Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People is the first book from Guardian and Able Magazine contributor, Frances Ryan. She spoke with us ahead of its release in June.
Can you tell me about your decision to write the book, please?
I started working at the Guardian in 2012 at the same time as the Paralympics and we started to hear about all this optimism about Britain’s role in disability rights, although obviously at the same time the sweeping reforms were coming in that were cutting so much support for disabled people.
It quickly became apparent that this was really building as a key issue, so over time it just built and built and I’ve just been continually covering it. The book was the culmination of seven years of coverage of those issues and really talking to disabled people over that period.
The book looks at about a dozen disabled people’s stories and outlines the bigger picture. The huge numbers of people contacting me over those seven years really helped me get a picture of the scale of it and just the depth of how people’s lives were changing over that period – who had really quite healthy, fulfilling, independent lives but due to various changes with social care or benefits, were losing their homes, their cars, their support at work and were just seeing their lives completely transformed in a way that they never would have imagined.
Did you feel a responsibility to write the book?
You have to refresh the fight for every generation. It’s certainly an incredibly difficult time for a lot of people and I think it’s important to have that sense that it isn’t hopeless and that we just simply need to make some real changes.
Can a book really help make a difference?
I think so. I think we’ve seen, particularly in the last few years, that when politics has got more uncertain that people want to understand more about what’s happening so people are turning to books. I think that serious investigative journalism is an incredibly important part of changing what’s happening in Society.
There aren’t really any mainstream books that really seriously look at the overall picture of what life is like for disabled people in Britain. I hope that this book will help play a part in making conversation with people who are living these lives but feeling like they’re not being heard as well as for people who just don’t really think about it.
Is the title designed to surprise or shock? Do we necessarily need to be shocked in shocking times?
I didn’t actually use it to shock, I used it to play on the way that Britain has, in many ways, made a lot of progress in attitudes towards disability. With words like crippled, we don’t hear that much anymore and that’s one example of how we’ve made gains but actually, I think those gains sometimes cloud the scale of inequality that still exists and we have been ‘crippled’ if you like, by economic inequality.
Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People is released by Verso on 11 June and available to pre-order now.
Find out more about Frances Ryan here: https://www.theguardian.com/profile/frances-ryan