This week, I was planning to write about something else altogether, but I have been so shocked by the accelerating pace of anti-disability (or more accurately, anti-people with disabilities) journalism, that other themes will have to wait.
We are now accustomed to the Daily Mail churning out regular, largely inaccurate stories in which the villains are “benefit-scrounging disabled people". I tend to dismiss them without much thought, knowing where they are coming from. This is probably a bit foolish of me, because no doubt plenty of people take them at face value, and if those who know better don't bother to challenge them "because it's only the Daily Mail again", then their warped world-view gains traction.
The story that pushed me to write this week did so precisely because it wasn't a classic Daily Mail rant; rather, a modest, unsensational item in The Telegraph. It was reporting the words of a county councillor who was worried about people with disabled children getting planning permission to extend their already sizeable rural homes. This man actually said that they were "using" their children to get round planning laws. Not that families with a disabled child might need extra space to accommodate a power chair, hoist, level access ground floor bathroom, but that somehow, having a disabled child was a cynical wheeze to exploit loopholes in planning law.
It made me realise that ordinary middle Englanders - the bookkeepers, solicitors, planning officers and all those other necessary and respectable individuals - have absorbed the message about disability equalling financial advantage so well that they don't hesitate to express negative sentiments about people who, until recently, would have been recipients of sympathy, not opprobrium. The man who was so concerned about planning law knew of just two cases, on which he based his judgement, which somehow makes it even worse, even more personal. Is he angry about two families with a disabled child being able to live in a big house? Does he think the countryside is spoilt by the incursion of such families, and he's getting his worry out there before too many more have the same idea?
To be honest, I would have found the story completely baffling a year ago, would probably have assumed he was a little deranged. But now I understand it very well. It makes me rather ashamed of Britain; more so than the flagrant efforts of the tabloids, which I have been quick to dismiss in the past, and which I should probably have challenged more vehemently, before they had achieved their effect.