“We must support the disabled, but we must support ordinary people as well”

Unsurprisingly this quote from Liz Kendall has been upsetting lots of people, mostly over the use of the word “ordinary”. Understandably people are pissed off at “ordinary” being the contrast to disabled, as if disabled is unnatural or even freakish.

I also dislike it, however I think there is a bigger problem in that sentence, the word “but”.

Edit: I’ve finally got to see the video, and heard what was actually said which isn’t the same as reported. She actually said, “People thought that we had a messsage that was, yes, for the weak and the vulnerable and those who are suffering, but yes for ordinary people too”. See the video here. I should have done my research obviously.

It does change what I’ve said in this post, but I’m going to leave it to stand because I think it is important to show what a difference one small word can make. And I think it is still important to point out that the use of the word “ordinary” is a real problem.

I’ve been a bit busy tonight, but it’s played on my mind, so wanted to try and organise my thoughts. This post will be a little train of thought as a result.

I guess the biggest thing is how, in this sentence, she has set disabled people up against able bodied ones.

It’s not just that she’s chosen to speak of the disabled as if they were not ordinary, awful as that is, it’s that she’s almost dismissed them.

Try these sentences for example.

A parent to children “Yes, you can have a snack, but your sister must too”.

Reasonable on first glance, it’s fair right?

Now, add some context.

Say the original child hadn’t had any snacks already, but the sister had already had a few. Is this still fair? Or is that showing preferential treatment to the sister?

Disabled people haven’t had the support they’ve needed, it’s been withdrawn from them, and is in fact still being withdrawn.

Or this sentence.

“Yes, you can play with X, but your brother must too”

Now, I know I utter phrases like this all the time thanks to two small children. The insinuation is always that the first child is hogging the toy, taking it away from their brother. It’s a way of gently telling the first child not to be greedy and to share.

And this is what upsets me about her quote the most, it feels very much like she is saying “Yes, we must support disabled people, but we must support ordinary people too, so don’t hog all the support“. Here’s the thing, some people do genuinely believe that disabled people are getting more than their fair share. That disabled people are “hogging” the support/money and being greedy. I don’t know if that’s what Liz Kendall believes, but when we are constantly seeing disabled people treated like they are greedy scroungers just for wanting to be given  support and equal opportunities anything that adds to that needs to be opposed.

Contrast these two sentences.

“We must support the disabled, but we must support ordinary people as well”

“We must support the disabled, and we must support able bodied people as well”

Makes such a difference.

Language matters.


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