Since “Does it wet the bed?” was released, I’ve done several interviews for newspapers, magazines and radio shows. Each has focused on different aspects of the book and my life but nearly all of them have included the following (or similar) question: “Have attitudes towards disability changed since you were a child?”
My answer has always been yes; things have definitely improved in the past 30 years but we still have a long way to go. Although we now have legislation to protect the rights of disabled people, this isn’t as useful as it could be because people simply don’t understand disability. They still make wild assumptions without actually knowing any fact.
I’ve never been more certain of that than when scrolling through my twitter feed this morning. I follow Cherylee Houston, the actress who plays Izzy in Coronation Street. I was outraged to read her recent tweets, describing how a complete stranger knocked on her front door and informed her partner that she was a “benefits cheat” and he was going to the papers. Why, you might ask? Because he had spotted Cherylee, who uses an electric wheelchair, dare to take a few steps. She therefore, must be according to him, a cheat and a liar who is only pretending to have a disability. And oh, she has a disability so she must be claiming benefits. Ever heard the phrase, to make an assumption is to make an ass of you and me?! He’s the only ass in this case.
Hats off to Cherylee for taking it all in her stride but this is just one incident which highlights just how much work we still need to do in this country to raise awareness of disability and stub out the ignorance which is blighting the lives of disabled people. Who gives anyone the right to knock on someone’s door and abuse them in this way? I’m glad Cherylee wasn’t home at the time and wasn’t directly subjected to this utter trash but no doubt it was equally as upsetting and disturbing for her partner. I hope this low-life does go to the papers as it may help to highlight the pure ignorance and stupidity which is holding disabled people back.
We can have all the legislation we like, but there is so much misunderstanding about disability and until people are educated, disabled people will continue to be the subjects of hate crime.