Freedom is a strange concept. Apparently I live in a "free" country where I can be myself and speak my mind??? I theoretically have power in the form of a vote because I live in a "democracy"???
Therein lies the problem.
Apparently my MP represents me in Parliament. This is strange because as far as I know there are two major differences between me and my MP - he is male and (to my knowledge) he is not in any way, shape, or form, disabled. In fact, as far as I can make out the only two things which we definitely have in common are as follows; we are both human and we both live somewhere near Leicester.
To me "Freedom" and "Democracy" are very strongly linked. Democracy should be understood as meaning everybody having a representative in Parliament who they can relate to and who can relate to them.
Have you noticed that the current round of "Disability-bashing" only goes on due to the sheer lack of disabled MP's on either side of the House of Commons - never mind the fact that the last "Disabled" Minister for any portfolio was David Blunkett (who happens to be blind).
I find it rather frustrating when people say that there are too few women or Black and Ethnic Minority people in Parliament, on TV, etc. I can count a lot more of those two groups on my screens than people with disabilities (unless they are either disabled through some heroic deed or just there for the humour element of their existence. Or worse, just there to make people tip their pockets out for charities).
I was brought up to hide the exact extent of my sight problem. So much so that people can have a shock when they see me in real life and I tell them (or someone else does). A clue - don't subject me to bright lights, dark spaces, or strange staircases - those three will definitely leave you in no doubt about my sight.
As a result of the current Government I am left feeling I have to lie about my sight in order to get anywhere useful. Yes, I can operate reasonably "normally" under most conditions - the fact that sometimes it can be very tiring (both mentally and physically) for me to do so is, apparently, beside the point.
However, there is one thing that the Government have not yet picked up on. The Government want all the Disabled people who can work to be in a job, right? Wrong! If they honestly wanted all Disabled people who can work to be in a job they would remove one barrier completely. That barrier involves a Driving Licence - or rather - public transport.
I have lost count of the amount of times I have been asked if I have got a Driving Licence and my negative response has been used against me. This has even happened in interviews for office jobs. (I really wish I could buy myself one of those desks you can apparently drive on a Public Highway. They sound like great fun.)
In fact, I went to a job interview today where I kind of got my wrist slapped for not mentioning my sight problem on the application form (one of my references mentioned it to them). These individuals obviously didn't read the application form fully as I am sure that I mentioned something to do with sight or not having a Driving Licence on it. I know it was flagged up on the "Un-Equal Opportunities" Questionnaire.
I realise I could be completely honest about my sight (and render myself totally unemployable), or ask for a Crystal Ball (very useful for answering questions like "what adaptions would you need for the interview?" - especially without knowing what format the interview is going to take), or even just ask people who insist on wearing bright white shirts to put a jumper on so my eyes don't hurt so much, but that would mean me highlighting the differences between myself and the rest of the population. People have a habit of employing humans they think are like them - not humans who might require expensive alterations to their work environment.
The more people we see in the media and in Public Life who are not white, male, able-bodied, wealthy, snobs, the better it will be. However, please forget about having targets and quotas for these people. Just treat us like the rest of you. Don't worry - we will shout if we need help.
I just wish we had a proper coalition in Government. I don't mean more Political Parties (although that would be a good idea) - I mean a proper coalition featuring a more representative selection of society - wheelchair-bound, vision problems, deaf, those with Mental Health issues, etc. I don't think it is going to happen any time soon though - the current Government are too busy pretending we don't exist to listen to our concerns.
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