Currently running on Facebook is a campaign lambasting the Comic Relief 'Red Nose' day because, they say: "(We) are annoyed and distressed at Comic Relief's decision to include David Cameron in the video to this year's charity single by One Direction. They then go on to list all of the atrocities committed by Cameron, aimed at sick and disabled people, and those on benefits or on a low income.
Firstly, let me make it clear that I agree wholeheartedly with this group's stance against Cameron and the present government. What the ConDems are doing to certain sections of our society beggars belief. I have, along with other disabled activists, been in the thick of the fight against them and will continue to take my place alongside those who challenge the government.
However, to boycott an organisation that is the very antithesis of Tory policy, just because of Cameron's appearance in the video is, in my humble opinion, not exactly constructive.
Many years ago, when Comic Relief, Children in Need et al first appeared on the scene, disabled activists throughout the country were appalled at the patronising crap which oozed from our TV screens. Not only did we boycott these appeals but we also tried to make sure that everyone knew why. We chained ourselves to the railings outside TV stations, we leafleted and a few intrepid souls even managed to gate-crash televised events to publicise our cause. "Piss on pity", "Rights not charity", "Nothing about us without us" were bold new statements way back then.
We all know what Mr Wogan and his cronies did. They ignored us and have pretty much continued as if nothing had happened. Lenny Henry and the other, original Comic Relief organisers, however, started up a dialogue with us and asked what they were doing wrong. They listened when we explained and took our criticisms on the chin.
From this small step many of us began working with Comic Relief (arguably the ONLY such charity to have agreed to work with disabled people on our own terms). Some of the results have been the increased involvement of disabled people in the organisation, funding being directed towards organisations "of" rather than "for" disabled people and changing the "tragic but brave" stereotype that so damages our struggle for equality and full citizenship. (And it became an approach they've used with other groups they support, too.)
Those of us who are really long in the tooth will remember that landmark training resource "Altogether Better" which was so vital to disability equality/disability action training throughout the 1990s and beyond. Perhaps for the first time, it enabled Deaf and disabled people of all ages to tell our own story through the video clips and materials it brought together and it tackled some highly controversial issues head on. Who funded it? Well, Comic Relief actually.
So please guys, hammer Cameron and his cowboys as much as you can. I'm with you on that. But don't risk sabotaging probably the only organisation of this type which, in my opinion, has worked hard to take our issues on board and provided a level playing field for us all to operate together on.
Thanks for listening. Rant over (for now!).
One of the main problems affecting many disabled people at the moment is a lack of income. And, as a result, a reduction in the ability to make those choices that affect the quality of our lives.
Until recently, many disabled people earned a reasonable income from providing professional services to organisations which provided disability equality training for their workforce, as part of complying with their legal obligations in relation to employment and providing services. But recently this, and other equality training, seems to have slid right down to the bottom of the agenda - if not off the agenda completely.
Crippen the cynic believes that this is all part and parcel of the present government's efforts to undermine our status as equal citizens in society. First, they labelled us all benefit scroungers and a burden on society. Then this gave them licence to go ahead with their cuts in support services, giving a bit of encouragement along the way to those charities that claim to represent disabled people. So this - among their many other evil acts - has resulted in a reduction in funding everywhere and signposts a one-way route into residential care for many of us.
Many disabled people spent several decades wrestling disability action and equality training away from the "simulationists". Those were (and alas still are) largely non-disabled people, who think that making people wear a blindfold for 5 minutes enables trainees to understand what it is like to have a visual impairment or sending people out into the high street in a wheelchair shows trainees just how brave it is to tackle life on wheels. Having slogged to make disability equality training more meaningful, apparently now our skills are no longer recognised as valid or having any value.
Apart, that is, in those organisations which seem to have revived the old tradition of inviting a disabled people to come in and talk about their own experiences, providing them with a cup of tea and a sticky bun for their trouble.
So if you are one of those crips providing your services for free, could I just remind you that it took years of hard graft to establish our role as professional disabled people in the field of equality training. The last thing that we need is for our disabled brothers and sisters to undermine us in this role and to devalue the importance of this work.
It also goes without saying that we need to earn a living and be in a position to fight against those right wing bigots who don't want us to have any part in their Big Society!
Do government ministers need disability equality training?
"Do government ministers need disability equality training?" That was the question asked by a member of the public at an all party parliamentary group on disability earlier this week. It's surely a sign of how disabled people's trust in the government agenda around this issue has broken down that someone even felt it appropriate to ask this question - even if it was slightly facetious!
Lord Freud, minister for state for welfare reform, was present to discuss the government's benefit reform agenda with MPs and members of the public. Apparently, according to people at the meeting Lord Freud didn't seem to appreciate that ESA was aimed almost solely at disabled people and that Contributory ESA is only open to disabled people when he insisted that disabled people would be protected against these changes. This apparently caused several people to ask if he fully understood the issues?!
Vern Pitt, equalities journalist commented: "There are elements of disability benefit reforms which are sensible and easy for disabled people and the sector to get behind. No one would argue the form for disability living allowance should remain huge and complex, or that there needs to be better employment support for disabled people.
"But the way the government has handled it, in a rather blunt manner (often pandering to the right wing press' depiction of those on benefits as scroungers), has made it untenable for most to get behind these aims."
Disability Alliance, the disability organisation which focuses on benefits, was quick to point out that the consultation on disability living allowance reform is only running for nine weeks, not the usual 12. It is measures like this that make disabled people rightly suspicious of the motives for change.
Vern added: "All the little things add up. The lack of information, the lack of consultation and the subsequent lack of clarity are making it hard to find a solution that both the government and service users can support. Worse still it's clearly beginning to make disabled people question if the government even know what disabled peoples lives are really like!"
Commenting to me by email, disabled activist Alan Wheatley told me: " As a lifelong disabled person, I have long suspected that those who give the order have no idea what my life (as a disabled person)is like."
You're not the only one Alan!
Rumours have been circulating about a TV programme that would enable celebrities to aquire an impairment for a week in order to see what it's like to be disabled (I kid you not!).
It now turns out that the former Mrs McCartney, Heather Mills is working on such a programme although she has refused to say which broadcast company it is with or when it will be aired.
She has said however that she wants to get people like tv presenter Eamonn Holmes to spend a week in a wheelchair to see what it's like to live with a disability: "You would have to be looked after and pushed around by your wife,” she told him on his early morning show.
She added: "We would also get a chef like Gordon Ramsay, blindfold him, and put him in the kitchen for a week."
I thought we'd progressed beyond this type of disability 'awareness' theme and that if anything, the tv companies would realise the importance of portraying real Disabled people encountering real barriers within society.
As we've said many times before, this equates to a white person putting on black grease paint and being expected to suddenly develope an insight into the oppression faced by black people within our community. It just doesn't work that way!
Perhaps Ms Mills would benefit from attending a disability equality training session, run by Disabled trainers and learn something about the social model understanding of disability. Only then will she understand that this type of programme only re-enforces the negative stereotypes of disability and adds to the ignorance that results in the discrimination that we face every day.