Mocking disability: the Telegraph’s hate speech

For some time now the Tories and the LibDems have been pushing the theme that disabled people are welfare cheats. This is a government-led reversal of a policy established by the previous government of tecognising that attacks on disabled people meant

people whose lives were blighted and eventually ended by the actions of an ignorant and hostile minority, either in brutal assaults or by their own hand in desperation, and all at a time when the UK legal system wasn’t adequately equipped to effectively handle the abhorrent violence they had been exposed to.

But now, to justify making significant cuts to disability benefits by the next General Election, the Tories and LibDems in the UK government are pushing a public focus on the idea that disabled people make fraudulent claims, or that long-term disabled people must have experienced improvement and therefore should have their benefits cut.

Several UK disability charities report that this has led directly both to an increase in hate crime and an increase in the fear of hate crime:

Scope’s regular polling of people with disabilities shows that in September two-thirds said they had experienced recent hostility or taunts, up from 41% four months before. In the last poll almost half said attitudes towards them had deteriorated in the past year.

Tom Madders, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: “The Department for Work and Pensions is certainly guilty of helping to drive this media narrative around benefits, portraying those who receive benefits as workshy scroungers or abusing a system that’s really easy to cheat.”

Some disabled people say the climate is so hostile they avoid going out, or avoid using facilities such as designated parking bays if they “don’t look disabled”.

Morbid obesity is a recognised disability. You absolutely can be fat and healthy, fat and fit, fat and eat well – being fat is neither a disability nor a marker for ill-health. But there can come a point when obesity is a disabling medical condition:

So the simple answer to this question is, yes, morbid obesity is considered to be a disabling medical condition just like any other severe medical or mental condition. And just like other impairments, it is evaluated under the five step sequential Social Security disability evaluation process.

A person with a disability that means they cannot work or they cannot live normally without support, deserves to get that support. Because that’s what a civilised society does.

Not according to the Telegraph, which ran a story masquerading as “Health News” on Wednesday: the authors of the piece appeared especially irate that a disabled person had made use of the support provided to go see her favourite band perform. Because obviously, disabled people shouldn’t get to do nice things.

The article cites a claim by the local authority’s lawyers, who want to cut down on the level of support this woman is receiving, that:

Despite her plea that she cannot use a washing machine or tumble drier without help, she is able to operate “far more complex equipment” – including a computer and games console.

Good heavens – I can think of several reasons why a person who can operate a computer and a games console cannot load and empty their washing-machine and tumble-drier.

In the preliminary ruling, the judge said there was “complete disagreement” between the woman and the council over the level of care she needs.

However, he said the council’s assessment of the woman’s requirements was “at least arguably unlawful” and ordered Plymouth to put in place a regime to cater for her “immediate and urgent” needs pending the full hearing of her judicial review challenge.

The ruling means the council must, at least temporarily, lay on support workers to help the woman wash herself, cook and clean her flat and to accompany her to the shops.

The council will not have to provide the support workers who used to help her attend the gym, attend her weight management programme, or go to a Friday night disco.

The whole tone of the article is slanted towards contemptuous disbelief. By the way, if you try to claim that a person who is morbidly obese should “just lose weight”, you are merely demonstrating that you grasp at myths, not facts, about fat people. What tilts the Telegraph from nasty taunting into hate speech is this poll:

The Telegraph's disability-related hate speech

This poll is a disgrace. I am truly shocked that the right-wing daily newspaper with aspirations to quality should have run it.

Over 3500 people have responded to the Telegraph’s poll so far to say that this woman shouldn’t receive any kind of benefits at all. Of those, nearly 1500 said she should have to pay back any benefits she had already received.

This article does not identify the woman by name. But it identifies by name the judge in the court case and the local authority responsible for her support. There will be people who know this woman who can probably figure out she’s who this article is about. And they’re being urged, by this article, to regard her as a lazy, cheating, scrounger. They’re being invited to join a poll to mob against her having the support she needs to live – with the option to vote that she should be left alone, without help, in debt, almost certainly to die. About 1,479 people who read the Daily Telegraph site think she deserves to die.

If the woman applies to the PPC it’s possible that, toothless as it is, she might get an apology wrenched out of the Telegraph. But that apology won’t fix the ugly fact of the Telegraph running this story in the first place, nor take away this hateful poll.

I expect they thought they could get away with it, though. Because she’s fat.

1 Comment

Filed under Disability, In The Media

One response to “Mocking disability: the Telegraph’s hate speech

  1. Pingback: Mocking disability: the Telegraph's hate speech | Edinburgh Eye « Better Disability

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