Punishing the Disabled
Wednesday September 14th 2005, 11:05 am

Back to work, you lazy disabled sods! (image: tribuneindia.com)Thanks to a drink driver who ran a red light in front of me and dashed me off a motorcycle some years ago, my legs don’t work too well. I will never be able to move around well enough to work the number of hours necessary to keep a roof overhead. Thus, I collect a Disability Support Pension. Despite what some particularly thoughtless people may have told you in the past, nobody gets rich on the $244.45 per week DSP payment. It takes a fair old bit of MacGyverism to make every cent of that benefit stretch to fill the gaps.

What I’m trying to figure out is why John HoWARd and Kevin Andrews figure I need to be poorer than I am.  Did some disabled person run over their toes with a wheelchair? During pregnancy, were their mothers frightened by a disabled war veteran, perhaps? I just don’t get this villification of disabled people. Anyone who goes down this path is either not disabled or knows no one who is so.

I’m really clutching at straws to work out what it is that causes HoWARd and his cronies to hate the disabled so much that they would force them to do things they themselves would never do, like work for $2.27/hour. Even if I could work 15 hours per week, with the current price of petrol ($1.40/l), if I had to drive more than 20km each way to a minimum wage job every day, that arrangement would be a net loss for me. That’s how close the budgeting has to be to survive on a DSP.

I am not bedridden, though. I can manage a few blog posts per week and I can do a bit of metalcraft in my garage. It’s true that when you lose the function of part of your body, other parts tend to take up the slack. My legs won’t hold me up for long, but my upper body strength is considerable. I can still bend the odd chunk of steel and MIG/TIG weld the stuff.

 Honda powered motor bicycle - 100km/litre

click for larger image 

This motor bicycle is my own craft. It speaks to my desire to ride a bicycle despite my disability and provides neighbourhood transport- at 100km per litre of petrol. Really cuts down the bite petrol takes out of a DSP, too.

To put some of my craftier skills to greater use, I volunteer for an outfit called Technical Aid to the Disabled, or TAD. I’m as well qualified to be a recipient of TAD services as I am to be a volunteer. Many TAD vols are retired engineers and welders. TAD’s Custom Designed Aids section creates specialised adaptive aid devices for disabled people. TAD also regularly offer a bicycle modification clinic where standard bikes can be altered to suit any particular need.

If you are disabled or know someone who is, you may be interested in TAD’s computer and printer loan service. For less than $2.00 per week, persons with a need can borrow a computer or purchase them at very low prices. If you work in I/T and are aware of computing equipment which will be retired, please keep TAD in mind. They’d very much like to have your old (Pentium III or later) gear for refurbishment. Contact the Computer Loan Service on (02) 9808 2022 if you have spare equipment you’d like to donate.

If Kevin Andrews were serious about helping disabled people work in an economically productive manner instead of idly bashing us as ‘welfare bludgers,’ he’d look into helping us earn income from home based business.  The model of TAD employs the considerable strengths of retired and disabled people to provide a service. No reason why such a model could not be the basis for a profitable biz.

Think bigger, Kevin… and think about what disabled people can offer to our communities instead of what a drain we are upon them.


7 Comments so far
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When the ex-cretin left with the new blonde, he said I’d have no trouble getting a DSP. I did get one and even though I knew I couldn’t hold down a full-time or even part-time job I felt very guilty because others, like you, deserved it more than I did. After working it all out, I’m just ex-cretin’s taxes being put to good use. Just hope that they don’t realize how good your brain is or Howard will find a way to tax intelligence.

Comment by JT 09.14.05 @ 11:58 am

JT, thanks for your comment. I’m no more deserving than any other person with disabilities, though.

If you were in a marriage or de-facto when you acquired your disability, in some cases, a spouse may be held responsible for part of your maintenance. Your mileage may vary.

Disabled people often express guilt about taking a benefit, though there would otherwise be no way to keep house and home together. There’s no small amount of Stockholm Syndrome in that misplaced guilt or embarrassment.

Abusive government policies and defamation of disabled people as ‘bludgers’ create real harm- and the HoWARd government only wants to make it worse. WHY? What is our crime?

I can’t be terribly embarrassed about being disabled. Nothing I can do about it (but a stainless steel knee or two would help). It’s just a fact of my life. However, I simply will not accept being villified for being disabled.

I hear Andrews saying that if people can work they should work. I agree. The nature of disability is that you may need some workarounds to be able to do a particular job.

If HoWARd and Andrews would get serious about eliminating workplace discrimination and improving disabled access to buildings, there’d be a lot more jobs for disabled people. Perhaps there should be a tax benefit to companies which employ disabled people.

For those who just can’t move around well, home based businesses which don’t rely on the disabled person travelling would create worlds of opportunity. There could be an agency set up to farm out such work and collect it when completed.

C’mon, Liberals, where’s your ideas? The HoWARd solution to the disability rolls is simply to redefine it such that fewer people actually meet the test. He’s in no way changing the number of disabled people, he’s just duck shoving some of us off into a poverty trap.

Comment by weezil 09.14.05 @ 12:19 pm

Weez the bastards just don’t have any compassion. That’s what it is. BUT they’ve got to come up with the money to save Telstra from somewhere.

Comment by Ray 09.14.05 @ 10:05 pm

I have two titanium knees. What a shame I can’t share.

Comment by JT 09.14.05 @ 11:06 pm

Weez, I’ve spent many years support adults with intellectual disabilities, and they’re in the same boat.

The government’s productivity based wage system can see some people earning a grand total of $4 per hour. Many work more than 15 hours per week, so under this proposal, they are absolutely screwed.

Centrelink already make life impossible. They often demand that a person with an intellectual disability have their condition ‘reassessed’ to ensure that they are still eligible to receive the dsp. We’re talking about people with profound intellectual disability. Their conditions don’t change, yet are subjected to constant harassment.

Comment by David Heidelberg 09.15.05 @ 9:55 am

Some Centrelink staff wouldn’t be out of place at ‘Gitmo’ working as interrogators. The doctor who assessed me, without warning, pushed his thumb into the vertebra which was marked on the chart as being the worst part of my spine. He said it was a really good way to test for a bad back. He found out there was nothing wrong with my mouth or language ability. I can’t imagine how frightning it must be for anyone with an intellectual disability.

Comment by JT 09.15.05 @ 3:50 pm

I find it instructive whenever I come under the delusion of giving our betters the benefit of the doubt about their vindictive social and economic policies to consider what they say when they are speaking candidly (a la Barbara Bush). This causes me to remember that they really just see us dupes who will keep on eating the shit sandwiches they think our inferior tastebuds are fit fore.

The work that TAD does is a great example of how those who face physical barriers that I do not are often doing their utmost to assert their independence and contribute to society. That people like Costello and Andrews can do their happy clappy Sky Pilot crap on the one hand and bring in legislation like this on the other is just sickening.

Comment by dj 09.15.05 @ 11:28 pm

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