Disabled activists, who campaign to raise awareness of those disabled people who are currently incarcerated in one of the many homes run and controlled by the big disability charities, are often asked, "but surely in this day and age, no one is kept in these places against their will?"
In answer to this, I want to tell you about John (not his real name), who resides in a Leonard Cheshire home for young disabled people. We've exchanged emails a couple of times and I've sent him a copy of my 2010 cartoon calendar. He told me that he has to hide the calendar because the staff wouldn't approve of some of the cartoons in it, especially those that parody the type of behaviour that the staff participate in!
John, like hundreds of other disabled people in his position, faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life trapped in the Leonard Cheshire system. There is no support offered to those disabled people who want to break away from this institutionalised care; no advice on how to navigate through the bureaucracy that prevents him and others from accessing the sort of care package that would allow him to live on his own, or with friends. He talks of being patronised and treated like a child; visited by 'do-gooders' whose sole objective, it seems, is to get another dose of that 'feel good' factor at his expense.
John has given me permission to reproduce the following extract from his last email...
"Do you know we have Father Christmas coming round on Christmas Day? I mean, some fat patronising bloke in a red suit comes round with his stupid sodding bell saying "Ho Ho Ho" and giving out presents (invariably tins of shortbread; there's a glut for the next few weeks.) We're all adults, it's a home for young adults (though some people are now elderly having lived here for years) and that's what they do; treat us like little infant kids. What's perhaps even worse, is that a lot of the people here don't get to go out. I mean practically never, not for weeks upon end; as they don't have the support they need and family don't bother with them. We could really do with volunteers from (say) the local Lions to get people out of this depressing and distressing place. But we only ever see them on Christmas Day when they come and make themselves feel better about themselves by patronising charity towards us cripples.
I hide from him. I mean - a 30-odd year old man hiding from Father Christmas in his own home. It's not pretty, I tell you."
So the next time you see a member of the Disabled people's Direct Action Network (DAN) shouting out "Free our people!" think about John and hundreds of other Disabled people just like him.
The following is taken from the blog of 17 year old Dan Pitt who has very kindly agreed that I can post it along with my latest cartoon.
'Despite nearly 15 years of new legislation, the results of a new survey reveal that disabled people in the UK are facing rising levels of poverty and discrimination. Yet many disabled people believe things are getting better. What explains the contradiction?
Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people. Leonard Cheshire Disability's report Disability Review 2009, published this week, shows that the economic picture for disabled people has deteriorated over the past three years. Almost half (42%) of respondents were struggling to live on their present income, a rise of nearly 10% since 2007. Discrimination at work had been experienced by 52%, another 10% increase, and 9% stated they had been the victim of hate crime. Worrying news indeed, particularly given that the Disability Discrimination Act is now well over a decade old. It will also be of concern to policymakers who have sought to make the promotion of equality a central part of their social policy agenda.
Alongside the disturbing trends in disability poverty and discrimination revealed by (the) survey, many of the disabled people reported improvements in their experiences. Paradoxically, increasing discrimination in the workplace and in access to goods and services – and unacceptable levels of disability hate crime – were coupled with a sense that, when it comes to discrimination, things are simply "not as bad as they used to be". This could just be the knock-on effect of progress made in other areas, such as transport accessibility.
An alternative explanation might be that developments in the law have triggered a shift in the way disabled people conceptualise equality and social justice issues. If disabled people have an enhanced awareness of rights and increased expectations of them, then they might be more willing to challenge prejudice and discrimination. At the same time, a better grasp of our legal and civil rights might give people the overall impression that things are improving, irrespective of reality. This offers an interesting twist on more straightforward notions of achieving social change through legal reform – food for thought for those of us in the disability sector and beyond.
Whatever the reasons for this paradox, however, it is clear that disability poverty in the UK remains a massive social justice issue. Engendering a sense of empowerment and optimism among one of the poorest and most vulnerable groups in society is clearly not an undesirable end in itself. Unless the government takes urgent action to ensure that the dislocation between perception and reality is bridged, their pledge to eradicate disability inequality by 2025 will remain illusory. Perhaps the battle for hearts and minds is beginning to be won. Now the real work must commence.'
To read more of Dan's excellent writing, please click on the following link.
Hi folks. I'm starting 2010 as I mean to go on; gloves off and more in your face then ever before!
And my first question for this decade is: 'How much longer do we have to beat our heads against the wall of discrimination that exists in the UK?'
I don't know about you but I'm getting pretty pissed off about the lack of any real progress regarding public perception of us crips and our role in society. It's still mainly those over paid non-disabled parasites who run those big organisations that have been set up to represent us (but without including us in their management) who are perpetuating the 'Tiny Tim' image that society has of us. Let's face it, it's in their interest to preserve the status quo of disability as without it, they'd all be out of a job. It's also in the interests of the various government departments that control our finances, job prospects, etc to let these sanatised organisations continue to represent us. Imagine what could happen if they opted to speak to real Disabled people? It might mean them having to get off their fat-cat arses and start to address some of the real issues that exist for us!
And I also predict that you're going to see more Disabled people out on the streets protesting in the UK this year. Led by such organisations as the Direct Action Network (DAN) and some of the other larger groups of Disabled people, we'll be making our voices heard like never before.
So, fellow crips and non-disabled allies alike, prepare yourselves. It's going to be a lively year!