A little diversion from my usual content here, but I need to discuss a perception about disabled people that’s a perpetual annoyance to me.
There’s this idea that disabled people are just “in it for the benefits”. That we’re a bunch of scroungers and fakers who get a butler, a mansion and a car all paid for by the government. This idea couldn’t be further from the truth. Disability is actually very expensive. Research from the disability charity Scope found that disabled people in the UK incur costs of an extra £583 a month. Where do these extra costs come from you ask? Well…
The first aspect to consider is medical bills. In the UK this can include paying for prescriptions for the medications we need to keep us going, or for private therapy if the NHS will not provide them. I know these payments must be even higher in the US where every medical treatment and hospital stay incurs a cost.
Then there is the cost of equipment and all the other basics we need to exist and live. For example, this can include mobility equipment such as cars, wheelchairs, canes, or other mobility aids. Whilst I know that in the UK we have some schemes, such as the Motability Scheme. However, for those who cannot access such schemes or whose mobility aid cannot be funded by such schemes, they usually have to use some form of crowdfunding to fund their mobility equipment. Add to this the cost of any specific assistive equipment such as a shower seat or grab rail and the cost increases even further. Any disabled person will tell you that simply adding the word “assistance” or “adaptive” to the name of any items will significantly inflate the price. Even if we leave aside the costs of baying for pieces of equipment, there is also the cost of paying for assistance in the form of carers for those with disabled people who require them, these carers costs may not be covered by benefit, which means yet more additional costs for the disabled person.
Then we have to considered the cost of housing. For example, in my university accommodation, the difference in rent between an accessible flat and a non-accessible flat was not covered, so I essentially paying more to live in a specific type of flat, not through choice but because it was the only place I could feasibly independently live. Even if we move beyond student accommodation, accessible housing on the general property market is a lot rarer than I think people are led to believe. This means that, through the guise of supply and demand, such accessible houses are likely to be more expensive. So you think, ok you have your house, that’s the end of the additional housing costs right? Wrong. Then we have to account for utilities. For example disabled people may have higher energy and heating costs due to charging wheelchairs or running other equipment or even just through having their heating on more to help with muscular or temperature regulation issues. So even within the idea of “housing costs” there are so many additional costs
So we’ve covered equipment and housing, that must be it? Nope, even simple things like clothing can have additional costs. Like I mentioned earlier with assistive equipment, adding the term “adaptive” or “adapted” to a piece of clothing, or even just insinuating that a piece of clothing will be useful for disabled people, often means it will be priced higher. One recent example is the Nike Go Flyease shoe. This a something that I saw many of my disabled peers saying would be the perfect shoe for them in terms of accessibility, but these shoes are $120, likely well out of budget for most disabled people. Even for those who do not require specific adaptive clothing, there are still additional costs, such as the need to shop with certain brands because of the accessibility of their clothing. For example, as a wheelchair user, I need to wear certain clothes that fit well when sat down constantly as I often am. Such brands and items are often more expensive than if I did not have those accessibility considerations. There is also the impact of additional delivery costs if there is a shop we want to buy our clothes from which isn’t accessible (in my case, the shop may not have step free wheelchair access). This additional cost should be something that everyone is more aware of given the impact of the recent lockdown and the fact that delivery was the only way we could buy anything, not just clothes.
I bet you’re thinking, “what can there be left to add?” Well, contrary to popular belief, disabled people like to go out and socialise and attend events too, and even our leisure activities can incur extra costs. For example, if I want to go to a pub or restaurant, it is likely that the more accessible places will be more expensive, but if I want to go out I have no CHOICE but to pay those prices as those are the only accessible locations. And if I choose to attend an event, I have to think about the difference in pricing of accessible seating. For example, when I got tickets to a UFC event in Liverpool a few years ago, I was initially quoted £200 for an accessible seating ticket and managed to get them to give me one of the £80 accessible seats instead. I will never understand why accessible seating is not just set at the lowest ticket price, particularly given that disabled attendees often can’t choose our seats and just have to sit wherever the accessible seating is placed.
So there must be some benefits and forms of help for disabled people to offset all these extra costs? Well yes and no. Whilst there are some schemes like the Motability scheme I mentioned earlier, not every disabled person is eligible for all schemes and all help. For example, in England, disabled people can get a reduction on their council tax. However, this only applies if your home is adapted for your disability (and only certain things count as adaptations). This means that I (very much a disabled person) do not qualify for a disability related council tax reduction because my house is not suitably adapted. And even if we ARE eligible for these help schemes, we often end up having to PAY first to gain access to them. This is the case in the UK for a disabled railcard, a Blue Badge disabled parking placard, and even paying for doctors notes to PROVE we are disabled in order to access a specific scheme. So, even where there are helpful schemes, we often have to pay for those too, incurring another additional cost on top of everything else. This is the price of accessibility and disability.
What I’m saying is, if you think disabled people get everything paid for and are living on easy street because we get government benefits, try balancing that against all the additional costs we have to pay to exist and live. I think you’ll find that we are paying out even more than everyone else. An average of an extra £583 a month to be exact
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)