice about making my stance on the issue inescapably clear on Twitter or saying to you in this piece I’m disabled and the budget was unfair to me and those like me and I will now do everything I can to speak out against the unfairness faced by disabled people.
So I guess I need to thank George Osborne for his spectacularly unfair budget because it created a new and highly motivated advocate for disabled rights. Me.
This was originally published on The Huffington Post UK on March 30, 2016. http://m.huffpost.com/uk/entry/9563912