Holocaust Day: among the very many atrocities committed by the Nazis up to and including World War II, thousands of people with disabilities were murdered in the interests of eliminating ‘incurable illness’. They called it euthanasia and it is almost certainly still happening somewhere in the world – perhaps so quietly and one by one that no one notices. Let’s try to notice, please.
This 64-year-old man did nothing wrong. He had learning (intellectual) disabilities and struggled to cope with the day-to-day demands of an ordinary life. All he wanted was the comforts of his home, his trips to the shops, and his cigarettes. What he needed and maybe didn’t know so much about was the support of his family and neighbours, and this he seems to have had in abundance. He also needed the respect and consideration of the wider community, some of whom hounded and harried him to the point of his death.
No one should have to tolerate the abuse and bullying to which he was subjected, seventeen grinding years of it. But sadly it isn’t new, people with learning disabilities, arguably the least equipped to deal with the moronic semi-articulate attacks of people who have reason to know better, have been bullied to their death before. One man was pushed off a viaduct, another was kept as a slave and beaten by his ‘adopters’ until his life was finally bashed out of him.
To say that this is not acceptable is to denigrate the memories of those who have suffered in this way. It should not be necessary to state the obvious. It should be so horrendous as to be unbelievable, but it isn’t. People with learning disabilities are poorly considered, poorly represented, often unable to represent themselves, at the bottom of the social pile.
Well let me say this; the people I work with are funny, they love music, they love their partners and their children, they have bad days, they have jobs, they make art, they do community work, they drive their families mad, they dance, they act, they engage in new and wonderful things, they are HUMAN BEINGS. The group I’m working with at the moment is helping us with our virtual world research and they may just be at the leading edge, the crack in the dawn of innovation, that will devolve to all of us in due course. What they are doing right now could influence how you find out about your hospital procedure in the future. Their comments and involvement could be the start of a future NHS information procedure that makes knowledge and consent available to all but the most incapacitated of us.
But above all that, isn’t this just about behaving in a respectful andcivilised manner to the people in our community? If you know of anyone who is being bullied and abused, just think about what you could do to help. It might make all the difference.