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Crippled summary

Frances Ryan

Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People

4.3 (15 ratings)
25 mins

Brief summary

'Crippled' by Frances Ryan is a powerful exploration of the effects of austerity on disabled people in the UK. It exposes the unequal treatments received by this population, making an urgent call for change.

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    The British government's austerity program has been catastrophic for disabled people.

    Britain is one of the world’s richest countries and, historically speaking, its welfare system was pioneering. Yet in 2017, the United Nations declared that disabled people in Britain faced a “human catastrophe.” So what happened? Well, for starters, David Cameron’s Conservative Party took charge of a coalition government in 2010. 

    When Cameron spoke as prime minister at the opening of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, he called the United Kingdom “a trailblazer for disability rights.” But ironically, that was just when his government’s austerity policies were coming into effect.

    Austerity was officially the government’s response to the global financial crash of 2008. The message of austerity was that a period of lower public spending was necessary to balance the books in the wake of the economic crisis.

    In reality, the choice to cut back on the welfare budget seems to have been carefully calculated. It reversed decades of progress in disability rights and forced many disabled people into desperate situations. Bankers were to blame for the crash, but it was people with disabilities who got punished for it.

    Individual case studies throw this trend into a particularly glaring light. Jimbob, a 68-year-old resident of Ayrshire in Scotland, started work when he was young – first in a garage, later as an engineer. But in recent years, his multiple disabling health issues, including chronic lung disease and bone disease, mean that he can’t work anymore.

    He lost his disability benefits in 2013 and now doesn’t have enough money to heat his concrete, two-bedroom apartment. To keep costs down, he effectively lives in a single room so that he doesn’t have to heat the others. He has to plan trips to the bathroom by turning on the heating in the hallway 15 minutes beforehand, so the apartment isn’t ice cold. He even tried sleeping in a tent to cut heating costs even further.

    Jimbob’s situation brings home the reality of what Cameron’s cuts have entailed. Under austerity, disabled people faced nine times more cuts than an average British citizen, according to 2013 research by the Centre for Welfare Reform – and those with the severest disabilities faced 19 times more.

    It’s hardly surprising that these cuts have left many disabled people destitute. But what’s particularly shocking is that, as the next blink shows, the cuts have been made under a false pretext: that disabled people were trying to take advantage of the system.

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    What is Crippled about?

    Crippled (2019) examines the treatment of disabled people in Britain’s “age of austerity,” which began in 2010 during David Cameron’s time as prime minister. Journalist Frances Ryan combines devastating case studies with grim statistics as she explains the effects the government’s policies and cuts have had on the people most in need of support.

    Crippled Review

    Crippled (2020) by Frances Ryan is a thought-provoking exploration of the challenges faced by disabled individuals in a society that often disregards their needs. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It sheds light on the systemic barriers that disabled people encounter, offering valuable insights into the struggles they face on a daily basis.
    • Using a combination of personal stories, research, and interviews, the book provides a nuanced understanding of disability, challenging common misconceptions.
    • The author's compassionate and empathetic approach creates a powerful narrative that captivates readers, encouraging them to reflect on and question their own attitudes towards disability.

    Best quote from Crippled

    [A] recession caused by bankers and stoked by right-wing politicians was set to punish paraplegics and cancer patients.

    —Frances Ryan
    example alt text

    Who should read Crippled?

    • Equality-minded people interested in disability rights
    • Concerned citizens interested in government policy
    • Political campaigners

    About the Author

    Dr. Frances Ryan, a journalist, broadcaster, and campaigner, is well known for her work on disability. She has a weekly column in the Guardian and was highly commended in the category Specialist Journalist of the Year at the National Press Awards in 2019. In 2018, she was named one of the United Kingdom’s most influential disabled people by disability charity the Shaw Trust.

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    Crippled FAQs 

    What is the main message of Crippled?

    The main message of Crippled is a powerful critique of the UK's disability welfare system and a call for change.

    How long does it take to read Crippled?

    The reading time for Crippled varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Crippled a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Crippled is an eye-opening book that sheds light on the experiences of disabled people and challenges societal norms. A must-read for all.

    Who is the author of Crippled?

    The author of Crippled is Frances Ryan.

    What to read after Crippled?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Crippled, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • The Art of Living Alone and Loving It by Jane Mathews
    • Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer & Theodor W. Adorno
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