The Rise of the Machines

26 October 2022

This week’s blog is by Difference Director, Christopher Hartworth. He discusses the seen and unseen ‘costs of living’ as a disabled person.


As state sanctioned poverty (or a ‘cost of living crisis’ as the government insist on calling it) sends the UK population into further precarity, disabled people face a worse humanitarian crisis. As well as the costs of heating homes, we face extra electricity costs to charge powerchairs and scooters, and operate equipment such as lifts, hoists, ventilators, feeding pumps and dialysis machines.

A recent survey showed that:

• A quarter (25%) of working-age disabled adults say they missed a meal because they couldn’t afford it.
• Over a quarter (28%) say they have not been able to afford to keep their home warm.
• A third (33%) report having £50 or less per week, after housing and bill costs, to spend on food and other essentials. While 7% reporting having less than £10 a week.

A person sits on the floor in a city centre by their wheelchair. They are being addressed by a police officer.

The Rise of The Machines- Christopher Hartworth

As my internal hard wired neuro system fails, mechanical motors take up the slack. They set me up, let me down, get me up and turn me around … the slow whirr of the mechanism … rising up slowly.  When you catch your reflection in the mirror on the wall, slowly rising up, looking into your own eyes, the only active thing in your body. … Sometimes I think I look like Stephen Hawkins.

When I fall down, I need compressed air to bring me up again to a level where I can get back in my chair. My bed has a nest of plugs which feeds the motors in my bed that help me sit up straight and move my legs in the night. There is a hoist which is plugged in all night and has a flashing light.

When I go out, I go in my van, a big diesel affair, lots of noise, lots of carbon crunching and lots of cash. I have so many things in my life which are just constantly plugged in, just in case, things may happen – I don’t know how much all that is costing.

When it’s cold, my body protests and for some reason wants to act like it is performing in the world’s strongest man contest, contorting and straightening muscles and limbs. When it’s normal temperature, my hands and feet are freezing cold … an extremities thing. When it’s cold my hands and feet hurt worse than normal. When I’m warm, things calm down.


I am beginning to understand that as a disabled person, my carbon footprint is bigger than an equivalent non-disabled person. That is because as my body fails, petrochemicals must take its place.

I’ve also got things like normal people have, like a tracker mortgage which has gone up £300 a month, and food and drink costs running away with everything else.

As a disabled person with a deficit, i.e., most of my body doesn’t work, I need more energy than others whose bodies work. In a cost-of-living crisis, I don’t really know where this leaves me, other than being cold.

Photo of Christopher Hartworth



In September, The Disability Poverty Campaign Group – whose members include DPOs Inclusion LondonInclusion BarnetCheshire Disabled People’s Panel and Disability Rights UK – and the Disability Benefits Consortium, sent a letter to Liz Truss outlining the “devastating and intensifying levels of poverty” for disabled people, causing many to ration their use of vital medical equipment and being unable to heat their homes. You can follow progress here: Truss ‘must act now’ to prevent disabled people facing ‘humanitarian crisis’ this winter – Disability News Service


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