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 things I enjoy about being part of the Disability Arts on Line (DAO) family is that it provides for me a unique platform on which I can present my more adventurous cartoons.
Take the Criptarts for example. I haven't a clue where it's going each week and the end result is usually more of a surprise to me than to you. Of course I've got a rough outline in my mind for each episode, but it's as though the characters come alive once I've started to lay them out in the strip and they just take over.
You've only got to look at the last but one episode for an example. I'd decided to make some sort of comment about the heavy snow we'd been experiencing. I'd got a story-line mapped out and was pretty sure where it was going when Bonk, the self-defined 'nutter' with the purple spiky hair, suddenly jumped in with his joke. Just as I was about to make some serious comment about reduced access. As Aadila said: "Gross!"
You can go to the episode by clicking here.
And last week. Inspired by Liz Carr's performance as Clarissa Mullery on Silent Witness, I'd decided to 'guest' her on the strip. But what happens? The characters take over again and use it as an opportunity to take a poke at the government!
Click here and you'll see what I mean.
It was the same when I invited Penny Pepper onto the strip. I still haven't got the felt tip off the laptop!
Click here ...
So as the strip continues, be prepared for further undisciplined behaviour from Bonk, Liz, Aadila, Ben, Ranj, Val, and their guests. I will try and exercise some editorial control, but as Colin Hambrook, DAO Editor, knows from past experience (especially with me!), I don't hold out much hope!
Living on an island we could be forgiven for thinking that the harsh cuts that are being inflicted on us Crips in the UK are unique and out of step with the rest of Europe.
Listening to disabled people in France, Greece and especially Spain, we hear that the exact same policies of cuts to benefits and services, along with an orchestrated move to get us all back into institutions, is taking place throughout Europe.
Thousands of disabled people rallied in Madrid last week to protest against a €60 billion cut in spending. Similiarly to the UK, many of these cuts have been targeted at the disability community.
Speaking on Spanish television, Luis Cayo, president of Spain's Committee of Representatives of People with Disabilities who have over 4 million members, said:
"This is an historic day. Disabled people [in Spain] have never taken to the streets before!"
Another protester Ricardo de Lugo told a BBC reporter:
"This is our cry for help. They are taking away our aid which has taken us many years to achieve ... why are they doing this to us?"
Alberto Alvarez, a disabled activist from Barcelona told reporters:
"It is as if this is part of a big move to get us all off the streets and back into the institutions that many of us were forced to live in. They think that by allowing the blind to work on the streets with their lottery that this is sufficient. We are here to tell them that it is not!"
With this amount of concentrated activity across Europe aimed at disabled people one wonders why there's not a pan European disabled people's organisation taking the lead in these protests. Why are we not sharing our resources and our expertise with other disabled people across the length and breadth of Europe, people who are being threatened by their governments in the same way that we are?
The right wing strategy of 'divide and conquer' has never needed to be challenged more than now.
We can only do this effectively by working in solidarity together.
Solidarity - Solidaridad - Solidarité - Solidarität - Solidariedade - αλληλεγγύη - Solidarność - Solidaritat
This week I’ve handed my blog spot over to an artist whose medium is being creative with the airways.
Her name is Merry Cross who, apart from being a presenter on Reading community radio, is also well known as a disabled activist and one of the organisors of the Berkshire Disabled People Against Cuts movement.
Here’s her contribution:
Community Radio for disabled presenters
"Years ago, it struck me that radio is an ideal medium for virtually all disabled people, except obviously you Deafies!* I even drew up schedules for an entire radio station devoted to our issues, and tried, naively to float it (it sank without trace).
But then the internet and community radio stations came along and I leapt at the chance of a weekly show on Reading’s ‘Make Yourself Heard’ - blissfully unaware of how much work it would be! But I’m so glad I did it, because not only can it publicise local issues and give local Crips a voice, there’s nothing to stop it covering national issues too. And then there’s nothing to stop English speaking people from all over the world contributing or hearing it!
Also, not being part of a posh outfit run for profit by a bureaucracy, there is no pressure to support the status quo. FREEDOM! What’s more I’ve found some hugely supportive people through it, and formed many new relationships.
So, whilst I’d quite like never to have any competition (!) I’d recommend daring to take the step to anyone.
And of course there are some other disabled people doing radio shows, with 'Alan Commonly Known as Maglite' trying out Skype as his prefered medium. So I’ll just have to keep upping my game!
*And it’s finally dawned on me that I could at least make the scripts available on request, to make it somewhat accessible to Deafies."
You can find out more about Merry and her work with Reading community radio by clicking on this link.
It is being stated that physical and sexual abuse has been prevalent within mental hospitals, disability institutions and care establishments throughout the UK for the past 50 years. Many of the incidents that were reported were allegedly ignored, either because the resident or patient was not believed or because it was not considered in the 'best interest' of the care community to make such allegations public.
Now we have a growing list of statements made by people who were institutionalised during this time who claim that they were also abused, not just by staff, but also by well know public figures, including the late TV celebrity Jimmy Saville.
Lynn Harrison who facilitates a FaceBook group of people with experience as a user of the mental health system told me: "Speaking with many other disabled people who have come up through the care system, they tell me that this represents the tip of a very large iceberg which has seen vulnerable people, particularly those with mental health diagnoses, learning difficulties and other impairments, being abused in many ways for far too long by organisations that have professed to protect them.
"This scandal has also highlighted the prevalence of vulnerable people being disbelieved and ignored in the past when they have been brave enough to try to speak out."
For too long the establishment has worked hard at maintaining the status quo that disabled people should be seen and not heard. They tell us through their words and actions that our complaints are not valid and we should be grateful to those organisations who have taken it on themselves to offer us both a home and the care which we need; we should be grateful, even when the people involved in these organisations physically and sexually abuse us.
In a climate where this government seem determined to push us all back into care, we say ENOUGH!
I've had several messages concerning limited access to the forthcoming Paralympics. For the most part it's been about poor information provision but other issues are now coming to light, one of which seems to involve a strange interpretation of PA support.
A disabled mum of two, along with her husband decided that they would like to go to the Paralympics. Well, here's her story ...
"The London 2012 Olympic Games were brilliant. My family - particularly my two children - loved it. I decided I wanted to take them to the Paralympic Games to sample the once in a lifetime showcase of disabled sport in London.
"I'm a wheelchair user, with a four-year-old autistic son and a nineteen-month-old daughter. Naturally we wanted to sit together and, particularly as it’s the Paralympics, I assumed there would be adequate provision to allow for this.
"So I was stunned to hear that there was no way that this could happen as there is a policy that wheelchair users can only be accompanied by one other person, meaning that either my children or my husband have to sit far away from me.
"I cannot believe that this event, designed to inspire a new generation of athletes, has a discriminatory ticketing policy. It's essential that my husband sits with me as he helps me with things I need to do and clearly my kids can't sit separately.
"Aside from these practical considerations, I want to share this special occasion with my family, but I'm being prevented from doing so just because I use a wheelchair.
"Please join my campaign to get the organisers of the Paralympics to change this ticketing policy for these and future Games - so every family can share the Paralympics together. Thank you, Beth."
Beth has started a petition on Change.org calling on London 2012 to review this policy. Please click here to join her.
A further development has come to light regarding additional discrimination against disabled people who wish to attend the Paralympics. Click here to access the article.
Why is it that the companies that Cameron and his cronies pay to handle such diverse matters as the Direct Payments Scheme (A4E) and now the stewarding of the Olympic Games (G4S), when they foul up, they get let off with little more than a slapped wrist?
Nothing about Breach of Contract, Penalty Clauses, or being made to give back the millions that they've been paid! No, the British tax payer coughs up yet again and we bail out yet another balls-up!
But what about all of the pieces that are left laying around after each 'jobs for the boys' project fouls up? Here we have the biggest corporate ... sorry I mean 'sports' event ever to take place within the UK and we're now told that there's insufficient people to actually steward it.
Rest assurred, Cameron is sure to have something up his sleeve to overcome this slight set-back ...
Last week at the Shape media conference I had the pleasure of meeting Kristina Veasey. She has taken part in two Paralympics and talked about her own experiences competing as a disabled athlete.
For most of us non-athletic Crips, and in particular those of us involved in disability arts, the world of the Paralympian seems remote to say the least. We see them as single minded Super Crips with no interest or involvement in disability politics and protest. What we do hear about are those sporty wheelchair users with amazing upper body strength telling non-disabled people that they don't need ramps!
The media love them as well, providing photo opportunities of 'good' disabled people (as opposed to 'bad' disabled people who are scrounging on disability benefit and can't be arsed to find a job!).
All this media hype of course goes to reinforce the stereotypes of disability that Mr and Mrs Jo Public know and love. The acceptable face of disability versus the unacceptable.
But having chatted to Kristina after her talk, I learned a few things. For example did you know that all Paralympians have to sign a contract that specifically prohibits them from taking part in any political protest during the duration of the games?
This means that if they did protest for the duration of the games, (against ATOS for example) they would have sacrificed years of training and would have to return any medals that they had won.
But some paralympians find ways around the system. For example Kristina told me that was why, as a retired paralympian, she became Amnesty International's paralympic ambassador during the Beijing games - "so I could give voice to protest."
Perhaps between us all - paralympians, activists, disabled artists - we could start to tear down the wall that the media & society have erected and start working together.
As ever the challenge is to be able to communicate more openly with each other and to be prepared to let go of those unhelpful stereotypes. I include myself in this as a veteran of creating and maintaining some of these stereotypes. My exchange with Kristina was a kick in my assumptions which I found very helpful and thought provoking.
Perhaps all disabled people, all working together could create a power base strong enough to bring this government and their draconian measures to a shuddering halt.
We can but hope.
BTW if you do have tickets for Paralympic events you may be asked to participate in an on-line survey. Why not use this opportunity to voice some of our concerns about the dichotomy between the experiences of paralympians and many other disabled people. Here's your chance to comment on the gap between the portrayal of paralympic athletes and the daily struggle against barriers that most disabled people face.
The present government, seemingly run and controlled by a small clique of ex Public schoolboys, seem intent on taking us back to the 1950s where people did what they were told, without question. And the alarming thing is that this tactic seems to be working!
Let's just look at what has been happening with regard to Disabled people. Seemingly overnight the ConDems have managed to reverse the process in which society was begining to view us in a more positive framework.
People were beginning to accept and support our right to accessible housing, accessible transport, access to mainstream education, etc., and also the right to represent ourselves, rather than be beholden to the big charities whose main preoccupation seemed to be to keep a lot of non-disabled 'disability professionals' in work.
The view that we were helpless, pathetic creatures who needed to be cared for and detained within 'special' institutions - basically kept off the streets - was also slowly changing thanks to the pioneering work undertaken by disabled activists and academics over the past 60 years or so.
We'd started to succesfully challenge the negative stereotypes of disability that were portrayed on television and in the cinema and also encouraged some of the media to write about us in a more positive framework. Slow work and constant hard graft, but we were getting there.
But, in the short time that this lot have been in power, they've managed to reverse much of the progess we've been making. They have been sabotaging many of the tools we had aquired for creating our independence, encouraged the press to portray us as benefits scroungers and a drain upon society, and effectively set us back some 50 years. And what's even worse, is that the general public are falling for it all!
But are we down hearted? Too blooming right we are! So what are we doing about it?
I'd be interested to hear ...
I have also reopened my Crippen Cartooning Blog in conjunction with this blog on DisabilityArtsOnline web journal.
Non-disabled people are warned not to visit this other blog if they are of a delicate and sensitive disposition.
Like my work on this blog, all my cartoons have text description inbuilt. Just click on the cartoon to bring it up.
You can view Crippen's Cartoon Blog by clicking here
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!
Well, it's all been happening whilst I've been away. Apart from such regulars as young Dolly, Joe Mc, Tanya and Ms. Pepper, a quick glance at the DAO blog lists brings up a host of fresh names. But are they what they appear to be?
Take for example Rich Downes. Obviously a pseudonym (and I see he's done the reverse of what I do and has used a picture of a much older man in order to establish more credibility). I actually have it on good authority that he's only allowed out after 7pm with a note from his mum!
But he is a good writer. Take for example his latest blog. I don't know if Rich invented the term 'chugger' but it fits so well doesn't it? Those muppets who dress up like idiots and solicit money from punters outside of shops and supermarkets.
Their collecting bucket usually has some vague reference to 'the handicapped' or one of the big charities like Scope, or Blind Dogs for the Guides! (Read Rich's blog - he puts it far more eloquantly than I can).
So, as my re-entry into DAO blog land, and in support of those young contributers like Rich, I thought I'd resurrect and old favourite, the ultimates chugger 'Captain Pratt', getting it wrong yet again!
It also ties in quite nicely with my last blog about the A4e debacle (see Sept 2011) which is still going on. Apparently Margaret Hodge (Ed: Bless her!) has told the coalition that they got it wrong when they took away the Direct payments contracts from disabled people led groups and gave it all to A4e. Not the only thing they've got wrong eh!?