Friday, 28 January 2011

The Political Incompetence of the Disability Sector

When asked to write for Ramp Up as a regular contributor I was thrilled. Largely because it has allowed me fill a large gap in the media. We have politics coverage: lots of it. We have coverage on disability issues, (not very much truthfully, but its there) and yet the two subjects rarely converge. Why? It is because the majority of people with disabilities, their carers and service providers are politically illiterate. Yes a very arrogant claim, but it’s true.

Politics is my passion, nay my life. That is my choice. My disability is my life too. That was not my choice. So it frustrates me beyond belief when two subjects so near and dear to me succumb to second rate analysis. Further it frustrates me that most of the commentary provided in the blogsophere and the media comes from those who are affected by a disability directly. Few seem to have the courage to challenge the thoughts of these people head on because ‘…they have been through enough...’ It’s time to end that bullshit and start calling a spade a spade.

The disability sector has to be the most frustrating interest group in Australia. As I’ve argued in my earlier articles. I’m sick of the attitude of many in the disability sector who adopt a handout mentality, cry poor, and blame unfortunate circumstances as an excuse for ignorance. We get it. Life with a disability (of any kind) is shit. Anyone who argues otherwise is a martyr. But a disability is no excuse for narrow mindedness.  You really think it would be the opposite wouldn’t you? No one disability is the same, so one would think the sector would be used to incorporating a wide range of views. Not so.

Even more frustratingly you would think that the disability community both as a group and on an individual basis would be used to dealing with bureaucratic bullshit. Speaking from personal experience, this takes up at least a quarter of my life. It doesn’t take two degrees in political science to realise in order to get the type of funding that is necessary individuals must play both sides of the political fence: one that has the needs of the person in mind and also meets the public policy objectives of the government.

People in the disability sector are really good at achieving this first objective but really poor at achieving the second. Take this article for example. This is classic disability advocacy at its worst. It’s no coincidence that the majority of content appears to have come from the politically inept Dignity for Disability, definitely the worst thing to happen for disability advocacy in this country. Equating a flood levy to a NDIS is like equating foreign affairs with regional infrastructure, sure the budgetary constraints are related, but the public policy objectives are almost always diametrically opposed. Note my comment at the bottom and its limp response. It made me full of fury.

The reason I’m angry is that I’ve seen this attitude manifest itself since I could tell the difference between Liberal and Labor. The worrying thing is that this attitude is getting worse. The closer the disability community is to influencing powerbrokers the more myopic their focus becomes. And I’m sick of being the Meredith Grey of the disability community. It’s time they all wised up.

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