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U.K. Political Candidate Sparks Outrage, Saying People With Disabilities 'Don't Understand Money'

A British political candidate sparked outrage Thursday when she suggested people with disabilities “don’t understand money” and therefore deserve to be paid less.

Sally-Ann Hart, a conservative Tory party political candidate for councillor in Hastings and Rye in the U.K., was put in the hot seat during a public hearing where she was confronted about sharing an article advocating for paying people with disabilities less than minimum wage on her Facebook page, according to Metro UK. In response, Hart doubled down on the article’s premise.

“It’s about having a therapeutic exemption and the article was in support of employing people with learning disabilities, that is what it was,” Hart said. “They should be given the opportunity to work because it’s to do with the happiness they have about working. … Some people with learning difficulties don’t understand money.”

Hart’s response outraged the audience, which responded with shouts of “shameful” and “they deserve a salary,” according to Metro. Another man shouted, “I’m autistic, and I want to get paid for the work I do.”

Paying people with disabilities, intellectual disabilities in particular, less than minimum wage is still the norm in many places, including the United States. Under certain conditions, companies can apply to pay workers with disabilities subminimum wage as a way to encourage companies to hire people with disabilities. This practice, however, reflects outdated views about people with disabilities.

“People with disabilities, even those society considers to be ‘severe,’ can work,” wrote Karin Willison, The Mighty’s disability editor. She added:

It’s been proven over and over again. But unfortunately, the biggest barriers they face are often put up by those who are supposed to be their allies and supporters. Parents and family members. Vocational rehabilitation agencies. Nonprofit organizations like Goodwill. Often, these people and entities think they are representing the interests of those with disabilities, but they’re actually holding them back from achieving their full potential.

Disability advocates also point out that subminimum wage, designed to encourage jobs, doesn’t make much of an impact on employment options for the disability community. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 79% of people with disabilities are unemployed compared to about 32% of people without disabilities. In addition, people with disabilities are significantly more likely to be locked into poverty despite having valuable skills to contribute to the workforce.

Following Hart’s comments, advocates started a petition on to remove Hart from political candidacy based on her views on the disability community. So far the petition has garnered nearly 1,300 signatures.

“I’m a disabled person and I can perfectly understand finances,” wrote Ellie P. on the petition. “The fact she is making this claim is abhorrent!”

In response to the backlash, Hart took to Facebook to say her comments were misinterpreted and she actually does support employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. She wrote:

For the avoidance of doubt, I was trying to emphasise that more needs to be done to help those with learning disabilities into the workplace and having properly paid work. I did not say anyone should be paid less.

My comments have been taken out of context, but I do apologise if any offence or alarm has been caused. The number of disabled people in work has hit a record high under this government, and I am committed to doing more to supporting those with learning disabilities into good, secure jobs.

I have a statement prepared regarding last night's hustings.“For the avoidance of doubt, I was trying to emphasise…

Posted by Sally-Ann Hart MP on Friday, December 6, 2019

People with disabilities have just as much to contribute to the workplace as people without disabilities, as National Down Syndrome Society Advocacy Programs Specialist Adrian Forsythe, who has Down syndrome, shared in the article, “People With Down Syndrome and Other Disabilities Deserve a Fair Wage“:

We, as people with disabilities, have the right to be valued as adults contributing in our communities as those without disabilities. People with disabilities have the right to fight for an equal wage. This is a right we should pursue because people with disabilities are more alike than different. It is unfair that any brother/sister, friend or co-worker is doing the exact same job but receiving a higher pay.

Header image via Sally-Ann Hart’s Facebook page

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