Have I Got News For You

Well, no, actually, because I’ve stopped watching the UK political satire show Have I Got News For You.

It happened a few weeks ago, I wanted to let the dust settle, but still feel as strongly now.

The incident which precipitated my decision happened online, rather than on tv. They posted a photograph of the Tory leadership debate. At the time, Sajid Javid was one of the contenders. The photograph showed him sitting awkwardly on his stool. The caption read along the lines, “And you trust him to run the country?”

Here, I make the leap that running the country requires a degree of intelligence. It is a leap of faith, I know. But the point of the joke was to imply that somebody with this physical “foible” (beforehand, I never even knew there was a proper way to sit on a stool) he was unfit to do this intellectual task.

I’m afraid I thought of all the disabled people who have been told they are not fit to do a job because of their disability. Of all the black people who’ve been discriminated against, simply because of the colour of their skin. That they are disqualified from something, for reasons totally unrelated. That it is dressed up as satire does not make it right. This is real life, not satire. Past and present tense. These words harm real people.

So, I said something.

You should have seen the hatefulness of the responses! Because Javid wasn’t disabled, attacking his physical characteristics was ok. Even if they were unrelated. (I have no idea whether Javid has some kind of disability or not, if he does, he certainly doesn’t disclose it, but he might quite reasonably hold the view that it is nobody else’s business).

Even that for finding this not-at-all-funny, I was an example of everything that was wrong with the country. I wonder how much charity work that guy did? how many people he helped each week? (Actually, I knw the answers to these without even asking, since nobody who does voluntary work would describe someone in such a way.) The comments reminded me, I’m afraid to say, of people who joyfully laughed at nig-nogs on Seventies UK TV, until society told them it was wrong. Wrong is wrong, something might be commonly acceptable, but that doesn’t make it right.

There is another point, here. At what point does fun (satire, say. Sport is also a good example, I’m old enough to remember when we’d never play with the South Africans) stop, and you take the matter more seriously? I leave that one for you to ponder.

Blue Badge

I have just gone through the process of renewing my Blue Badge, which runs out at the end of March. Do you have Blue Badges where you are? If not, it is a scheme which designates some parking spaces as “specially reserved for disabled people”, and the holder is supposed to show a Blue Badge in their car to prove their eligibility to use the space.

Give our government credit where it is due, their web site was very clear i this area, applying was long-winded but straightforward. There was a bit of to’ing-and-fro’ing because originally, the photo I supplied wasn’t good enough, but even that was sorted out quickly and by email.

The only time my eyebrows were raised during the process was with the volume of data they collected. There was a lot of medical stuff on there. Yet my friend, who is a doctor, says that he was never asked to substantiate an applicant’s claims of disability. So I’m sure this data is held on file somewhere, but not used. It raises an eyebrow in particular in the context of the GDPR, rules regarding data privacy, which came in in the EU last year – these rules specifically state that you shouldn’t collect more data than is necessary.

Anyway, aside from this grouch…

A month later (end April), my disabled bus pass is scheduled to run out. To me, it appeared co-incidental, although I’ve since been told that the two things are timed deliberately.

The government’s Blue Badge application was pretty seamless, then – doable in a few clicks. The council’s bus pass application less so. The form was easy enough, but it was on paper and required a signature at the end.

A quick aside – the stroke left me without the use of my limbs down one side. My writing side. Specifically, any writing is out. If you want me to write, I have to use my “wrong” hand. I’m probably quite safe in predicting that when it comes to writing with the wrong hand, I’m every bit as bad as you are!

So, I queried this. Don’t you have an online version of the form that I can fill out? one that doesn’t require a signature? The response I got was a stonewall “No, either you or your representative needs to sign it”. My representative? That opens up another can of worms. I have full cognitive ability – why therefore would I need somebody to represent my interests? The big deal for disabled people is to be able to live independently, and the local council either don’t realise this, or don’t care.

I mean, if you’re able-bodied, this will all be a storm in a teacup, but to me, as a disabled person, it is a big deal.

It all seems perverse, because these people deal specifically with giving bus passes to disabled people, so you’d think there would be some kind of empathy there. They must be familiar with somebody’s disability meaning that they can’t fill out the form properly. Especially when the government do make it easier – the bar to qualify for the blue badge will be at the same height as the bar for the bus pass. Indeed, one of the acceptable “proofs” for the bus pass is a photocopy of your Blue Badge. So, why not make the applications as easy as each other?