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
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.
I found this article in the Guardian archives which may have some relevance to the forthcoming Paralympics and the proposed ATOS protests.
Back in 2008 the British Olympic Association (BOA) said it would review its athletes' contract for the Beijing Games after criticism of a clause which had prevented competitors from making political statements in China.
The clause, which appeared to go beyond the requirements of the Olympic charter, will be softened although athletes who engage in overt political demonstrations or statements could still risk being sent home.
Simon Clegg, the BOA's chief executive, said: "I accept that the interpretation of one part of the draft BOA team members' agreement appears to have gone beyond the provision of the Olympic charter; this is not our intention, nor is it our desire to restrict athletes' freedom of speech ..."
"This clause is intended to stop overt statements such as wearing a Free Tibet shirt," said a BOA spokesman.
The games have long provided a political stage, from the Nazis' appropriation of the 1936 games to Tommie Smith's Human Right's salute in Mexico in 1968.
The then shadow culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said Britain's athletes should be allowed to "say what they want". The Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, said: "[It is] our moral responsibility to push for human rights wherever they are being abused."
I understand that this clause still stands, which means that any disabled athlete joining in the ATOS protests may face censure.
But think of the publicity that this would generate for the cause of Human Rights for disabled people in this country. Worth a slap on the wrist I would have thought.
So, are their any Paralympians out there willing to make such a statement on behalf of their disabled brothers and sisters ... ?
I didn't think so!
You can read the full Guardian article by clicking here
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 ...
Why we need a NEW 'Disabled People's Resistance Movement' by Bob Williams-Findley.
"We have campaign groups like Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Black Triangle (BT), and I'm aware of the effort that is going into what disabled people are doing right now, but I believe we need to have a visible "resistance movement" which brings all the strands together in a 'Rock Against Racism' style approach.
"This doesn't need to be organised in the traditional Disabled People's Organisations style; our central drive has to be to gather support for disabled people in face of the savage attacks that are falling upon us.
"This 'movement' needs to be militant, visible, and extremely challenging - I agree with linking with UK Uncut and employing direct action methods to get our message across - we also need to use other media and alternative forms of protest too. Working with non-disabled people will be essential.
"Duncan Smith has demonstrated that the Government has a 'kill or exploit' policy which is creeping nearer and nearer to the Nazis' T4 programme. Our lives ARE at risk; it's no longer about being excluded or marginalised and offered inadequate services - the fact IDS used the word "fester" transforms the landscape - people with impairments are now viewed as "a sickness" - the same type of landscape the Nazis created for the Jews and other 'unacceptable groups'.
"No doubt he'll claim he used "fester" to mean 'left without support', but we know that this is bollocks because the Government like all of those before them maintain our social oppression. The mask has slipped, finally the ruling elite reveal their resentment and contempt for the "ABNORMAL, CRIPPLES and FREAKS" who have been burdensome due to the Welfare State. The knives are out; they ARE out to get us!
"We MUST mount a resistance, fighting cuts and oppressive policies, is not enough in relation to this ideological onslaught - it is a State run 'hate campaign' and more and more disabled people will die.
"I'm not going over the top or being alarmist, this is a measured political analysis of our current situation. Me simply putting out a "call to arms" will achieve nothing in itself; what is required is for disabled people, especially activists, to come together to shape our destiny - unless there is a genuine effort made to build a resistance movement, many of us will not have a future."
Bob Williams-Findley is well known within the disabled people's movement both as an academic and an activist. Please leave your responses to Bob's article within the comments section of this blog. Thankyou.
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 ...
Having been out of things for most of the last 12 months I was saddened to hear that the political activist and god-father of the disabled people's movement Vic Finkelstein had recently died aged 73.
Originally deported from South Africa in the 60's for his support of the anti-apartheid movement, Vic was the main architect of 'The Fundamental Principles of Disability', published in 1975, which argued that the problems faced by disabled people were caused by society's failure to take account of their needs, not by their impairments.
In 1972 when Paul Hunt wrote his now famous letter to the Guardian, calling for a radical new disability organisation to be formed, Vic eagerly got involved along with other politically active disabled people in the UK.
It was the resulting organisation, called the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation, that published 'The Fundamental Principles of Disability'. Not only was Vic a key participant in the discussions that produced this document, but he was the main drafter of it.
He was also prominent in setting up the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People in 1981 and became its first chair. In the same year he represented Britain at the first world congress, established by Disabled Peoples' International.
'To deny or not to deny disability' by Vic Finkelsteinhas been hugely influential to countless numbers of both disabled and non disabled people new to the Social Model. Both simple and profound, it shows how that it is society that creates the barriers, and not our ‘defective’ minds and bodies, as the Medical Model would have us believe.
Vic was also instrumental in setting up the first Open University Disability Study courses, working with Colin Barnes and others at Leeds University.
My own memories of Vic are based around the comments he used to send me whenever one of my cartoons had caught his attention. Not one to mince words was our Vic and I learned a lot from him in this way. He'll be sadly missed.
The Guardian's obituary of Vic, by Mike Oliver, can be found by clicking on this link.
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!?
According to documents obtained by the Guardian newspaper, Cameron’s senior adviser on troubled families has set up a new partnership to bid for work under a programme to get 120,000 households into work. A programme that she helped create!
Emma Harrison, the multimillionaire founder of private welfare company A4e, was appointed the “families champion” last December. The prime minister singled her out in a key post-riot speech last month, saying she had “develop[ed] a plan to help get these families on track”.
She's already on public record as having stated that, for her to make any money from the scheme would be at the least a “conflict of interest”.
Harrison told the Guardian she withdrew from bidding when the government announced the first tranche of contracts, worth £200m, in February. She said she had accepted the unpaid role but had been “shocked” to learn there would be hundreds of millions of pounds in funding.
“Chris Grayling [the welfare minister] told me he had got £200m. It was a bit of a shock … I thought: ‘Oh crikey, that makes me feel a bit awkward. We will have to withdraw [from the bidding].’”
But documents sent to private firms who did bid for the work reveal that Harrison’s company had set up in January a “partnership” called Families Unlimited, with (wait for it) a former civil servant who until this year was running the Department for Education’s “support services for families with multiple needs”, to pitch for the cash ... so apparently she wasn't really feeling THAT awkward!
Families Unlimited offered to execute the work won by “prime contractors” for a fee. In blunt language, the documents say that “A4e will not bid as a prime contractor … due to a conflict of interest arising from the work of its founder and chairman, Emma Harrison, through the Working Families Everywhere initiative. However, DWP [the Department for Work and Pensions] have advised that no conflict arises where A4e is acting as a subcontractor.”
If I remember right, wasn't A4e the company that took the 'direct payments' contract away from the East Sussex Disability Association (ESDA)?!
Talk about jobs for the boys ... and girls!
It strikes me as strange that this government haven't safe-guarded themselves by keeping the police forces around the country happy.
As more and more people take to the streets in protest against the ConDem's slash and burn tactics, I would have thought that they are going to need the boys and girls in blue to maintain public order and keep party members safe. But with the various police forces up and down the country being faced with their own cuts, there's now a strong possiblity that some police officers will be joining in the protests.
I suspect that this government would initially react by playing one force off against another - having the Met control a protest march by the Yorkshire Constabulary for example. Although apart from adding further to the North-South divide if they did do this, I think it would allow for the more anarchistic elements of protest to exploit this and capitalise on the divisions created. Not something that Mr C and his cronies would want I suspect!
History has shown us that in this sort of situation governments start to manipulate information, creating an atmosphere of fear that allows for new 'emergency' measurers to be implemented. New laws are rushed through that allow for people's civil rights to be ignored or crushed under foot by those seeking to establish scapegoats for the situation that the country finds itself in ... seem familiar?!
Let's hope that there's a whistle blower in government who is keeping watch for those signs of yet more political control appearing. Bulk orders for jack boots and black uniform material, the building of accessible internment camps to house those of us who are deemed too dangerous to be at large. It wouldn't really suprise me as to what lengths the present government will go in order to recreate society in its own distorted image.
Keep a careful watch brothers and sisters. It's not a big step for us to be branded tomorrow's terrorists if this government has its way.
As many of us will know, being a disabled artist and not allied to any group or organisation, it has always been extremely difficult to obtain funding. And those of us who produce work that has an overt political edge are even more handicapped (sic) by the funding system.
That's not to say that groups and organisations of disabled people who have applied for funding have had it any easier. For example I'm aware that our esteemed Editor Colin Hambrooke spends a large amount of his time searching for funding and then completing the endless application forms that inevitably go with this - and Disability Arts on Line (DAO) is one of our more established disability arts organisations.
And now the bloody CONDEMs, not content with slashing our benefits and support services have declared their 'Big Society'.
This involves not only the big disability charities coming back to haunt us with a vengeance (click here to see Crippen's political blog ) but also brings in the big corporations. These corporations will be encouraged to offer sponsorship to artists, including disabled artists who will be expected to compromise their art in order to obtain funding from a specific commercially oriented funder. Funding organisations like the Arts Council may well become redundant in this scenario.
And let's not forget the new funding process called the 'National Portfolio (NP)'. This is going to change the funding landscape yet again as the system of having Regularly Funded Organisations (RFO) is overturned. As usual most of the funding will probably go to organisations like the Royal Opera House (ROH). The subsidy on bums on seats at the ROH exceeds any other subsidy for the arts. So the toffs are being subsidised at everyone else's expense ... what a suprise!
Cartoon in the pipeline re the National Portfolio ... watch this space!
A Day of Mourning for the Welfare State, Justice and Equality has been arranged to co-incide with the royal wedding on Friday 29th April, 2011 at 1400 hrs. This is just one of the expressions of outrage being expressed by people effected by the cuts to education, housing, public transport, the NHS, the Welfare State and much more.
Whilst bankers and speculators celebrate another year of profit and Tory and LibDem politicians congratulate themselves on having continued to fool the vast majority of the public, students and school children, teachers and lecturers, trades unionists, disabled activists, mums and dads, grandparents, NHS staff, public transport workers, Local Government workers, etc., all continue to unite their voices in protest.
Disabled people are also taking to the streets like never before, fighting back against the claims that they are responsible for the state that the country is in by fraudulantly claiming benefits that they are not entitled to. Scapegoated once again by a government determined to distract people away from where the blame really lies. Which is why they view this royal wedding as such a good thing - more televised opiate for the masses!
Regular Crips, who used to look at Disabled activists as a different species altogether are now joining with us to protest against the unfairness of the government's slash and burn tactics. We need this new energy that these newcomers are bringing to the fight. Many of us, having been protesting and fighting for Civil Rights for more years than we care to remember welcome this infusion of new blood.
Unfortunately though, not all protesters see things this way. Although united in their stand against the ConDem's devisive policies, many non-disabled protesters still don't understand that Disabled people have just as much right to protest as they do. This has manifested itself in inaccessible venues being chosen for protest meetings, no provision being made to allow us to transcribe information into alternative formats, no accessible transport being arranged to travel with others to different areas of the country, etc.
If anything, we have more right to be on the front lines of this current period of protest. We've been the ones, albeit not receiving much coverage in the press, who have been fighting consistently against oppression in these forms since the first World War. We are the one's who, having amassed a great deal of knowledge around civil disobedience campaigns can bring a whole wealth of experience to this current fight.
We're not asking for 'special' allowances to be made, just that our right to protest with other members of society is acknowledged. Because, let's face it, this is basically what we're all protesting about anyway - the right for everyone to be treated equally, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, impairment, age or ethnicity and with full access to education, housing, health care, employment and retirement without a few fat cats siphoning off all the cream!
To all of you non-disabled protesters out there, look upon Disabled people as a resource, rich in experience and networked into thousands of other Crips all around the world.
Together we can change society into a fairer, more equal place to live.
On Tuesday 26th October 2010 at Speakers Corner, Hyde Park at 1300 hours, the campaigning group MAD PRIDE have organised a day of action to oppose welfare benefits cuts for people labelled Mentally Ill.
UK mental health service users and survivors will publicly assemble to re-enact the opening chapter of Michel Foucault´s seminal book ‘Discipline and Punishment’.
A life-size effigy of a prominent Conservative/ Liberal Democrat merger politician will be publicly executed by method of hanging, drawing and quartering, after which the remains of the body will be burnt. There will also be a variety of other visual and subliminal stunts on the day.
Speaking to one of the organisers of the demonstration, she told me that “the economic downturn caused by the irresponsibility of bankers and big business has led to the Coalition government to enact the biggest cuts in public services since the Second World War.
“Further, that instead of targeting bankers’ bonuses and rich people’s profits, they are hoping to make huge savings by attacking the welfare benefits of vulnerable people unable to work, including people with severe mental health problems.
“In particular, they would like the public to think that people with depression, anxiety disorders and other mental ‘illnesses’ are malingerers and scroungers – when in fact all of us find it a terrible day to day struggle just to get by.”
As we are now aware, in George Osborne’s recent emergency budget he has pledged to take 360,000 people off of Disability Living Allowance by 2013 – which will plunge over a third of a million vulnerable people, most of whom will have mental health problems, into dire poverty.
This will put lives at risk. Already, 6000 people are thought to have committed suicide a year in the UK, although the true figure is definitely far higher. The stress caused by the threat of welfare benefits cuts, as well as the impact of the material deprivation that will result, will undoubtedly lead to a huge increase in suicides amongst people with mental health problems – an outcome that members of MAD PRIDE and other survivor support groups wish to prevent through campaigning and giving each other one-to-one support.
Mike, another member of MAD PRIDE adds, “This is no time to cut benefits and services for people labelled mentally ill. Our numbers have swelled significantly over recent years because so many members of the armed forces have gone through two very long and desperately hard wars. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Iraq and Afghanistan, those conflicts have taken an exceptionally heavy toll on the mental health of so many of our brave troops.”
More cuts to disabled people’s benefits are promised in George Osborne’s upcoming ‘shock and awe’ spending review to take place on Wednesday 20th October. Added to cuts in housing benefits, the VAT rise, and a whole range of other austerity measures, the future looks grim for the poor and those less able to object or protest – whilst the bankers will get to keep their bonuses.
“We’re not taking this lying down!” is the united cry from survivor groups across the UK.
MAD PRIDE can now also announce that, also on 26th October 2010, there will be a Nationwide 24 hour medication strike.
All UK mental health service users will default on their psychiatric medication for one day, in protest against the coming welfare benefits cuts. Further, all UK mental health service users will not engage with any mental health services whatsoever on that day, in a bid to demonstrate the collective power of mental health system users and survivors everywhere.
Leading the recent protest rally against the proposed Government welfare cuts were a large group of Disabled people. Wearing and carrying large black triangles, they were symbolizing the murder of thousands of Disabled people during the Holocaust; their aim being to embarrass Cameron and his government, who have repeatedly insisted that the most vulnerable will be protected from the impact of the cuts.
The use of this black triangle seems to have had an impact upon the general public, journalists and other non-disabled people at the protest which indicates that we may have found a symbol with which to carry our fight on into the future.
By re-owning the Black Triangle, it could become 'the' symbol of the Disabled People's Movement, a rallying cry for us all and something which articulates our demands in a more direct and recognizable manner.
Such a simple yet powerful symbol could be the very thing that we need to bring together the disabled artists, the mental health system survivors, people with HIV and AIDS, and the Deaf communities with all of the other Disabled people in the UK. This is something that we have struggled to do until now, and the powers that be have capitalized on divisions, continue to try to separate us into impairment groups and ensuring that we just fight our individual corner.
Large corporations pay huge sums of money to image consultants and publicity specialists to come up with a symbol that the public recognizes and associates with just their company. Imagine just having to portray a Black Triangle in order for people to understand that it represents Disabled people who are working and fighting together for a just and accessible society united under the Social Model understanding and not part of the oppressive Medical or Charitable Model status quo.
I’m reminded of the immense power of the red ribbon cross adopted in support of those living with HIV and AIDS, and more recently the pink ribbon symbol which prompts us to think of those we love who live with breast cancer and those we have lost to that disease.
Envisage an MP opening an envelope in the future and a Black Triangle falls out. That is all we would need to do ... the symbolism alone would mean that we are watching him or her and expecting them to support our corner in an upcoming debate or vote. The Black Triangle could become the biggest symbol for change since the peace symbol of the 60's!
So, how about it, you articulate and feisty Crips out there? Let’s debate these issues and I promise to keep the ball rolling on this blog.
Change to original artwork following comments
Following comments regarding the use of an all black, upwards facing triangle, how about something like this (see illustration). It still retains the triangle shape but introduces a vibrant background of red with accessible white lettering depicting what it represents. What do you think ..?
Editor - You are invited to scroll down and leave your comments in the space provided below.
On Sunday 3rd October a huge protest march is taking place outside of the Conservative Party Annual Conference, which is being held this year in Birmingham.
The protest is about the cuts being imposed upon people who rely upon benefit payments and the draconian measures being taken by the current Coalition Government against Disabled people in particular.
The marchers will consist of representatives from Trades Unions, many groups and organisations involved in Welfare Rights, individuals and family members who are affected by the cuts, and Disabled people from all over the UK.
Disabled people involved with the Black Triangle protest group along with other Disabled individuals have also been asked to lead the march, which is expected to attract more people than attended the anti Poll Tax marches during the Thatcher era.
Speaking to Linda Burnip, one of the principle organisers of the march by Disabled protesters, she told me:
"As you may know, West Midlands police originally agreed that the march could go down Broad Street right past the Conservative Party conference, but then the Tory controlled Birmingham City Council refused to allow this. This meant that many Disabled people would not be able to participate in the march as the alternative route was not as accessible."
There then followed two lengthy meetings with the police and the City Council during which the case was made by Linda and her colleagues that Disabled protesters were being denied their basic human rights to engage in legitimate protest. Following the meetings Linda reported that:
"I am pleased to say the Chief Inspector of Constabulary for West Midlands Police, Denis O'Connor is very keen to make sure that we are facilitated to protest following the large number of complaints he had received."
Full Details - For information about attending the protest please click on the following link which will take you to the Protest web site.
Virtual Protest - For those of us unable to attend the protest in Birmingham, we have been given an on-line alternative. Click on the following link to access the virtual protest web site and leave your comment which will be read out during the march in Birmingham.
I would like to add that on behalf of Disabled people throughout the UK who will be affected by the cuts, our heartfelt thanks go to Linda, Eleanor, Debbie and Tina for all of their hard work in organising our participation in this important event.
I recently created some cartoons for the Disabled people's anti-benefit cuts campaign group 'Black Triangle'.
The plan is to load a different cartoon every few days onto their web site on the build up to the big protest planned for the 3rd October (Tory party annual convention).
One of the 'toons (this one) got posted straight away and resulted in someone putting a block on the web site link in Face Book. Apparently the cartoon crossed the line for some people!
What do you think? I'd be interested to know.
Click here to visit the protest site
One of the groups of Disabled people I enjoy producing artwork for are the editorial team of Discover magazine, the ‘voice’ of disabled people in Cornwall and the quarterly publication of Disability Cornwall.
Not for them the black and white photocopies of several A4 sheets, stapled at the corner and containing inaccessible text and artwork (often my cartoons, which I produce in full colour, end up looking like an indecipherable mass of greys and blacks with no real clue as to their content!)
Each issue of Discover is professionally produced in full colour, containing news and views from the many disabled people living in that part of the world, along with photos and illustrations that can be easily accessed.
Here’s one example of a cartoon I produced for the summer 2010 issue and involves a tale of frustration from a disabled reader regarding her attempts to obtain a new prosthesis!
For more information about Disability Cornwall please click this link.
If like me, you've never visited
Gallery and Events Officer Leo Devlin was there to welcome me at the offices of the Arts and Disability Forum (ADF) and give me a quick tour of the exhibition space and other facilities that we'd be using that afternoon. I'd only previously corresponded with Leo by email and it was great to actually get to meet him face to face.
Organised primarily by Chris Ledger (Chief Executive) and ably assisted by Leo and Michelle Henry, ADF's Finance Officer, an exhibition of my cartoons entitled ‘The world of Crippen’ was scheduled to kick-off that afternoon. This was to follow a short introductory talk about my work in the meeting room upstairs.
The folks at ADF had done a lovely job on the cartoons; framing them in matt aluminium and hanging them on the purpose built display boards that were set around the exhibition space.
Before people started to arrive I had a chance to chat with Chris and Leo and learn a bit more about the organisation. With strong links established with other arts organisations, ADF seems to have become the main focus for disability arts in
Speaking later to Noirin McKinney, who's the Director of Arts Development at the Northern Ireland Arts Council, she expressed her admiration for what had been achieved by the ADF team in a relatively short space of time.
The introductory talk was opened by Margaret Mann, Chair of ADF who welcomed representatives from many of the City’s allied organisations including Queer Action and Open Arts. The talk ran over time as visitors to the exhibition questioned me about events taking place within mainland Disability Arts, especially where art was being used to confront the inequality of life for Disabled people.
Chris and I actually go back some way and between us we remembered and shared with the audience many anecdotes and stories from our involvements in early DAN actions etc. In fact it was handy having her there as on several occasions my memory failed me and she was able to provide the name of a person or occasion that had slipped out of my mind (that's what happens when you get older!)
The ADF team had already started to raise awareness regarding the concept of disabling barriers within society and how disabled artists could use their art to confront these. My cartoons had been selected to reinforce this theme and they seemed to have helped generate a positive and empowering effect upon visitors to the exhibition.
The exhibition was opened by Monica Wilson, Chair of Belfast Disability Action, who spoke about past and future collaborations with ADF. I'd previously provided a christmas card cartoon for them which portrayed Martin McGuinness as santa's little helper (I think Ian Paisley was santa!) and she pulled my leg about him still looking for me (which is what this week's cartoon is based upon!)
A further welcome was provided by Noirin McKinney of the NI Arts Council who encouraged visitors to mingle and discuss the work on display whilst enjoying the refreshments that had been provided.
A canvas containing a huge question mark had been framed and hung on one of the walls within the exhibition. Beneath this was a box with a postal slot set into it. The purpose of this was to invite visitors to the exhibition to post a suggestion for a new Crippen cartoon to be created. This had to relate to a disability related situation currently taking place within NI and which then could be presented to the appropriate political or charitable representative as part of a wider campaign.
The exhibition, entitled ‘The world of Crippen’ is staying at the ADF premises for a few more days before touring other disability related bases in NI. The individual limited, framed prints are for sale with all proceeds going to ADF to fund their continuing programme of disability arts for NI.
For myself, I found the enthusiasm and energy that was being channelled at ADF gave me a huge boost and a determination to return in the near future for further collaboration with them.
Back from a three week break which has included a visit to Belfast's Disability Arts Forum (of which, more to follow) Crippen resumes his blog with news from the West country.
I've had what some would ironically call a well deserved acolade!
Having recently moved into a new, purpose built set of offices, Disability Cornwall agreed to hold a competition to decide what to call their all singing, all dancing suite of accessible toilets and changing rooms.
Care to guess what they came up with?
Yep, you've guessed it. 'The Crippen Rooms'!
The puns and funny comments may now start ...
PS. Jane and her colleagues have very kindly framed about a dozen of my cartoons which are now on display throughout the centre. They also asked me to create a giant cartoon banner for them which is now hanging over the main entrance. Call in if you're passing, they'd love to see you.
Disability Pride is an odd concept which seems to be quite difficult for many non-disabled people to grasp.
I mean, why would be be proud of our impairments?
Here's a link to Vince Laws' current blog where he explains what Disability Pride means to him.
Click here to visit his blog and leave a comment.
The following is an extract from Baroness Jane Campbell's recent comment in the Guardian.
"Disabled and terminally ill people have had to deal with fear, prejudice and discrimination since the beginning of time. Our lives have been devalued by statements such as "he/she'd be better off dead". In recent years, calls for a change to the law prohibiting assisted suicide have grown louder and more frequent.
"They capitalise on fear. Fear of pain, fear of loss of dignity, fear of being a burden. And, yes, fear of witnessing those fears being felt by those we know and love. The solution offered to the fear of disability and illness is final: suicide.
"Yet suicide is not well thought of in our society. It is 'committed' by the mentally ill and those unable to face the future. In both cases, society does all that it can to prevent suicidal thoughts being enacted. Life is too precious to be solely entrusted to individual action.
"That society is willing to protect us, even from ourselves in times of personal crisis, defines our – and its – humanity. However, those seeking a change to the law on assisted suicide say such ideals have no place when considering severely disabled and terminally ill people. Such lives, it seems, are not so precious: ending them prematurely should be a matter of individual choice.
"Perversely, if you can take your own life without assistance, society generally strives to protect you; but, if assistance to die is needed, they argue, it should be provided. The option to choose the time of one's death is to be reserved for those for whom assistance is required.
"No equality there. Yet many see this as irrefutably logical and compassionate.
"It was the realisation that the majority of disabled and terminally ill people were not being heard in this debate that led to the formation of Not Dead Yet UK. We joined with other groups in opposing the two most recent attempts to change the law.
"In each case the House of Lords was decisive in rejecting calls for assisted suicide. However, the euthanasia campaigners have vowed to try again in the current parliament."
Please click on the high-lighted links above to find out more about the current campaigns organised and led by Disabled people.
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.
All this business about opening the tendering process for Social Care Commissioning to groups and organisations of Disabled people has brought in some interesting mails from fellow crips who have started to enquire about the process.
As the powers that be have included the words 'fully accessible' in the information explaining about the process, one would be forgiven for thinking that applying to tender for any of the services would be a completely barrier free experience.
Think again. In one Local Authoriy area the first hurdle we are faced with is the application form itself. Seventy four pages long, it reads more like a manual for dismantling ... something that's difficult to dismantle (!) than something that's supposed to be the open door to an accessible process! 'Fully accessible process', I think not!
Be interesting to see what else surfaces as we delve deeper into this new venture. If I was an old cynic (Ed: surely not?!) I'd begin to suspect that they didn't really want us to jeopardise the cosy relationship that they've had with all of the groups 'for' disabled people!
My mate Dawn has continued this debate on her blog. Click here to read on ...