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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

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Disability campaigner hits out at ‘horrifying’ opinions

A DISABLED rights campaigner has called on the public to reject “horrifying” views on taking the right to life away from babies who could be born with debilitating conditions.

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CALLING FOR DIVERSITY: Ollie Flitcroft wants to dispel any belief that people with disabilities are a “burden” on the state REF: 50019107B000

Ollie Flitcroft hit out after a national scandal erupted surrounding UKIP member, Geoffrey Clarke, who was hoping to win a seat on Kent County Council. It came after Mr Clarke’s website was found to call for the government to consider compulsory abortion of all unborn babies with Down’s syndrome, spina bifida or “similar conditions”.

Mr Flitcroft, a teacher and former councillor who was also an athlete in his younger years, has spina bifida, and is paralysed from the waist down.

He said he wanted to dispel any chance of people sharing opinions, like Mr Clarke’s, that people with such disabilities are a “burden” on the state and their families.

The 38-year-old, of Eamont Close, Walney, said: “When I heard about this story and went and read it on the website, I was horrified.

“This year we have had what many people, both disabled and non-disabled, consider the best Paralympics ever, and surveys done since have shown that attitudes towards disabled people are really changing.

“And then you get someone from a mainstream political party coming out with views as extreme and vile as this.

“He’s obviously not done his research and I find it abhorrent.

“This borders on sterilisation and it also smacks of a version of the holocaust – I don’t want to be extreme, but it’s the same kind of thing.”

Mr Clarke has been suspended by UKIP, which echoed disability charity, Mencap’s description of his comments as “abhorrent”.

The Mirror last week reported that Mr Clarke said he did not endorse the statements on his website, which also included suggestions that the NHS should also look into “extraordinarily costly” medical treatment for people over 80 and claims same-sex marriage is an “abhorrence”.

While Mr Clarke’s UKIP membership is undergoing a disciplinary hearing, Mr Flitcroft has called on the party to take a strong line and kick him out altogether.

He said: “What I would want to say to this guy, and what I want everyone to know, is that disabled people wouldn’t be a burden on this state if they had the same opportunities in employment, in housing, in social care as everyone else.

“My spina bifida has not held me back. Like everybody, I face obstacles, and different people face different obstacles, but the last thing we need is to keep perpetuating negative stereotypes.

“We need to welcome diversity.”

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