People Like Us

When I was young and needed full time work, it came as a shock to me that no one would employ me. The reason, obvious to everyone except me, not enough sight.

Explanations for rejections ranged from health and safety (everyone knows that if you can’t see you are more likely to spontaneously combust than if sighted person), that glasses are negative (it was the eighties), and that there are special factories for people like you. So it went on.

 

People tie themselves up in the most amazing knots to sound reasonable in their explanations as to why they can’t have that sort of thing here. It struck me that the bottom line is that human beings have an in built resistance to spending their days alongside people that are not PLU (“people like us” as Nancy Mitford would have said).

 

While PLU may have had its origins in a class conscious post war Britain it’s about the best way I can think of to describe what I experienced. The way I got round it was by simply not disclosing that I had a sight problem and hoping that by the time anyone realised it would probably be alright. It wasn’t.

 

Forty years later unemployment is stubbornly high amongst blind and partially sighted people. Young people still talk about the same tactics I used to get my foot in the door. Just like then, keeping quiet might get you through the door but it won’t keep you in the room once you’re rumbled. It makes me all the more convinced that nothing much has changed at the core of why people are so resistant disability in the workplace.

 

It’s the PLU factor that none of us can afford to be complacent about. The government don’t tolerate this kind of prejudicial behaviour when it comes to race or gender. I can ‘t imagine the chancellor telling a parliamentary committee that the reason GDP didn’t grow as expected was because there are more women in the workplace, but that’s exactly what he did recently in respect of disabled people.

 

Well don’t look at me. I work as efficiently as the sighted person next to me. I’m not responsible for the decline in national economic fortunes. But, I am a woman. Maybe he meant to say “woman” and “disabled” just fell out of this mouth. It looked more squeezed out from what I could tell, like a big fat lie he knew he’d get called on but it might be worth doing if the other person were to get the blame and not him. You never know, he might have got away with it.

 

So, I’m calling him out. Most disabled people in the work place have no or few adjustments made and there is absolutely no evidence to support his weesley excuse. Perhaps he might think about using a performance measure that is not based on how the country is performing against what it needed to successfully fight the second world war. He’s seventy years behind the rest of us.

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