Following the news relating to Local Authorities being advised by the Department of Health to give preference to tenders for services from User-Led Organisations (ULO's) it got me to thinking about the groups and organisations that have traditionally gone after this work.
These are, of course, the organisations 'for' disabled people, those charitable concerns that have been doing it to us crips for a very long time and who have established the status quo that effectively maintains our role as recipients of their charity.
I can't see them quietly standing to one side as organisations run and controlled by Deaf and Disabled people end the monopoly that they have enjoyed for the past 60-odd years.
Some of these organisations have already started an underhanded strategy by quoting the social model into their press handouts and publicity materials. Although this is as far as it goes, as their practices are still based solely upon the medical and charitable models of disability.
My mate Dawn runs the Mentally Wealthy blog and has some interesting postings around the subject of user involvement. Click here to visit her blog.
I'm currently doing some collaboration with Vicky Wright, disabled writer and actor (she recently played a lead role in the CH4 Cast Offs series) and you can see the result of our first piece together in her powerful open letter to the comedian Frankie Boyle. I'll keep you posted about any future work we do together ... Click here to visit Vicky's article.
Most of you will have either seen it (or heard the audio description) or will have read about it. Either way, you'll have realised just what an impact the new Channel 4 series Cast Offs, starring REAL disabled people in the roles of the disabled characters has had on the disabled community. Fed up to the back teeth with non-disabled actors playing disabled characters, crips around the UK have voted a resounding YES! for this pioneering piece of television comedy drama.
The episode that has stayed in my mind starred the indomitable Vicky Wright (despite one of the non-disabled characters who seemed to have modelled himself upon Ricky Gervais hogging a lot of the script), I found that particular episode stood well on its own with a story line that made you work a little. The opening scene where 'April' looks at herself in the mirror, applies lip stick and gives herself a smile only to come back seconds later and wipe the lipstick off was a provocative portrayal of just how vulnerable we crips can feel at times, despite the war paint.
Vicky, as with Mat Frazer and the other disabled actors have shown through this pioneering piece of work that we're not just the pathetic recipients of charity that the mainstream press and television usually portray us as.
In one of the many interviews given by the actors involved Vicky commented: “This is not something that’s really been seen before, showing us as adults who drink, swear and have sex. I am sure there are going to be a lot of people saying, ‘My goodness, I didn’t know disabled people could do that’.”
Joel Wilson, one of the producers, has said: “I hope that this will do for disability what Queer as Folk [the 1990s drama about gay men in Manchester] did for gay people: make people see that disabled people are no more and no less fucked up than anyone else.”
Some of the criticism I've heard about the series from other crips has not actually been about the quality of the programme itself. It's been more about the fact that the writers have once again focussed more on the physical aspects of impairment, leaving out the high percentage of those with hidden impairments (disabilities) who are amongst the number of disabled people within the UK. Admittedly there was some reference to the people involved having experienced mental health issues, such as depression and being effected by the way in which society perceived them, but I think this is a valid point. It's also a good argument for commissioning a new series that involves some additional disabled characters!
Not having had access to a UK television, I've not been able to see the new crip series Cast Offs on Channel Four. However, I have seen most of the reviews and other material that's been available on t'internet so I've had a pretty good idea of the story line, etc.
I'm also fortunate in knowing several of the disabled actors who are appearing in the series so, what with Facebook and our other networking resources, I'm slowly gathering enough material for a commemorative cartoon about this unique event. Unique in as much that this is the first time a mainstream television company has produced a programme about Disabled people, starring REAL Disabled actors, farts and all!
So, 'cause I'm not quite ready for the cartoon (phew, I hear Vicky and Mat say!) I got to wondering who else might be inspired by the programme ...