School Schmool is a great day-timer that is put together by QPIRG McGill and QPIRG Concordia.I wrote this for this year's planner. A lot of the stuff in it is really interesting and there is always beautiful art. You can check it out by clicking here.
Time and time again, people make the argument that disabled people don't have to be included in social justice movements because disabled people are 'different.' Disabled people, they say, are different from other subordinated groups because we have an 'intrinsic hardship.' Disabled people, they say, are different because there is something wrong with us. Disabled people, they say, aren't entitled to the same kinds of social inclusion and social justice because we simply can't do certain things – our exclusion is justified.
The following is a speech I gave at a Parkdale Against Poverty meeting on September 23, 2013. We were asked to speak about the provincial government's plan to eliminate ODSP and move almost everyone onto welfare. The other speaker was John Clarke. You should also check out his piece in The Bullet: "Austerity Agenda Targets the Disabled".
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We are currently being told that these are times of austerity – times of cutbacks in order to ensure a healthy economy. It is important to think about how it is that poor people are hit disproportionately hard and rich people are getting richer. The richest 1% in the world own 95% of the world’s resources. The worlds 1,210 billionaires own more than all of the property that the poorest half of the world owns – 12 hundred people own more than 3 billion people!
People on OW (Ontario Works or welfare) get $376 a month for shelter while those on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Plan) get $479 – neither are anywhere close the average rent for a bachelor apartment in Toronto ($837 a month). This means that people don’t have enough money for food and rent – if either. But, here and around the world rich people aren’t being told that they have to tighten their belts – they aren’t told they have to live in substandard housing and make choices between food and rent. In Ontario, there are almost a million people on social assistance, nearly half of them on ODSP.
These two systems – welfare and ODSP were started because poor people fought for them. They were put in place very differently because of deeply troubling notions of who was considered the deserving and who was considered not the deserving poor. Disabled people – or at least certain disabled people are considered deserving so they get paid more while other people are depicted as lazy, as free-loaders so they get less money. This has always been a brilliant way of demonizing people on welfare to the general public and dividing different groups of poor people. It is how people on ODSP could say that they didn’t need to worry about the 21.6% cut to OW in 1995 and it is how people on OW can say that they don’t need to worry about getting rid of ODSP. “It doesn’t affect me” both groups can say. It means that we don’t fight together when we should be united because it is the same people – rich members of government acting in the interest of corporations that are attacking us.
Tuesday September 3, noon at British Consulate, 777 Bay at College
The Cameron Government in the UK has emerged as a world leader in social retrogression and it has undertaken a brutal attack on poor and disabled people that governments here in Canada are watching with the keenest interest.
A 'bedroom tax' has been imposed on hundreds of thousands of social housing tenants and mass evictions are threatened. Unemployed people looking for work are being subjected to arbitrary cut off and denial of benefits. Disabled people are having their cases reassessed by private companies and are being deemed 'fit for work' in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
One of the most common critiques that I get is that, while people agree with me about the social construction of impairment to an extent, that pain isn’t socially constructed. This is something that has also come up in a few of my classes lately so I thought I would sit down and take the time to articulate my thoughts a bit better on this point.
I want to start by saying that I have a lot of pain a lot of the time. For me, most of the time, the question is not if I am in pain, it is how much pain I am in. It is one of the primary reasons that I don’t post more on this blog, the other being the aforementioned school (all I do is write!). Interestingly, these days, my pain isn’t as overwhelming most of the time as it used to be, which also means that I actually write less because I can do things like go out and go to school.
I also want to be clear that my saying that disability is socially constructed is not the same thing as saying that there are no material consequences attached to being classified as disabled. Similarly, while I frequently argue that gender and race are socially constructed, this statement does not erase the very real consequences of sexism, patriarchy, racism and white supremacy on the lives of women, trans people and racialized people.