The double whammy
That it is generally accepted that disabled persons face widespread discrimination in many aspects of their everyday lives is recognised in law by the Disability Discrimination Acts 1995 and 2005. A further (and growing) raft of anti-discrimination legislation demonstrates that they are but one of many groups in society whose interests need to be protected.
However, Lady Bracknell believes that disabled persons form the only such group who have to deal - often on a regular basis - with assertions that they are only pretending; that they are really part of the majority, but that they are cynically "working the system" for their own ends.
Leaving aside for one moment the truly dire Black and White Minstrels, how often are persons from minority ethnic groups accused of really being white but of having "blacked up"? And what possible benefit could be envisaged from behaving in such a manner? (Lady Bracknell is not unaware of the tensions which currently exist within some ethnic minority communities over the tendencies of some of their - usually younger - members to integrate so fully into mainstream UK society that their defining cultural differences risk being lost: but that is a different issue.)
Who would pretend to be gay? Or transsexual? Who would voluntarily bring down on his or her own head the daily difficulties inherent in belonging to a minority group?
And yet those disabled persons whose impairments are not immediately visible are regularly suspected of "putting it on". Lady Bracknell believes that one explanation for this lies in the discomfort that not-yet-disabled people experience when they are forced to contemplate what life must be like for those whose bodies or minds are affected by functional loss or difference. This is understandable and, to some extent, can be excused.
However, the problem can more commonly be laid at the feet of the general belief that disabled persons receive highly desirable benefits from the state. Benefits which some non-disabled people bitterly resent. We get to park close to the shops. We are eligible to apply for financial assistance if we have personal care or mobility needs. We are entitled to have reasonable adjustments made for us at our workplaces. Service providers must make potentially costly adaptations to their premises so that we can visit and spend our money there.
Plus, of course, there exists a class of people who exhibit a quite deplorable want of personal integrity and social conscience, and who actually do pretend to be disabled so that they can claim state benefits to which they are not entitled. Such people should, in Lady Bracknell's moderate and entirely impartial opinion, be strung up by whichever part of their anatomy is most sensitive. Dude, the chauffeur, has been heard on more than one occasion to mutter darkly to the effect that those who want to join our club are welcome to do so: but that his own stout walking stick could be used to good effect in ensuring that they don't miss out on the finer points of the experience.
Now, given that we are unlikely in the forseeable future to be able to overcome this particular aspect of disability discrimination, and that we are aware that our claims about the extent and the effects of our impairments are likely to be met with scepticism, distrust and, occasionally, outright disbelief, Lady Bracknell believes that it is incumbent upon us all to behave with unimpeachable integrity in relation to our status as disabled persons.
This may seem to be terribly unfair. But life is not fair. (Lady Bracknell apologises if that fact has come as an unwelcome surprise to any of her readers.) Whether we like it ot not, should a non-disabled person number only one disabled person amongst his or her acquaintances or work colleagues, he or she will very probably judge all disabled people by the behaviour of that one individual.
Just as we have a right to receive reasonable adjustment, we have a responsibility not to abuse those who make it for us. We have a legal entitlement to take time off work for medical assessment, treatment and rehabilitation. We have a further entitlement to take more time away from work than our non-disabled colleagues if - and only if - our impairments directly affect our capacity to attend the workplace. We therefore have an even greater responsibility than our non-disabled colleagues not to claim that we are medically incapable of work on a day when we are actually decorating the spare room, or going to the races.
Lady Bracknell is well aware that her views on this subject are not such as might be calculated to win her many friends. Nevertheless, she remains steadfast in her assertion that there is a world of difference between fighting for equal rights and publicly wallowing in a morass of whining self-pity and unjustifiable demands for "special" treatment. With the first, one has the chance to win the respect of one's non-disabled peers; to actually be considered equal. With the second, one becomes the architect of one's own doom.
Lady Bracknell promises that she will return to lighter subjects when she next makes an entry in her blog.