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Crippen asks ‘where are the young Disabled people?’ / 1 October 2009

Being of the generation that can say ‘I saw Hendrix play at the Isle of Wight Pop Festival’ (what do you mean, who?!) means that I’ve also seen a lot of water go under the disability bridge.

I wasn’t part of the original move by the Fiscally Impaired Against Segregation (FIAS) in 1970, when they identified disability as the exclusion of people with physical impairments from the mainstream of society. Nor was I involved with the birth of the Social Model during the same decade or the redevelopment of same in the early 80’s by the Disabled People’s International in order to include all impairments. But I did take up the Social Model banner soon after this and was involved with the British Council of Disabled People (BCODP) when they decided to make the removal of barriers within society their main focus.

Next came the protests and demonstrations about lack of access at the many company HQ’s, railway stations, bus stations, Local Government buildings and central Government offices during the 80’s and 90’s, the main protest banner being taken up by the Direct Action Network (DAN) and still being carried to this day.  

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I suppose that I’ve carried the knowledge within me as to how we’ve arrived at where we’ve arrived at today, as Disabled people. This brings me to my point, and also to the reason for this week’s cartoon.  

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p class="MsoNormal">“So where is this Disabled People’s Movement?” one young Disabled guy asked me the other day. And when I tried to explain to him about our history, the way in which the Social Model had helped us to empower ourselves, he just looked at me rather pityingly and said: “Oh those old farts. That was in the olden days, man. It’s all different now!”

I suppose my dropped jaw must have indicated that he’d said something that had trampled over my sensibilities, because he quickly added: “That’s not to say that it wasn’t relevant all those years ago. But we don’t need anything like that now … do we?”

So there you have it … the younger disabled people of today look upon us as outdated old farts, spouting our slogans and holding up our Social Model understanding of disability which, according to at least some of them, has no relevance in today’s society. This probably explains why we don’t have many younger disabled people joining our ranks and as we ‘old farts’ all die off one by one, so our voice can only get smaller.

So, how do we attract these young disabled people? What can we do to make them think of themselves as part of the Disabled People’s Movement – to take a pride in the fact that we are all brothers and sisters together, still fighting for our rightful place in society?

Keywords: direct action network (dan),disabled people's movement,social model,young disabled people

Comments

robert punton

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27 October 2009

My first venture into CrippenSpace.

As a fellow old fart whose been out of touch for several years, part of me wonders whether we are trying to keep imaginary barriers going to justify a confrontational movement? However, if our younger brethren have found a equal society to live in, it must be ageist as I've not been invited!

As your cartoon vividly portrays the generation gap is widening in our community just like it is in society as a whole, each generation faces different challenges, but we only faces these challenges because of the battles fought by our predecessors.

Battles may bewon but the wars not over.

Philip Patston

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8 October 2009

I'm a Pom too - spent the first four years in the motherland - so I say it with knowing affection!

Alexis - know that when we speak out, we speak out for the right and opportunity of all uniquely functioning people not just ourselves.

In fact, in a meeting we had recently here in NZ (of largely under 30s btw!), a large focus was about how to present a different image of uniqueness rather than deficit.

Bob Williams-Findlay

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8 October 2009

I am thinking of getting my saddle out, but can't decide if I'm aiming to ride a white elephant or a sleeping tiger. It would be both unprofessional and premature to give any details, but having spent a decade outside the national scene, I think I'm ready to pick up the baton again. Yes, I've baggage and I'm not Mr Popular with some in the so called Movement or among the powers that be, but at the end of the day I know my actions - good or bad - have always sought to advance the struggle for civil and human rights. So people will have a choice; accept me as I am or join those who carp from within the safety of their comfortable, well-feathered nests!

Crippen

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7 October 2009

Thanks Alexis for bringing a different perspective to our current discussion ... more power to you and your husband. Send me an email to daveluptoncartoons@live.co.uk as I might have some ideas about the S.S for you.

Alexis Walmsley

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7 October 2009

Don't give up the fight yet. Just to put a different perspective on things - you guys are lucky - you can articulate your thoughts but there are many many disabled young people who couldn't even begin to comment on this site, who don't have the ability or skills to comprehend anything other than when their next trip to the cinema is, whether they'll get to go swimming this week and whether they'll get chips for dinner. That's the level my son (22 nearly 23) functions at. He has been in special education (yes segregated - sorry but it's been fab for him) all his life because he has needed specialist support. The fighting has to be done by me and his Dad (who is also technically disabled as he is in remission from Multiple Myeloma - an incurable form of cancer). We both work (full time) and battling to secure our son's future is very hard. At 22 he has had to stay at college (not a bad thing as he loves it there) because I can't get anyone in the SS (aka Social Services) to help with making any real progress on his future (they don't even answer emails or their voicemail messages). So don't believe for one moment that all the battles have been won for young people.

There's a long way to go yet and it's those that are unable to really speak for themselves or who don't have families/friends with access to the internet and/or the ability to advocate on their behalf etc who are a forgotten generation. My son is lucky but some of his peers left college with nothing more than 4 walls at home to look forward to and ad-hoc attendance at a day centre. I don't suppose you'd call that freedom would you?

There's also a mass of ignorant people who still think my son might be contagious or feel he's an object of ridicule because he 'makes funny noises' (he can't speak) and is in a wheelchair. So keep up the fight!

Crippen

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7 October 2009

Ha ha ... some good diverse opinions here And also some valid comments methinks. So Bob, thinking of getting back in the saddle again? Only seems like yesterday we were shouting at Queen Victoria to do something about the workhouses! And Phillip: stop whinging eh!(thought it was only the Aussies who saw us as whinging Poms?!). And Katherine ... what can I say? Your absolutely right! Let me talk to Bob and a few other oldies and we'll see if we can get off our arses and do something ... OK?!

Katherine Rees

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7 October 2009

What troubles me the most with this is the following "So there you have it … the younger disabled people of today look upon us as outdated old farts, spouting our slogans and holding up our Social Model understanding of disability which, according to at least some of them, has no relevance in today’s society."

At 17 I am one of these "younger disabled people" you speak of and what has struck me in the last three years since I have worked in advocacy is this-

1. We are not able as young people to form opinions about older disabled people because there is no bridging that happens between disabled adults and young people. There needs to be a stronger willingness from older disabled people to teach young people leadership and make them aware of significant work that has been done in the past. Commonly functioning adults in schools or parents that are commonly functioning won't know about this stuff so how are we expected to know? A tree doesn't grow on its own out of the ground it needs to be planted and looked after first!

2. The only reason I became involved with the sector was because of an extreme case of discrimination which resulted in my getting in touch with supposed "disability support agencies" that had not made their presence felt in my life beforehand. Personally I think such organisations are not pro active enough in engaging with young people and THAT is what is causing the gap- not a lack of caring.

Philip Patston

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6 October 2009

Stop whingeing, you old farts! I agree with the young ones. The disability movement has come of age, it wants to leave home, take risks, get drunk, forget it ever had parents. We old farts are its parents and we need to celebrate what we've created and stop being resentful that our "children" aren't grateful enough.

I'm working with several young people in NZ who are, legitimately I believe, questioning the "disabled" identity and wanting to create something fresh, new, positive and sexy. They are extremely aware that traditional activism had its place but something new is needed in the age of Facebook, Twitter and rapid change.

As an old fart myself, I see my role as supporting this exploration and using my experience to add context and perspective. And to be honest, I'm enjoying it as much as I did in the old days.

Viva la difference... Bring on the change!

Bob Williams-Findlay

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6 October 2009

Sat here in one of many T-shirts gained through the 70s, 80s, 90s and the invisible 2000+ years among the cobwebs of radicalism I realise us old farts have been treading water since the mid 90s hoping Thatcher's children and Blair babes would wake up and realise access isn't a credit card that buys "acceptance" from the normals who want to sell you your "independent living" in ten easy to pay installments.

The idea that "rights" brings about social change has come back to bite us hard on the bum. In-fighting and climbing in bed amongst the Gong giving enemy has watered down the message, beheaded the political leadership of the Movement. At this moment in time I feel us old farts must kick our own sorry asses back into action; draw upon yesterday, but fight for tomorrow. We cannot force young people to follow us, but we are still capable of providing them with better role models just in case they need them.

Wendi Wicks

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3 October 2009

I've been part of the NZ equivalent of the disabled peoples' movement, making me another of the dinosaurs ( well, according to some of the younger ones.) It's sad to find that many younger disabled people have a solution to my/our continued existence-that we should all just melt quietly into the wings so that they can lead, because hey, there's no real issues now.

There's got to be a better way to do this-a "piss off you old fart" approach sets up as much resentment as " When I was in the war..".

At the AWID (Women in development) conference I was at last year, they had put a lot of effort into intergenerational dialogue and joint projects. Maybe we need to think about this too.

And like Anne, I really miss the powerful culture that gave us strength.

Alyson Bradley (AsPlanet.info)

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3 October 2009

I think we all have to keep advocating and be inclusive as possible, I think the tide is turning and as with the autistic community as more and more youngest are embraced for who they are, there strength will eventually make a difference, but I also remember how difficult it was myself when younger fighting to survive, lacking confidence and self esteem.. so I feel the more supportive and inclusive of the younger generation we are are the better long term.

I feel we all need to be an inspiration to the younger generation, help them become confidant, grow and find their real passion in life. Its taken me half a life time, a process of self discovery and connecting with like minded individuals, thats why more awareness, education and support for the younger generation needed.

I can only hope and do what I can as we all can, because I would not wish my empty shell of a life up until now on anyone. But my life now truly feels fantastic, as I have found confidence enough to live life on my terms and as for those that do not wish to accommodate and adapt to me, they miss out :) but truly society for many youngest like a boiling pot, kettle on full stream and the treadmill of life so easy to fall off, to help change this positive world wide advertising "i.e. we are not disabled, society disables us and in turn themselves!"

Philip Dowd

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3 October 2009

I was on 16 committees dealing with disability issues in South Australia and studying for my BA in the 80's. I burnt out, I Hear ya, I think the young take for granted that the victories we won by our persistence, and the bloody minded determination to change the system will remain if they do nothing, still a lot of work to be done, but the young aren't interested in doing the work.

Lisa

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2 October 2009

The DDA means that most disabled children growing up today don't have the battles that we had for the most basic things like getting an education. And I think life not being an uphill struggle every day has made a few young disabled people a bit complacent. I also think that once they get a bit older and they've had to fight for enough Direct Payment hours and so on that their complacency will go.

I'm 30 so I was a child in the 80s and a teenager in the 90s. But your post has successfully made me feel old because I'd be the old fart waving the 'social model rules' flag!

Crippen

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2 October 2009

It's still out there Ann ... watch out for the emergence of Disabled Pride UK Ltd, a company of Crips who have got together and will be trying to focus Disabled people in the UK similiar to the Gay Pride movement. Watch this space as they say! :-)

Ann Young

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1 October 2009

Dave, from one old fart to another, thank you! I was part of the 80s revolution but I'm afraid I am now considered too militant by the young disabled people I work with and although I can 'brush it off' by blaming their age it still hurts me. I know younger disabled people have different expectations because they live in a world we could only dream of at their age but we are not there yet in terms of equality... It was so exciting and powerful to belong to a culture which gave me so much strength...I really miss it. Ann xx