Last night was a rare moment when something on television really shook me. It was a profound moment.
Just flicking through the TV channels after the news, I caught the start of 'Tormented Lives', a programme about the bullying of disabled people.
Disability Campaigner Rosa Monckton followed up a previous documentary by highlighting the bullying, abuse and violence disabled people face for nothing other than being vulnerable. It was truly gruesome and shocking that anyone could do such things.
There was Christopher, a man in his forties who suffered from hydrocephalus. He was extremely bright, had a wicked sense of humour and possessed a string of IT qualifications. He had suffered such daily bullying and violence, including being deliberately scolded on his legs, he had been forced to live in sheltered accommodation amongst Elderly people. No-one would give him a job and he lived a very lonely life.
Asher had two sons, one with cerebral palsy and his older brother, suffering greatly from the responsibility of helping his Mother. He was depressed, worried and anxious when all he should have been worrying about was his homework. The specially adapted house they lived in had been subject to criminal damage, as was the family car. Getting the Police and Local Authority to help had resulted in an escalation of the problems.
In Cockermouth, Kelly, who had some learning difficulties, was abused systematically by local youths. Her Mother was so concerned about who would look after she couldn't, that she had considered taking her with her when this day came.
It was terrible and most people would quite happily take the offenders aside to give them a swift physical lesson.
However, there is a deeper truth which should shock us even more: as a society we have been mistreating disabled people for decades, and continue to do so today.
People with disabilities are sidelined and discriminated against in almost all aspects of life. Access to jobs is seriously restricted. A disabled person often doesn't have the freedom to use public transport, as it often does not meet the criteria of the Disability Discrimination Act, passed back in 1995. A train is out of the question unless you book your journey in advance. Of course, it would far too easy to ensure trains and train platforms are the same level. Society still treats people with disabilities as second class citizens.
As a society we need to reappraise how we view disabled people. We need to ditch the patronising approach that has been the way for time immemorial. We need to open our eyes and see everyone for the the person they really are, look at what people can do and not what they can't.