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(en) Canada, Linchpin* #14 - Living with Disabilities in Austere Times by KELLY WHITE

Date Fri, 16 Sep 2011 10:51:26 +0300


People living with disabilities know that their experiences of interdependence, of society and its power relationships, could not be less important to politicians. Instead, their lives and experiences are commonly reduced to essentialized biomedical limitations. The disabled and their allies know that the experience of disability can best be described as a process enacted through social relations; that every service society provides us with is the result of a fight—a refusal to accept less. All around the world we see that in this current phase of capitalism, in which deficits are being used as an opportunity to slash social services, the only ‘solutions’ being advocated come in the form of individual escape and increasingly strident calls for externally imposed discipline. ---- Austerity is proving to be a time where the relations of power reveal themselves.

In Toronto, Rob Ford is introducing his
own policies of austerity – preparing to
lower spending by gutting public services.
Ford pays lip-service to the needs of
people with disabilities, for example by
declaring Community Living Day and
publicly affirming “the ability and rights
of adults and children with an intellectual
disability to participate and live in their
communities,” yet less than a year later
is preparing to cut the very services that
make this possible: libraries, accessible
transit, and community centres, to name
a few. People with disabilities, like all
marginalized people in this city, rely on
public services – not as luxuries, but as
lifelines to safe access to a self-determined
life within their communities. To suggest
cutting these programs and/or contracting
them out to the private sector based on the
feedback of a corporate consulting firm,
rather than on consultations with service-
users themselves, is an insult. Indeed,
these types of international cost-cutting
‘austerity’ measures, unsurprisingly, are
having a disproportionate effect on the
disabled.

In the UK, people with disabilities
took up the fight against austerity back
in May, when they joined together in
an unprecedented march of thousands.
Proposed austerity measures there
will make independence and everyday
life impossible for many – with the
government demanding 3.5 million
people with disabilities sacrifice over
£9.2 billion in critical support by 2015.
Government officials claim that these
cuts will result in more disabled people
moving back into the workplace, and are
framing the cuts as a way of catching
people who are “cheating the system.”
This rhetoric is similar to Toronto, where
during a recent mayoral debate, Ford
suggested financial incentives would
encourage companies to hire workers
with disabilities. The policies that this
type of thinking inspires, combined
with welfare and ODSP rates that keep
people with disabilities impoverished
and hungry, will ensure nothing but the
continuation of a cycle of precarious
work – the hallmark of a system that is
not designed to promote inclusion.

People with disabilities increasingly
understand that they will 3e among the
ones charged with paying for Ford’s self-
created “deficit” in the city of Toronto.
One thing seems clear: people with
disabilities and their allies in this city
need to prepare to join the fight against
austerity – the fight against Ford and his
agenda.
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* Journal of common cause anarchist organization
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