A rather sinister thought crossed my mind as I was munching my way through my Easter Eggs and hot cross buns and mulling over the arrival of the notification that I would need to start my claim for PIP.
I had seen a story that there were no school places for people with Special Educational Needs. The gravity of this, and its profound potential consequences, really hit home to me as someone who had begun life in a ‘special’ school (as it was then called) in 1985 and had the opportunity to transfer to a ‘mainstream’ school in what at the time was a brave experiment and almost unheard of when it happened thanks to some really progressive (and brave!) teachers and parents.
Following some surgeries, I then returned to the special school a few years later, before going on to mainstream primary and later secondary school. Even at a young age I could see that both places had their own value and an important, distinctive role to play. From there, I was lucky enough to go on to get my degree, masters and PhD. I can say with near complete certainty though, that I wouldn’t have had those opportunities if I couldn’t have even got to school in the first place.Educational exclusion is particularly problematic and damaging to the life chances and prospects of young people.
Young people then are effectively being ‘edited out’ from the system, excluded before they can even get any kind of place within a structure that either isn’t equipped for their needs, or worse still, doesn’t want them.
Being ‘edited out’ in other contexts?
Does this happen in other contexts? I wanted to know more. I spent a while looking around the literature and found that this idea in and of itself is nothing new. Disabled people had long encountered structural barriers to their progression in society. This is, after all, what the social model of disability has told us for many years.
What struck me was the acuteness of the problems faced in the present times. Disabled people are still contending with the consequences of welfare reform (e.g. PIP, ‘Bedroom Tax’) coupled with other things to ensure they are ‘edited out’ and invisible from public life. There are numerous other examples of this too. Take for example, well documented issues on public transport for disabled people, or even the campaign to remove straws from public places. A straw is one of the most important tools that many disabled people can have, and without them, simple things like getting a drink can be a non starter.
A particularly sinister ‘editing out’ trend comes in disabled people being asked to pay for their own care contributions (something which is currently under consultation in my own local authority.) The equation is quite a simple and stark one..pay more for your own care..if you can’t afford to have the care…don’t have it and the impact on quality of life is catastrophic. You are once more ‘edited out’ and precluded from accessing society before you even leave the door.
And a paradox…
There is an abundance of technology and mechanisms that should make society more inclusive than ever before. The very computer i’m writing this article on is a prime example. Therein it could be said, lies the rub. Technology costs…and how is one supposed to afford it when eating could well be a struggle, according to recent findings.
So what to do?
There is no doubt, dear readers, that this is bleak stuff. I hope, as I move beyond the preliminary sketch presented here and dig deeper, that there is evidence to disprove my theory, and for my working hypothesis to be disproved….time to dig deeper. I’ll keep you posted.