It’s been an extremely busy and some would say hectic week news wise here in the UK. Primarily, we’ve had a general election which has seen David Cameron and the Conservative party returned to power; with an overall majority this time.
You may ask what has this to do with the current series on social inclusion? Quite a bit in the sense it is our politicians who can, but seldom do positively affect the opportunities for reshaping and enabling many people to play an active and equal part in society. Inclusion tends to be dependent on two things; the cost and the intention.
Firstly, let’s use the areas of education and employment as two instances of where cost does affect the success of an inclusive society. In education, special educational services do cost more and in the past, resources have been put into providing pupils and students with the support to access educational provision. With austerity taking hold over the last few years, budgets have been squeezed and reduced and hence support and resources are rationalised. This in turn doesn’t enable inclusion to gain a firm base because the tools are not in place for it to happen.
Employment is also a good case in point. The access to work scheme has been put in place to support people with various disabilities to gain and retain work. Budgets have again been tightened with this programme and are set to be cut over the next year as the department for work and pensions seeks to reduce costs. According to department figures, those with sight loss are one of the biggest groups to benefit from the scheme. Therefore, it may well be correct to assume that we will be one of the big losers when cuts are made.
The second reason as mentioned above is intention, but governments unwisely have linked the intention of equality and opportunity to cost and financial restraint. What does this mean? Well, take the election that has just taken place. Again, one of the biggest topics for us as visually impaired voters has been the inconsistent and erratic level of accessibility when voting. We are (in some cases) provided with tactile voting templates and/or access to a large print voting form; which on the surface seems fairly useful. However, it is known that the tactile templates do not correctly fit the forms, the large print voting forms are for reference and not for use when actually voting and also there are no independent means of verifying whether the ballot paper has been correctly marked or not. NO moves will be made to verify this because the cost would be too high – doesn’t this sound familiar to those campaigning for talking buses? Intentions are in many areas tied to economic reassigning and this is another reason why we cannot feel included in mainstream society.
It’s just a pity that those who have no concept of visual impairment are making decisions on our lives that are based on budgets rather than common sense and real forethought.