I am one of the 89% of disabled people intending to vote in this election. Cuts to services, a rise in hate crimes; as a group we have been especially impacted in these austere times, and we must we change how we are treated politically. These are the matters that concern me as I cast my vote:
I am an unemployed autistic, and my story is not a rarity. According to the National Autistic Society only 16% of autistics in the UK are employed full-time. I graduated with an international politics degree nearly two years ago, and have since spent my days volunteering, including at the Bristol Disability Equality Forum and as a legal assistant at Shelter. Yet despite my experience I have faced no fortune in acquiring a job. Disabled folk tend to face barriers and prejudice from employers; I myself face those who may not comprehend my disability, and will make assumptions without fully understanding me. Above all the situation is worsened by the severe reduction of the employment support and other welfare meant to aid us.
Social care for those in need
Access to professional carers is a need for the social well-being of us all – and relying on relatives to be social carers due to cuts places strain on both those in need of support and those providing it. Further, does the existing support help those of us that don’t fit in boxes? I do not qualify despite my disability because I can cook, which kind of misses the point that we may have areas that need covering despite having independent skills.
Getting an education
This is not just about disability, but I judge university access as particularly important for both my fellows of the disabled and the working class. I would like to return to university education but the price tag is stopping my desire to do my Masters and go into academia. Free higher education would benefit not just those with academic goals but also create a more skilled workforce and social mobility. Disabled people would benefit as they could enter more specialised jobs, thus improving not just their future but the country too. Diversity is needed at all levels of employment and education.
“The austerity dogmatism”
Above all, I am voting to end the failed policy that saw cuts to disabled welfare: austerity. To quote the Greek academic, economist and politician Yanis Varoufakis in his book Adults in the Room: “Austerity is a morality play pressed into the service of legitimizing cynical wealth transfers from the have-nots to the haves during times of crisis…” The cuts to welfare, especially disability benefits, have generated a nasty crisis in society that the United Nations has recognised as an assault on the rights of disabled persons.
Combine this with the dehumanising rhetoric in the media towards those with benefits, which has resulted in a rise in hate crime against disabled folk, and we see the full reality of how ‘moral’ and ‘economically efficient’ austerity truly is. We need to readdress what we are as a society and remember that our commitments to social welfare are not just a matter of morality but are also better business practice than the austerity dogmatism which has strangled our society.
“The world’s largest minority”
Naturally I am voting to oust from power the Conservative and Unionist Party. The Tories are unfit to govern not just the disabled populace but also the UK, their “strong and stable” mantra proving ironic considering the human costs of their policies. I have chosen Labour because I believe they are the best and most realistic means to heal the UK.
Even if one is not interested in politics then may it be known that politics is interested in you. I vote in hopes that the next mandate of government is passed to those who will have the interests of the disabled at heart. The disabled are members of the world’s largest minority: our government must hear us!