For several years I have subscribed to the newsletter of the Leonard Cheshire Foundation, and yesterday I received an email detailing a petition for the provision of disabled-friendly housing, that all new houses should be built fully accessible for disabled people. I would also add that I think every new building should be built like this – if everything was suitable, and every loo accessible, there would be no need for “special” facilities for what is actually a large proportion of the population, and we could be fully integrated. After all, if we can go everywhere the able-bodied population can go, there is then no difference between us. I have heard it said that it is only the attitudes of the able-bodied that make disabled people “disabled” at all! Fully accessible facilities would also benefit the elderly, and mothers of small children – every level of our society, in fact.
The lady who started the petition is living in a council house totally unsuited to her needs. A few years ago she was able to access every part of her house. She suffers from fibromyalgia and one day she fell down the stairs which led to a worsening in her condition, resulting in her having to use a wheelchair full time. From that day forward, she could no longer go upstairs in her house. She sleeps in the living room, and every day carers come in to strip-wash her at the kitchen sink, in full view of her neighbours’ houses. The toilet door has had to be removed because otherwise she cannot get the wheelchair in, and if anyone is in the house with her, she has to ask them to leave so that she can go to the toilet in privacy. She has access to only 3 rooms in her house – the kitchen, the lounge, and the downstairs loo. She cannot even get into the garden because there is no ramp.
Is it right for someone to be so completely imprisoned in their own house, with all her privacy and dignity stripped away? She spoke at the recent Conservative Party Conference and was encouraged by the response.
You can read her story, and view the short video she made, here.
I should like to encourage as many of you as possible, who read my blog, to sign the petition. I have always said that a civilised society should be judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens. With a change of attitude, this lady, and many more like her, could be living full, dignified, independent and productive lives. The Leonard Cheshire Foundation, which campaigns for the basic human rights of disabled people in this country, states that there are thousands of people living in Britain today who cannot access their bathrooms and who have to wash in the kitchen.
Daily I count my blessings. We live in a beautiful house which we were able to adapt to suit my needs when we first moved here. Most disabled people are not nearly so fortunate, and today live on a knife-edge financially, as well, with the reform of the benefits system, which while it seeks, quite rightly, to weed out the criminal abuses, is also adversely affecting the lives of thousands of vulnerable citizens who depend absolutely on benefits in order simply to survive, let alone live a life of dignity. In a programme broadcast shortly after the Paralympics in 2012, Ade Adepitan (ex-Olympic basketball player) stated that the majority of British Paralympians were in receipt of disability benefits, and could not have made it to the Olympics in the first place without them.
Something to think about, isn’t it. We so often take our circumstances for granted and forget the incredible hardships our neighbours endure on a day to day basis.