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We've never had so many laws to protect people, but it hasn't made us any kinder, has it?" said the social worker from the Somerset learning disabilities team who came to assess my learning disabled brother recently.

Ever since I can remember, my 50-year-old brother has been shouted at when he walks down the street. Even at work — he has held down a job as a supermarket trolley boy for 21 years — he is an object of ridicule. Employees delight in teasing him and then reporting him when he loses his temper. Local youths have thrown stones at him in the store car park, while the security guard, managers and police did nothing.

The police didn't do anything when our family home was targeted either — not about the eggs thrown at the walls nor about the jeering in the garden after dark. If my 80-year-old mother was out, my brother would cower with the lights off for fear that these yobs would smash the picture window — again — if they knew he was there. The insurance company refused to pay out after the fifth time. 

Once when his tormentors were outside, my brother called the police in a frenzy. "If you go on like this, we'll arrest you and your mother," the officer snarled.

In the end my mother and brother moved, and so were luckier than Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her disabled daughter, or David Askew, who collapsed and died while being goaded by youths in Greater Manchester. And certainly more fortunate than another recent mentally disabled victim, Michael Gilbert, who was kept as a slave for ten years before being murdered and dismembered by the family who took him in.

What is shocking is that this brutality is so commonplace. According to a Mencap survey, 90 per cent of learning disabled people are bullied. We no longer hide them away in institutions, but our ability to empathise with these vulnerable people has not kept pace with the shift in their rights and opportunities.

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paul cripps
May 8th, 2010
4:05 PM
I am truly shocked and saddened by what you have written.Iam a merchant marine of some 35 years and i think i have seen and heard it all.What you have written about what happened to your brother saddens me no end.I say this sincerely ,i wished i had been your mother and brothers neighbor,because although some people would have regarded my methods as somewhat severe ,their problems would have ended very quickly..

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