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Sickness and the Social Model of Disability

This is the first part in a series of blog posts that will explore the uneasy relationship between chronic illness and the social model of disability. From my perspective as a Sick person (more on that controversial word next time) I will explore why people with chronic illness often feel excluded from the Disability Rights Movement (DRM) that emerged out of the social model. But rather than reject the social model I’ll discuss how we, the Sick community, could claim it for ourselves and what a social model of chronic illness would look like. The crucial distinction between impairment and disability lies at the heart of the revolutionary Social Model of Disability that emerged in the 1970s – the model that underpins the disability rights and independent living movements. To paraphrase it simply, impairment is loss of bodily function, whereas disability is disadvantage imposed upon people with impairments due to hostile social attitudes or inaccessible physical environments. 

The politics of stigma with ME/CFS

Last month my “shocking” report with Action for ME, Close to Collapse was released, showing the massive failure of the UK social care system to meet the needs of people with the chronic illness ME (otherwise known by the dreadful term Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) For anyone new to M.E., forget the implication that we’re just “tired all the time”. ME is extremely debilitating, both physically and mentally. In fact, research shows the ME patient population has lower scores for physical function and quality of life of any chronic disease group . So 97% of the 850 people with ME who took my survey needed help with 2 or more activities of daily living like going to the toilet, dressing or getting to a local shop. In terms of the Care Act, this means they met the main threshold of eligibility for social care in England.  Yet only 6% were receiving a social care package.  The news was not “shocking” to the ME community. Neglect, lack of support and even hostility from healt

And now, for my latest trick

I am the lucky owner of a fab new powered wheelchair. And my new trick is that I am an ambulatory wheelchair user. That means, sometimes you'll see me sitting in my wheelchair, and sometimes you'll see me walking. This causes a great deal of social awkwardness, consternation and even shock. People seem to think I'm leading a double life. So I'll explain how it works. Little Britain 's Andy and Lou sketch: making part-time wheelchair users into a laughing stock. If you see my in my chair, thank you for your concern, but I have not just had an accident or broken any bones. And, thankfully, my condition is no worse than it has been for the past few years. If you see me walking, I have not suddenly been graced by a miraculous recovery. I still have the same crappy chronic illness I've had for 30 years. Neither am I using my chair to get attention or to pretend to be more disabled than I am in order to get some kind of advantage over everyone else - lik