Having a disability means you feel even more excluded from economics and politics than other young people do. We need to be part of the conversation.
One of the greatest transformations to come out of this election is the focus on young voters. After years of being derided by politicians and the media, young people are finally being spoken about as a demographic of whom to take notice. But what stands out is that young people with disabilities aren’t even getting a mention.
This is particularly depressing considering how bleak the future looks for many young disabled people in Britain. That isn’t melodramatic, it is the reality of growing up disabled at a time of unprecedented cuts to disability support and services. Stacked on top of the issues facing young people generally – unstable work, student debt, rising rents – young disabled adults are having to deal with their own distinct problems, born from an era that seems happy to simultaneously sacrifice the young and disabled.
Take housing. While many young people are shut out of the housing market by outlandish deposits, dwindling social housing stock and cut housing benefits, if you’re disabled, even physically getting into a property is often impossible. As a wheelchair user, I’ve never felt more disabled than when I’m looking at housing “options”: a mortgage that a bank won’t give me because, like a lot of my generation, I work freelance; almost nonexistent accessible social housing; or private renting which, on top of extortionate rents, landlords won’t agree to adapt.
I’m lucky I can live with my parents while I try to work out what to do, but like anyone who’s hit 30, this isn’t exactly a long-term solution. The cultural attitude that a disabled young person is somehow different to others of their age is half the battle: the belief that it doesn’t really matter if disabled people have to live in their childhood bedrooms into their 40s because, unlike “normal” people, disabled people don’t want careers, partners, or kids. The impact on young disabled people is all around us. I’ve spoken to 20 year-olds being housed by their council in old people’s homes because there’s no other accessible property in the area. Others who fear being housed in institutions as, with cuts to social care combining with housing shortages, it’s cheaper for local authorities to dump multiple disabled people in one place.
This is horrific at any age, but when you’re a young adult it’s like seeing your life get cut off from you before it’s even started.