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I'm Tired of Paying the 'Disability Price Tag'

The U.K. disability organization Scope’s work with the Extra Costs Commission highlights a major problem in society – being disabled costs money. I and many others refer to this as the “disability price tag.”

I’ve been campaigning for supermarkets to sell and manufacture bigger diapers for disabled children. But they’re far from the only necessity that is over-priced — it’s pretty much everything labeled under disability. If you’re disabled or you have a loved one who is disabled, you’ll know what I mean.

The disability price tag affects us in lots of ways, and it’s a barrier that is difficult to overcome. We continuously face high-cost specialized equipment, adaptations and insurance. Unfortunately, we don’t all have money trees growing in our gardens or Nick Knowles knocking at our door. No, these extra costs are an added “bonus” to a life already challenged by disability.

To change this, for a start, we need accessibility. Everywhere. I’m talking in our homes, schools, hospitals and while out and about. Yet a lot of businesses claim they can’t become more accessible for us because of cost factors. They’ll always throw in that they adhere to the U.K.’s Equality Act, of course!

Although there is a general lack of public understanding and awareness of what it takes to achieve access for all, it’s true the cost of making these changes can be massive. This is evident to us personally when we are looking to make adaptations to our homes, or purchase things like specialized wheelchairs or car seats. Suppliers charge too much and it is affecting us in every way possible.

I could give endless examples of the disability price tag. I’m currently looking to buy my 4-year-old son, Brody, a new car seat. The one I think we need looks exactly the same as his current seat. It’s the same brand, too. The only difference is the 5-point harness tolerates a higher weight. Yet it’s £600 – nearly seven times the price of his current seat. I need this seat for my son’s safety, not to mention it’s a legal requirement. But someone, somewhere has decided to take advantage of that.

Brody’s special shoes cost in excess of £120 (excluding VAT). I am extremely grateful that the NHS pays for him to have a pair, but the price is ridiculous. The disability price tag takes money out of our NHS. And at that price, it’s not like I can buy him spare pairs. His shoes cost more than my entire shoe collection!

I see people posting on special needs equipment pages a lot about beds that have high sides and padding. Their children need these beds, again for safety reasons. Yet they’re £6000 and upwards. Brody has night seizures, and there are anti-suffocation pillows available… for around £60!

Then there are toys and play equipment. Sensory toys that are over-priced, that half the time you can find cheaper in discount stores. Extortionately priced trikes that a lot of people can’t afford without charity funding. There’s a toy Brody used to like playing with in hospital play rooms which has a laughable price tag. It’s essentially a carousel of mirrored key rings with bells on the end that fans out when you spin it. It’s nearly £60.

We’re all being taken advantage of. There are over 12 million disabled people in the U.K., with a spending power of £212 billion a year. How can these prices be justified? Where is the equality? Why aren’t we all shouting about this injustice?

I agree with what Scope says in their Extra Costs Commission final report — we have to be loud and make our voices be heard. We need to work together to get better value for our money. And as a collective force, who knows? We may achieve this! We can’t sit back and let it continue.

We need businesses to listen, and the government and regulators to stop businesses from making things overpriced for disabled people.

One business that has listened is Marks and Spencer. They introduced a range of clothing for disabled kids, after grandmother Rita Kutt made them aware of the issue of overpriced clothes. Their range is currently expanding due to its success. They sell larger-sized popper vests (bodysuits) from £3, whereas elsewhere I have seen them advertised upwards of £14 each, which is just insulting.

The disability community is applauding Marks and Spencer, and rightly so. Remember, we all benefit from this – them and us. It’s not only great publicity for them, it’s making them money as they are taking advantage of a huge market the right way – quality products at a fair and reasonable price. And that’s all we really want. Equality.

If you hate the disability price tag as much as I do, please shout about it. Please make businesses aware that this is unacceptable. Please be part of making the change that we all need. Be bold. And be loud! Use people power. Use social media. Shout from the rooftops of Twitter and Facebook. Tag me if you like, on here or Twitter and I’ll even shout with you (@LauraRutherford) and so will my friends, who champion access for all. I really believe we can make a difference. We can’t sit back and take this any longer.

This post was originally written for and published by Scope. Scope is a charity that exists to make the U.K. a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Follow this journey at Brody, Me & GDD.