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Personal status is never dependent on any losable document

Comment 7th July 2010

To enact a principle that already follows by common sense from disability discrimination as a principle. That no person's status, as they move around, shall ever depend in any way on bearing a physical document that is capable of getting lost or stolen.

Human error exists, much as the Victorians wanted to believe otherwise. It is not a safe society if human error can cause devastation to your planned day and to the whole order of your life, such that you can't resume your routine life until you have reestablished your status somehow, it is not always obvious how and might incur great expense.

Obviously this is an extension of the repeal of identity cards, and is part of the case against them. But as should have been learned from the identity cards issue, this reasoning is not limited to identity cards, it applies to any form of bearing a document to prove your status.

If you have ever needed your birth certificate, say for a job, were you sure where it was or that itr was in your possession? Then you were relieved you could obtain a copy of it, not have your life mucked up irreversibly by loss of one copy. That could be different if you are a refugee or asylum seeker.

The lost documents issue applies to everyone, as human error applies to everyone. But disability discrimination comes into it too and helps to prove the argument – because there are disabilities that can make you more likely to lose a document. Dyspraxia and attention deficit include clumsiness at the "fine motor" level. A person's extent of physical dexterity, or capability to keep attention focussed, is never entirely their own fault even if you say "be careful". More physically serious conditions of jerks and fits here the body is not wholly under voluntary control, make a very visible issue out of small documents' losability. Folks with those conditions move around independently, rightly for still having their own lives under their own control. It follows that disability discrimination is done by any requirement ever to prove your status with a losable document. Think also of the learning diasabled.

This would have the effect of abolishing passports, but of course we still have to issue them so long as other countries have not adopted this fair principle and still require them. But it prevents us requiring them, and it is just blatantly nice and enlightened that this forces the immigration system to work liberally. The bigots' view just gets neatly totally overturned by the facts of human error that stand in its way.

Most noticeably in daily life, is that it would abolish tickets and physically borne passes on public transport.

By statistical chance tickets will sometimes get lost, and it gets very scary then. How fair is that to the victim of crime when a ticket gets stolen along with their money?  Transport systems breach public safety by not providing any simple committal guaranteed means whereby they will always get the passenger out of trouble in any situation around a lost or stolen ticket that is not the passenger's fault. e.g. I have seen a man put off a train at unstaffed station Rosyth, at 2226 at night, who wanted to be allowed to go to the staffed focal point of Edinburgh to seek a way out of his trouble. I made an urgent query to First Scotrail about this as a witness and I did not get an answer that made any foolproof commitment to provide anything for the passenger in such a situation. They left it wholly to the abusable discretion of often nasty train conductors.

When I was 21 I had an experience of stolen wallet at Carmarthen and a train conductor who was visibly an anti-young bigot turned very nasty and just not believing the situation was genuine, I got other station staff's backing in complaining against him and in them finding out what to do but it still involved me needing to have a third party to contact, which is mortifying and not at all certain, and them having to travel to a station and get charged extra for the service, and when they asked , what if I they were infirm and unable to make that journey, they got no answer but "oh well..um..er.."

This is, and always has been, flagrantly an abuse of the public in any society constituted to consider public safety. No matter how culturally accepted this situation is by habit, dating from the ruthless uncaringness of the nineteenth century, it is now unsustainable under scrutiny of responsibility to transport users, concerning: risking travellers' safety, and human fallibility, such as is always considered in road accident prevention systems, and minorities.

Why does this matter?

This matter simply overriding any questions about how payment of transport fares shall be verified. You could probably do it by means of code numbers, mostly. There is some ticketless transport already, some airlines and city buses. But no matter what it takes to solve that problem, it can't override safety and the potential for a small accident or unconscious error to ruin your life and make it fall apart at a moment's notice. So long as tickets are used, that danger exists every time you travel. So long as passports are used, that danger exists every time a foreign visitor travels  into Britain. The present position is dangerous, not compatible with many disabilities, or with everyday safety for everyone, and has the unjust effect of punishing victims of theft on a far greater scale of life disruption than the thief, which hardly encourages respect of possessions.


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