Like most parents, I have in my office some pictures of my girls, it's great isn’t it? Just sitting there sometimes for a few seconds of the working day looking at probably the most amazing thing in your life, daily, lost in thought about them and their achievements, beaming with pride.
What if you found out that they were thinking about you during their day? Olivia (8) just recently started science at school and the first lesson was about the body. The teacher was explaining to the class that muscles would regain energy after food and rest but Olivia took the teacher up on this and said it wasn’t the case with me. Olivia got upset in her class and told me all about it after school. A different walk to the gates, tucked in shoulders, no smile.
That evening Olivia said that she would always want me to walk to the park, walk hand in hand to football or along the beach. It’s just something she loved to do with her daddy. As you can imagine the frog in my throat was growing and the ability to reply was lost.
We’re the ultimate role model; we should be the ones that show them the right way in life, in every respect. I felt bitterly disappointed that Olivia had been affected by disability in this way. It was up to me to put this right and make this better, something that may be possible for me to do, to reassure her.
There is another issue that I was recently bitterly disappointed about and that’s the comments made by Lord Freud during the Birmingham conservative party conference. I’ve always said that I’ll write once a month, so I missed the opportunity to express my feelings about this after things were said in late October. However, I did write to my constituent MP to tell him my thoughts.
The comments made said that some disabled workers "were not worth the minimum wage" and should be paid £2 an hour.
I found this alarming and felt it sent out a message of discouragement, exclusion, and partisanship from a man in a very high and influential position.
I went on to tell him a little about myself. Explaining, I am disabled. I was diagnosed with limb girdle muscular dystrophy when I was 23 years old. At the time I was a motor vehicle engineer which was very much a physical job that I would have to give up because I would get weaker and weaker. I knew I needed to be in an industry where I could help myself -- or at least see progression with treatments -- and after 17 years that is what I now do. I trained and re-educated myself to work in the pharmaceutical industry. It has been a very long and hard road, but I’m here. The documentation and media that gets processed through my company, and the assistance we give clients, contributes towards treatments, medication and medical devices. I process daily, paperwork that helps with epilepsy, cancers, stroke, arthritis and so many more illnesses and conditions.
On more than one occasion I was told that I could stop work and claim benefits, such as incapacity. This could have been a very easy option for me: benefits, council house, and a reduction in council tax, all at the cost of the tax payer?
Luckily, it wasn’t my young ears that heard and took on Lord Freud’s comments, luckily I wasn’t discouraged and I empowered myself to work and to help. Attitudes like Lord Freud’s need to be eradicated. Like anyone in society, surely everyone should be encouraged and supported into work, and the minimum wage should be exactly what it says it is, everyone included?
There has since been explanations of these comments being taken out of context and it was actually aimed at a specific group of disabled people.
It doesn’t wash with me. I feel the emphasis was on the word ‘Worth‘ and I wonder what it must be like, to be someone must be a wonderful thing. To be someone that has people believing your every word, fortunately physically abled, yet the power to pigeon hole people that may not be so able, physically or mentally. There’s nothing to see here, move along. Sadly my constituent MP did not reply. This is probably something I would not be able to do anything about. I’m just Martin.
I’ll conclude with pride. The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign is the charity that we fundraise for; it’s the charity that we’re always talking about and a charity that we’re extremely keen to help. Imagine my surprise when I notice that the Facebook profile picture and the twitter account Bio picture had been changed to one of my wife and me. You wouldn’t know it was us though; it’s simply a picture of a woman helping a man to walk, supporting him, hands held, no faces. We are together, complete solidarity. The picture was taken this year as I took on one of my charity challenges and proof that I could not do things alone. I consider it to be a great picture and I’m very grateful for it to be where it is on social media.
We really would appreciate it if you gave the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign (@TargetMD) a follow on Twitter and a ‘Like’ on Facebook. You'll be able to see that great picture for yourself.
A message to Lucie, Olivia and Skye… Daddy will always try. Let’s keep going to the park, football and the beach. It’s what we do. x