Brexit – A Kids Breakfast or An EU Referendum

To quote the words of a friend, a Brexit is not in fact a toddler’s mispronunciation of breakfast, but the possible exit of the UK from the EU based on the voting of the masses. It’s now been officially announced that the vote will take place in June and will likely be used as a fabulous shiny distraction from the crappy things the current government are doing to the more vulnerable. (Cue onslaught on “liberal leftie” comments below).

I’m not really one to take propaganda at face value, so decided to look at the reasons for and against a Brexit on a personal level … Nope, still sounds like a toddler breakfast…

One major factor in my life right now is my physical disability. I make no secret that I am a wheelchair user and despite a chronic pain condition am also a full time member of the workforce. I Googled EU benefits for disabled (looking for the dictionary definition rather than the monetary kind) and found the European Commission page on Disabled benefits determined by the European Human Rights Act.

Its objectives are pursued by actions in eight priority areas:

1. Accessibility : make goods and services accessible to people with disabilities and promote the market of assistive devices.
So, without this protection the UK could make accessibility an opt in feature. It’s already not great in the UK and because it’s costly this objective could impact greatly on the ability of people with physical disabilities to participate in daily life. Off the top of my head, this could affect the insistance to provide ramps, parking spaces or hearing loops in the effort to save some money.

2. Participation : ensure that people with disabilities enjoy all benefits of EU citizenship; remove barriers to equal participation in public life and leisure activities; promote the provision of quality community-based services.
This could be interpreted in many ways. Could this mean that councils might not be forced to provide adult social services? Buses with ramps? Airport assistance? It’s all costly & with a Government that sees it’s current disability assessment process as fair, they could just as easily see working hard to provide your own equipment as fair.

3. Equality : combat discrimination based on disability and promote equal opportunities.
It’s already hard enough to arrive at a job interview with an obvious disability. The removal of this could allow employers to not interview, or just fire you once a disability is identified. My employer has been incredible, but I know that I am already very lucky even with this in place.
Discrimination can however be seen where airport staff won’t address you, or staff sigh and grumble that “it’s just a few steps”.

4. Employment : raise significantly the share of persons with disabilities working in the open labour market. They represent one-sixth of the EU’s overall working-age population, but their employment rate is comparatively low.
Right now, the reason I am able to continue working is down to the assistance I receive from Access To Work who co-fund a wheelchair accessible taxi, and perform an accessibility review every few years. They give a list of devices required to help me perform my role in the best way I can (such as trackball mice, or movable armrests). Without this help, I couldn’t continue with my role – with it, it’s hard work but the support is physical and mental.

5. Education and training : promote inclusive education and lifelong learning for students and pupils with disabilities. Equal access to quality education and lifelong learning enable disabled people to participate fully in society and improve their quality of life. The European Commission has launched several educational initiatives for disabled people. These include the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education as well as a specific study group on disability and lifelong learning.
My CPD must be accessible. This also comes in the form of providing text to speech so that I can listen to notes when fatigue hits rather than reading through overstrained and bloodshot eyes.

6. Social protection : promote decent living conditions, combat poverty and social exclusion.
There’s enough out there already on the degrading process of applying for PIP, or ESA. As a well educated person with few mental health issues, I can confirm that it was one of the most dehumanising and distressing processes I have encountered. This is a rant for a different post.

7. Health : promote equal access to health services and related facilities.
I rely on the NHS to hold the stupid bendy pieces of me together. Imagine if we could only get treatment for things that were curable in a cost effective way?

8. External action : promote the rights of people with disabilities in the EU enlargement and international development programmes.
When you’re not the cookie cutter model of the “hard working taxpayer”, there’s always going to be a fear of being marginalised. It’s not that far fetched.

Objectives obtained & copied directly from the European Commission Website.

It’s an awful lot of protection that I’m afforded by being a European citizen and yet I can’t find anything to identify how being in the EU makes it worse for those with disabilities.

Clearly, this isn’t the only issue that matters, but it’s a start…

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