We are all more than aware that this summer, London and Britain as a whole, had the privilege of holding the 2012 Olympics. Even for those who don’t have a particular interest in sport, this was a big thing, and patriotic fever gripped the nation – and world – as a whole.
After two weeks of what some are calling the best Olympic Games ever, the country was left feeling highly proud. But it didn’t end there – after a few days of a break, the Paralympic Games began; twelve days of amazing athletes, all severely disabled, showing that anything is possible, despite any disabilities.
Personally, for me and many others that are disabled in some form, this is perhaps more impressive than the normal Olympians. These are people with one or no legs, or those paralysed from the waist down, and even things such as being blind. That sort of thing can ruin your life, no matter what accident you got into, or what condition you developed. But they didn’t let it stop them, and many have now gone home as Olympic champions, despite never being able to be ‘normal.’
‘Normal’ is a phrase that is often thrown around. However, it is safe to say that those with disabilities that have participated in the Olympic Games are not normal – they’re above it. It is an amazing feat, to keep going. From personal experience of being disabled, I know that sometimes it is a challenge to even get out of bed in the morning – both physically and mentally. To have the dedication to get up each day, train and carry on no matter what, is simply amazing, and an inspiration to anyone in a similar situation as I have been.
But the main focus of this article, is not just on the Paralympics, but also about something that has been in the news a lot recently, and is of growing concern for any people who have disabilities of any kind, in the UK. I am, of course, talking about the benefit cuts. In this day and age, the Government are looking for anything possible that can help them reduce costs. While they have mostly been focusing on housing benefit and other related things, now it seems their focus is on those who are disabled.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a benefit that most people who are deemed disabled, depending on severity, can claim. For some, it is everything. Let me give you a little peek into my personal life. Since the age of ten, I’ve had medical conditions, which slowly got worse as time went on. I won’t bore you with the specifics, but what it entails that I am now on crutches permanently. Only recently have I managed to not be as dependent on my wheelchair, but there are still a lot of occasions where I have to use it. I require constant care while at home, especially when my conditions are bad.
Thankfully, I have very supportive parents. However, there is one problem – my Mother is disabled too, so slightly worse. We share a few conditions, but she has some I do not, and vice versa. As a consequence, she uses a wheelchair constantly out of the house and sometimes in it, depending on how she is, and is always on crutches. If I find it hard to walk small distances without pain, she finds it impossible. Then there’s my Dad. He is, thankfully, disability free. He is the one who looks after both my Mum and me. He is our full time carer, and as a result cannot work, as this is his job. Bear in mind that this is no normal job – with usual jobs, you get breaks, and only work shifts. This, is constant. 24/7, he has to look after both my Mum and I. Washing, dressing, helping out of bed; he does it all.
We are very lucky to have someone as supportive as that – often, it would be impossible to find someone like that. In that respect, we are fortunate, and I honestly don’t know what we’d do, or where we’d be, without him.
However, we don’t only depend on him. Working is obviously out of the question, for both of my parents, and even if I wasn’t at college, I would still be limited as to what I could do. My personal plans involve doing a degree from home, and beginning to look into writing or journalism, but even that is questionable – there is no way of knowing what state I will be in, five or even two years into the future. Without DLA and other benefits, my family would have no income. Constant hospital appointments, special – and very expensive! – equipment to pay for…the costs are never ending, not to mention just living at all. If my family did not have the DLA, we could not afford to live – it’s as simple as that.
It is much the same for other people, too. Going back to the Paralympics, quite a few athletes were questioned about what they would do without DLA. These athletes included Aaron Phipps, the wheelchair rugby player, who said “I’d be completely lost without it.” His specialised chair alone costs £1,700. The Table Tennis player, Sue Gilroy, said she would be “devastated”, and that her life would be “Impossible” without her mobility car and wheelchair.
The list goes on. The point of the matter is, those athletes did not get where they were without help. Without DLA, they would barely afford to live, let alone keep up with the costs of training and becoming a Paralympic athlete. Take away the DLA, and you take away not only their lifestyle, but every other disabled person in the UK. Without the DLA, they cannot live, and will certainly not get the same opportunities that everyone else would. The Guardian says that changes to the Disability benefit system is estimated to make tens of thousands of disabled adults and children worse off. Even if this new system doesn’t completely take the benefit away from some disabled people, it will cut it drastically, which will still have a huge impact on them all.
The Paralympic champion Lady Grey-Thompson, who has been doing a lot of campaigning to stop this in Parliament, said “Under the new system, financial support for some groups of disabled people will be much lower than current support available for people in the same circumstances. Cuts such as those to support for most disabled children and disabled adults living alone are going to make the future considerably bleaker for many of the most vulnerable households in Britain.”
This new system is said to come in next year, in October 2013. Until then, it seems there will be much campaigning, debating, protesting and trying hopelessly to get it changed, but really, nobody knows. It is likely to carry on, despite how much people try to stop this happening. This will have a huge impact on disabled people around the country, and all we can do is raise awareness, and hope for the best.