For my sins, I am a member of my country's Citizens' Panel, which means that I have been especially selected by someone, and once every couple of months they send me the link to an online survey. There are always questions on local policing, to which my answer is always the same - yes, please, we would like some. And questions on GPs and pharmacists and local services and libraries and waste collection and would I lke to attend meetings with local councillors and youth offending team representatives (ooooh, yes please!) and would I prefer to have information on the local Reading For The Blind Initiative delivered by email, leaflet, website, local paper, and would that be in braille, Sir?
(The one I loved was the question:
What type of internet connection do you have?
c) Don't know
Er, it's an online survey, dear.)
It's stultifyingly boring, but I feel if they are asking the questions, I might as well give them an answer. I get bugger-all chance to say my piece to anyone otherwise. So tonight, I got in from work, logged into my emails, and there was another one. Much the same as before, but this time there was a question on Disability. And the first question said:
The following questions are part of the Council’s work to develop its Disability Equality Scheme. The aim of which is to ensure equal access to the Council’s services, buildings and employment, as well as celebrating diversity and disability.
Well, I knew it was compulsory in NuLabour Britain to celebrate diversity (one of those phrases, like 'vibrant community' that has me reaching for my shotgun), but now we are supposed to celebrate disability too?
Listen. Disability is horrible. It hurts and it is inconvenient. It's blindness and deafness and loss of mobility and the most normal things become a challenge like climbing Everest. People often don't consider your needs and treat you like a vegetable. It's crap. If I could wave a magic wand, I would abolish it entirely, and have the whole world able-bodied and fit and happy. So what the hell is there to celebrate about it?
I know, let's celebrate blindness. How wonderful it must be to be challenged by not being able to see. How great and heart-warming it must be to have to ask for help to cross the road. How ennobling to know that you will never see your grandchildren or your lover's face ever again.
Let's celebrate being house-bound by wonky legs and a bad back that means you can't drive and there's no sodding bus service.
Let's celebrate walking with a stick or having to use a wheelchair, which is so wonderfully, you know, diverse and we all feel so good about ourselves by celebrating it and don't think for one second about how bad it must be to actually live with it.
Seriously, what planet are these people on?
Do they seriously think that people want to be disabled, or that they would, in a million years, want to celebrate it?
Ask any disabled person which they would rather have:
1. A 23-year-old social work graduate patronising them with talk of celebrating their disability, or
2. To be able to walk unassisted.
Answers, on a five-pound note, to the usual address.