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One Direction: Will Disability Be A Focus?

One Direction has been working on new songs for their upcoming album, but should they be focusing more on disability and people living with disabilities — for their own sake?

Although recent headlines are talking about One Direction’s appearance at the Billboard Music Awards, One Direction has also been linked to disability justice — and injustice.

On a positive note, One Direction has a long history of donating money to causes for people with disabilities — such as cancer charities. One Direction is also known for visiting fans with disabilities at their request.

Despite this, One Direction’s home country of the U.K. is currently entrenched with laws affecting people with disabilities that have resulted in as many as 80 suicides. Unfortunately, management companies associated with One Direction have also had a discriminatory attitude.

Outside of One Direction’s involvement with people with disabilities, their home country is embroiled in a serious political battle about disability benefits — despite the fact that 30 percent of people with disabilities in the U.K. are living in poverty. While the U.K. is considered to be one of the top countries in Europe for disability access, a recent change in government has led to a discontinuation of government payments for people that have disabilities, in several different ways.

In other words, the situation with disability is taking a bad turn in the U.K. — and One Direction needs to be paying attention for more than one reason.

One of those reasons is that One Direction has been negatively involved in headlines related to disability access at their performances. For instance, there have been issues with fans not being able to attend One Direction concerts due to disability barriers in the venues.

At the TicketMaster website, their FAQ for One Direction tickets states for people wishing to see shows that use wheelchairs to “Please contact the venue. Please note that there is a fixed capacity for the Wheelchair areas and there is nothing we can do if this has sold out.”

Regardless, One Direction fans using wheelchairs find that they do not actually get to see One Direction perform. The Edinburgh News reported in January, 2014, the following.

“Carer Michelle said she called TicketMaster as soon as the tickets went on sale last year but was told to speak to staff at Murrayfield about disabled access. But after being told by stadium bosses that they did not deal with any tickets for the concert she found herself being sent back and forth between the two trying to get a straight answer.”

Along with having limited (or no) tickets available for people with disabilities that use wheelchairs, a recent article from Belfast Live in Ireland states, “The promoters behind the One Direction concert in Belfast have insisted they won’t be able to provide a signer for two deaf fans.”

After much protest from One Direction fans and others, on May 18, the promotion company allegedly said, “Going forward, Aiken Promotions is happy to meet with Action on Hearing Loss to discuss accessibility.”

Outside of venue and performance issues affecting their reputation as an ally of fans living with disabilities, One Direction should be concerned with the age group of those affected by recent U.K. disability cuts. For instance, Entertainment Weekly states that the average age of One Direction fans is 15.

Specifically, some of the negative changes of new U.K. disability benefits laws affect any One Direction fans with disabilities that are children. On May 13, the Independent U.K. stated the following.

“David Cameron’s new disabilities minister voted against protecting benefits for disabled children and cancer patients, according to parliamentary records… In parliamentary votes he has supported letting contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance expire for those undergoing cancer treatment.”

Around the first of May, the Guardian U.K. stated that the next wave of disability-related changes included “barring under-25s from claiming incapacity benefit or housing benefit.”

Will One Direction work against bullies like David Cameron to stand up for cancer patients that are children — or should they simply look out for themselves? Along with building awareness for people with disabilities in the U.K., or around the world, in various ways such as writing a song, being a spokesperson, or sponsoring a charity — One Direction can take being an ally for people with disabilities one step further.

One Direction members have a great deal of influence, and one idea is that they can remind fans (and politicians) that people should not work to make the lives of people with disabilities better for other people with disabilities. Instead, they should do things for disability-related issues for themselves.

After all, for One Direction members or fans, experiencing a disability in their lifetime is probable. For instance, at the Disability Can Happen website, a 2011 study shows that one in four young people in the United States will experience a short or long-term disability before the age of retirement.

Will One Direction use their power to help set standards for fans with disabilities — especially as it relates to concert venues or quality of life? Time will tell if One Direction will be headed in an accessible direction.

Finally, in the opinion of this author, if One Direction is seeking perspectives on living with disabilities (with ultimate goals of autonomy and integration for those individuals) there are several well-noted blogs. Top lists can be found at Josh Van der Vies’ blog and the E-Bility website.

[Featured image via Getty Images]

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