Equality on Disability

I saw a very small story in the paper yesterday. It was tucked away on a middle page somewhere in the corner. It was on the government’s plans to bring into primary school education teaching on homosexuality. I suppose it’s to teach tolerance and understanding. Fine. But my biggest problem is that the last paragraph said that the government was, as a result, planning on bringing in a similar education style to teach about learning disabilities.

Surely that is the wrong way around?

It’s a shame that equality teaching on homosexuality is the forerunner for teaching on disabilities. There is such a lack of knowledge on learning disabilities in the UK. Granted we have never been so aware as we are now, but compare us to other countries, we are decades behind. Holland for example has five year degree courses on working with disabilities and a strong system for people who have disabilities.

I work part-time in a residential home for adults with learning disabilities and I love it. I love the residents. I think they are fantastic, but I shouldn’t be working there. Am I qualified? No. Have I done a course on working with learning disabilities? No. Did I attend one day, even one day, of  teaching on how to work with disabilities? No. You can do a degree in football management, and surfing, and creative writing, but where are the degrees on working with people with autism or brain damage or deafness?

So we say that every generation wants to fight for a cause: slavery, racial equality, feminism, free speech, independence, beatniks, peace, world debt, ecological living. What do we have now? We have homosexuality. Fine. To be frank, it’s been coming. I’m not surprised. But what frustrates me the most is that in the media, in society it has been pushed to the fore. It has become the most important topic of this generation and I can’t see it losing steam.

It’s just not that important. It doesn’t need to be fought for. Every section of our society gets marginalised from one angle or another. Whether you are from the North or the South, or from Wales, or Irish, or ginger, or black, or white, or gay, or if you’re tall or short, or young or old. It is just plain ridiculous to say a kid in the playground can’t say ‘gay’ because it’s derogatory and then I switch on my TV and see jokes made on disabilities, skin colour, hair colour, hobbies and race.  But don’t you dare make a joke about being gay because that’s just not fair – and after all we don’t want to hurt their feelings. Gay people have just as many rights as you, don’t you know? They do. I agree. But when we talk about fairness, remember that there are people who actually need support and don’t get it. In my opinion, that’s something worth fighting for.


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