Like hundreds of other disabled people in the UK today, Adam Lotun has experienced verbal and physical abuse, has been spat at, pushed off the pavement in his wheelchair into oncoming traffic and accused of single handedly bringing this Country to the brink of bankruptcy by claiming disability benefits.
Now on top of this, like thousands of other disabled people in the UK, Adam has been subjected to the ATOS work capability process and as a result has had his benefits cut and his accessible Motability vehicle taken away.
However, unlike most of his disabled peers who have been left feeling disempowered by the heartless actions of the coalition government, Adam Lotun has decided to make a public statement and say "no more".
Taking his fight straight into the enemy camp, Adam is standing as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Corby By-Election on Nov 15th 2012. His aim is to show that the age of the career politician with their selfish, self promoting attitudes has ended and that the caring and compassionate society that he was brought up to believe in still exists.
Speaking in his Blog, Adam argues that today's politicians have lost their way and no longer care about those very people that they are supposed to represent.
"I'm arguing against injustices by those in power ... it is no longer acceptable that the 1% should be ruling over the 99% ... that Parliament needs to be reformed so that we can secure a future for my children and future generations."
Adam has been working with other disabled people to achieve disabled people's rights and equality for over 20 years. He has played a leading role in recent direct action initiatives, chaining himself to other wheelchair users in attempts to block roads and raise awareness of the damage resulting from cuts to disability benefits.
During this time he has heard many examples of discrimination and injustice, but the stories that are emerging from those disabled people who are being abused by the ATOS work capability process are causing him the most concern.
In his latest blog Adam comments on a recent CH4 television news item that focussed on one example of just how badly disabled people are being treated by this system.
"I have heard of a great many injustices to disabled people and have often taken up the fight with them to redress their wrongs ... but I have never witnessed anything so deliberate as to lead to the tragic and needless death of the disabled person upon who the CH4 news item was based ... it left me feeling sick to my stomach."
This particular news item has become a clarion call for Adam and those other disabled people who are working with him towards winning the Corby By-Election. Adam feels confident that the people of Corby will turn out in force to elect him as their parliamentary candidate, influenced by the support that he is receiving from across the country by the disabled community.
He added: "I know that the people of Corby believe that all of my supporters from around the UK who have offered their time, support and resources to enable me to represent them, will continue to assist us in our fight for true democracy.
"That they now have friends from as far afield as John O'Groats to Lands End who will have their hopes pinned on the people of Corby to make a stand against those outdates ideas that have led this country into the state it is."
They will do this by putting Adam forward as their choice to represent their community on the 15th November 2012.
If you feel able to spare time to assist Adam in his fight for parliamentary recognition then please contact him by clicking on this link to his blog. Any and all offers of help will be gratefully recieved, not just by him but by the people of Corby.
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!
A non-disabled friend of mine expressed suprise that not only was I unwilling to help him ensure that assisted suicide would be made fully accessible to disabled people, but that I was also very much against the idea of assisted suicide being made legal in the first place!
Recently retired from a life in the medical profession, John is now serving in a voluntary capacity on a panel set up to address the issue of making assisted suicide legal. In his - in other areas commendable - awareness of disability equality he wanted to make sure that assisted suicide would be equally accessible to disabled people and he wondered if I would be able to help him think through some of the associated issues.
It became clear as I started to explain my position on this subject, that he hadn't considered there would be people vehemently opposed to the whole concept of helping someone commit suicide. His rational medical mind had seen it purely as a way of helping people who were too ill to continue living, and who had made a decision when they'd been able to do so, to obtain assistance to end their life in a dignified and peaceful manner.
Part of his argument was that it was something that was already happening; doctors and other medical staff assisting a patient to end there life by witholding treatment or by increasing the dosage of pain killers. Making it legal would mean that there would be controls put into place and that medical professionals wouldn't be able to randomly end someone's life as they saw fit.
I started to explain that disabled people in particular were adamantly opposed to assisted suicide becoming legal because this would inevitably mean that a medical professional would have the power of life or death over a disabled patient, and that it would inevitably lead to pressure - however subtle - being put on people who felt that they were becoming a "burden".
I told John about disabled activist Jane Campbell, in the forefront of the 'Not Dead Yet' campaign who had woken in a hospital bed to hear a doctor discussing whether or not they should place a 'do not resuscitate' notice in her medical notes. And this had taken place without any prior discussion between Jane or her family ...
He replied that this was exactly why legislation was needed. If there was a legal framework around such medical intervention, Jane would have had to have been consulted before any discussion about this took place. I pointed out to him that current legislation already protected Jane's rights in this way and that by making assisted suicide legal this could undermine those rights.
My medical friend - a good, thoughtful and thorough man - was none the less unaware of the groups of disabled people who were campaigning against legislation or of the arguments that we are putting forward against it. From listening to him it seemed that the panel had proceeded with the assumption that making assisted suicide legal was not only a positive thing but was also in the best interests of everybody. I think he was suprised to learn that there were so many people against the idea, despite the recent 'End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill' by Margo Macdonald suffering an overwhelming defeat by a 85-16 margin last November because MSPs were convinced that its ‘safeguards’ were not safe.
I concluded our discussion by suggesting that perhaps people would not see assisted suicide as the only option if support services for people at all stages of their lives (and death) were adequate and appropriate.
I've offered to give my friend some information compiled by disabled people who are against legislation being passed and to provide him with the contact details of those people who would be prepared to discuss the issues with him. If you have something to say on the subject, please leave your comment in the following section and I'll make sure that it is forwarded. Thanks.
There are currently several other sites covering this subject. Here are the links for a few of these.
Click here for the Scope article
Click here for the 'Not Dead Yet' article
Click here for the Disabled People Fight Back blog
Click here for the Face Book page for Mental Health & the Wider Disabled People's Movement
Click here for the London School of Economics blog
A non-disabled heavy metal fan seems to have met his match when stumbling into a debate being currently aired on the Pesky People blog.
Having tried to establish just what arrangements had been made for access to the 13 venues that would be hosting a tribute to Heavy Metal music, our disabled sister Alison ran into a brick wall. Not literally, you understand, but an equally effective wall of silence from the organisors.
In the end, the only response that she did get was that she should check out each of the venues herself in order to establish just how accessible they were. Apart from the impracticality of her travelling around Birmingham and the West Midlands in order to see which venue she would be able to access, the response fell somewhat short of the legislation laid down in the Disability Discrimination Act (1996) and the Equalities Act (2010) regarding access to such venues – both acts clearly state that any service must make reasonable adjustments to make their service accessible and that any service must anticipate what those needs might be.
Enter our non-disabled Heavy Metal fan who thought that not only was Alison's request unreasonable but was in some way antagonistic! Had she not considered the feelings of the event organisors when posting about this ommission from their programme? How dare she?! He then went on to compound the situation by suggesting that Alison was being a Dick!
Bring it on my son... Needless to say quite a few fellow crips have jumped in with responses, including yours truly. But then I though, hang on, we should all have access to this debate, so I'm posting the link to the blog here and suggesting that you all join in! His name is Pete Ashton by the way ...
To join in the debate to access Pesky People's blog site please click here. It's worth taking the time to read the comments from the top down to the latest one in order to get the full picture.
So, over to you gentle readers. : -)
I was recently privileged to see Liz Carr make a brilliant, gutsy speech at the People's Convention on 12th February 2011. She spoke from the heart on behalf of every disabled person facing the uncaring attitude of this government. I'd like to share it with you...
"Thank you … I can only dream of being on the platform. One day … One day we’ll make it" (this was due to the fact that Liz was relegated as a disabled speaker to the area in front of the stage - the stage, as usual being inaccessible!).
"Disabled people make up 20% of the population. That’s a conservative estimate. We are hidden impairments, we are visible, we are old, we are gay, we are lesbian, we are black, we are white, we are all sorts of people, that’s who we are.
But what we are not is… We are not victims. We are not scroungers or frauds. We are not vulnerable or work shy. We are not charity cases or burdens or ‘unsustainables’ or useless eaters. We are fighters, survivors, leaders, comrades, brothers & sisters in arms, campaigners, citizens and equals.
This, like for many of us, is not a new struggle. Our history is littered with disabled people being scapegoated, demonaised, discriminated against and oppressed. It is also a history of disabled people fighting back against this.
From the League of the Blind who unionised in the 19th Century to fight for their rights, to the war veterans who marched on Whitehall for the jobs and respect they were due, to disabled people fighting to escape residential care in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s forming the Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation, to those of us in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s who chained ourselves to buses to secure equality in public transport and in law … We have been here before.
However, we are faced with a horrific onslaught of attacks from all directions. The cuts that we’re all talking about today, we encounter those cuts too – whether it’s the increase in VAT, privatization of our basic services, of the NHS, of cuts effecting the public sector – we experience them too as disabled people but on top of that we’re having our benefits whipped from us, we’re being assessed by ATOS. People in care homes are having the mobility component of their DLA (Disability Living Allowance) removed. We’re being charged for the basic right to have a wee, our Independent Living Fund money that allows us to be independent within the community is being removed in 4 years time, Incapacity Benefit is being scrapped and replaced by the unforgiving ESA (Employment Support Allowance), on top of that there is hate crime, limits to housing benefit, Access to Work, to transport and if we want to challenge it, to Legal Aid too. That’s fucked as well.
Disabled people are living in fear. We are living in poverty. We are going to be living in the Dark Ages where they decide between the deserving and the undeserving poor. But, we will not let this happen. Because through our history, what we have learnt is that the media, the policy makers and the Government will try to separate us into our different groups. They will try to weaken us. They will try and make us compete against each other for whatever crumbs are on offer, fighting amongst ourselves, individualizing this struggle, dividing us so that they may conquer and change the balance of society in favour of financial capital rather than social capital and equality. That’s what happening. We cannot afford to let this happen.
We are fighting for our lives, for our freedom, for our existence. That’s how important it is to disabled people and for everybody here today. It is about our basic liberty, our basic right to life. We will not be hidden away. We will not be hidden away behind close doors, out of sight out of mind, in our homes or institutions.
We will not settle for charity rather than rights. We will not be forgotten. We will not be silenced. We must mobilise and in doing so not forget those who cannot take to the streets in protest but who can through virtual protesting.
We must politicise. We must educate ourselves and others in what’s happening in our own and wider campaigns. We have to radicalise. This is about revolution not reformation anymore. We must unite. As disabled people, as disabled people and allies, as everyone - we must unite. Together we are stronger. Thank you."