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.
Excuse me for seeming a little confused here, but hasn't the Prime Minister just been telling us how little money we have and that we're all going to have to tighten our belts and that Disabled people have to accept benefit cuts to the tune of 12 billion pounds ...?!
So, what's with this sudden appearance of seven billion that is going to be paid into the Irish banks as a token of the "particular economic relationship" that exists?
I suppose the key word here is 'economic'. This government has convinced itself that we are in effect 'useless eaters' and a terrible burden upon society - especially as most of us are supposed to be fiddling the system anyway - and that we are therefore far from being an economical asset!
You don't have to read between the lines any more. The ConDems are writing it large that unless we can contribute in a meaningful way (and for meaningful read productive) then we are a burden to their big society. You can almost hear the jackboots marching down Whitehall can't you!
So, perhaps we should invaded the Isle of Wight, set up an independent Cripdom, max out all of our credit cards, borrow even more money, and then we can ask the government for a nice big payout to get ourselves out of the red?!
Works for me.
UK citizens who were detained illegally at the US run Guantanamo prison in Cuba are to be paid millions of pounds compensation by the British Government.
And quite right to. Innocent people being locked away in an inhospitable place, away from their families and friends and all because they appear different to the rest of society should be compensated.
For someone to be denied their place in society and to be incarcerated in a place not of their own choosing must be a terrible experience to undergo. Imagine being treated as though you were not safe enough to be let out into mainstream society. Imagine having your right to a decent education, to travel where you want and socialise where you want taken away from you. Being kept segregated from family and friends and having your Civil Rights abused in more ways than we could imagine.
Thousands of Disabled people are being detained in this country under these very conditions. With no accessible alternative housing being made available to them, other than the care homes they currently reside in. Run and controlled by charities, many of these places are no further forward in their thinking than the work houses of the last century.
Unless we fight for the rights of our Disabled brothers and sisters who are being detained in this way, we are as bad as those who lock people up and throw away the key.
'Free Our People' (and a bit of compensation for them wouldn't go amiss either!)
For more information you can contact the Direct Action Network (DAN) by clicking on this link.
People who live in Residential Care Homes are clearly disabled by any definition and even the Sun, despite their current smear campaign aimed at disabled people (see last week’s blog) can’t claim that they are not!
However, the ConDem’s have included those of us who live in care homes as part of their attack on the Welfare State. They are going to withdraw the DLA Mobility Component from our benefits.
This means that those of us who reside in Care Homes and are buying wheelchairs and scooters through the Motability scheme will be unable to continue with the payments and as a result will lose these essential aids to our mobility. Those of us who use the Mobility Component to pay for taxis and other forms of accessible transport will also have this service denied.
Discussing this with Sir Bert Massie, former Chair of the Disability Rights Commission, he explained that people in care homes are allowed to keep £22.30 for themselves. Add to this the DLA Component of £49.85 and this provides them with a total of £72.15.
Bert went on to explain: “But when we consider the amount of income that people in Care Homes will be losing in percentage terms after these cuts, this group of Disabled people will face a drop of about 66% in their net income. This will be the highest new tax rate imposed upon anyone in the government’s Budget!”
Later, talking to one of my whistle blowers within the Leonard Cheshire care home system, she told me that she’d also heard that those residents who are rich enough to pay their own care fees are actually being allowed to keep the Mobility Component of their DLA!
So there we have it folks, something concrete with which to beat the Prime Minister and his cronies over the head with; two clear examples that show that despite the claim that the Budget is fair, for Disabled people it is most definitely not!
Just think, we could have found the Achilles heel that will result in the collapse of this corrupt government. Nice one Bert!
The Daily Mail, the Express and the Sun seem to have been competing in order to see which of them can persuade the most readers that the majority of Disabled people in the UK are not really disabled at all.
In their collective opinion most people claiming disability related benefits are not disabled, they are in fact scroungers and work shy benefit cheats and should be made to work for their money, the same as every other member of society.
Somehow, the suggestion that a few non-disabled people have been fraudulently claiming disability benefits has allowed these right wing rags to direct the outrage of their readers NOT at the non-disabled benefit cheats, but at disabled people generally.
Unfortunately a great number of the readers of these right wing publications tend to believe what they are told and as a consequence have moved us from being seen as objects of pity and therefore worthy of their support, into the people who are the real cause of the UK’s current financial problems.
Still, I suppose it’s an improvement of sorts when we no longer have to put up with their usual patronizing and condescending manner whenever they write about us!
As an ironic aside to this cartoon I’ve just received a news update that tells me that the Ministry of Defence has nearly tripled the number of rehabilitation beds available for severely wounded soldiers from Afghanistan to accommodate a sharp rise in the number of soldiers who have lost one or more limbs in the conflict.
Incidentally, I've not heard if they'll be increasing resources for those service personnel that have been traumatized by the war in other, non physical ways. They tend to keep a lid on information that concerns our brothers and sisters who return from the war zones diagnosed with a mental illness.
Opposition MP’s are using the term ‘slash and burn’ to describe the knee jerk reaction of the Coalition to the financial deficit that they claim to have inherited from Labour.
Rampaging through the country in a similar way to the Viking’s when they were first attracted to our shores; the ConDem’s have spared no one in their attack upon our society. Seemingly with no real plan or any indication that rational thought has gone into this process, they appear to have indiscriminately attacked all who fall within the category of vulnerable.
Not content with slashing away at the funding needed to keep our health service, local government and educational services, transport, the arts and community services running, they’ve also ensured that any future Disabled people may have looked forward to has also been destroyed.
After years of struggling against an unjust and inaccessible society, Disabled people had begun to feel that at last they were starting to get somewhere. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) brought us much needed legislation and doors were literally opening for us all in areas of education, transport, housing, employment and the Arts.
Now those doors have been slammed shut and we find ourselves once again the government’s scapegoats, the ‘useless eaters’ without whom society wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in.
We shouldn’t be all that surprised though. Most of the current government consists of MP’s who belong to a class of people who count amongst their friends and associates those very people who created the deficit. These are the bankers and financial speculators who spirited away billions of pounds from our economy using the self same tactics!
Come the revolution!
For a comprehensive analysis of the government's so called spending revue, click on the following link which will take you to the Inclusion London site and their downloadable information paper. Here is the introduction to the analysis.
"We reject the government’s claim that these cuts are either fair or progressive. They are a brutal attack on disabled people and will intensify poverty and inequality. Cuts in services and jobs will hit disabled people hard. Disabled people have also been targeted for specific cuts, particularly to Incapacity Benefit/ESA and DLA."
Download the information paper by clicking here
Inclusion London is an organisation of Disabled people run and controlled by Disabled people and promoting equality for London's Deaf and Disabled people.
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.
A moving tribute to disabled activist Rowan Jade, who died suddenly at the age of 40 whilst on holiday with her partner and child.
The tribute is by Baroness Jane Campbell and echoes many of our own thoughts and feelings regarding this amazing young woman.
Jade will be sadly missed by all who were fortunate to know her.
To access the tribute please click here.
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.
Many of you will know that I run a Face Book account as Crippen - Disabled cartoonist and post links to various disability related events that are going on as well as links to this blog and other disabled artists.
When the ConDem Coalition came into being I began to create cartoons that supported the stand being taken by groups and organisations who were protesting about the benefit cuts being planned. My posts carried cartoons created for the 3rd October Disabled People's Protest group and the Disabled People's Black Triangle protest group. Both of these groups are planning to be at the Tory Party Annual Conference in Birmingham this year, and to march along with thousands of other Trades Unionists, anti-poverty groups, etc., who are planning the biggest protest since the Poll Tax protests.
One of the cartoons that depicted Clegg and Cameron with blood on their hands kept being forced off of Face Book, and then my account began to get hacked. Messages and postings were sent out, alledgedly from me, enticing people to connect to various spyware harvester sites, malware and spamming sites, etc. My password was changed and for a time I was unable to reconnect to my Face Book accounts page.
I eventually decided to close the account for a period of time because it just became too time consuming, cleaning out all of the corrupt applications that were being posted on my Face Book wall by persons unknown.
It's a strange coincidence that all this started to happen when I became involved in the anti benefit cut campaigns and started to create cartoons about Clegg and Cameron's roll in all this. Other people I know, who are also involved in the campaigns have also had similiar problems with their computers.
A case of some creative hacking from some clandestine government department. Or just some malicious individual who gets his kicks from making trouble. Who knows?
What do you think?
A lot has been written both for and against the Pope’s visit this week.
Apart from the fact that he continues to tell people in the third world that to use condoms as a protection against HIV and AIDS is a sin, the main thing that rankles for me is that the Catholic Church has never publicly updated its belief in the origins of Disability.
Talk to many older Catholics and they can remember their Priests telling them that a person was born disabled due to a sin committed by one or both of their parents. I bet the Priests loved it when a Disabled child was born out of wedlock because then they could say “I told you so!”
They tell me that today’s more enlightened Priests no longer say this, but that old belief has never, to my knowledge, ever been fully weeded out from the faith. Even today, in countries such as Spain where Catholicism is the leading religion, a lot of people still believe that Disabled children are only born to those who have sinned. I’m told by Spanish Disabled people that it is mainly due to this belief that they have found it difficult to move towards any real equality within their society.
Perhaps it is time for the Pope to lay to rest this outdated and damaging belief and to use this visit to the UK to do so publicly.
Only by hearing it from the lips of ‘God’s representative on Earth’ will many Catholics put down this corrupt understanding and start to work with Disabled people towards our full and unconditional inclusion into societies throughout the world.
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
In a recent survey commissioned by Scope, almost half of those approached claimed that they didn't know any Disabled people!
Now either they only count wheelchair users as being Disabled people and are using this as their yard stick, or they move in circles that exclude all but the non-disabled members of our society. A worrying thought when over 90% of these same people felt that Disabled people should have the same opportunities as everyone else.
This response shows that we crips are still pretty much invisible in day-to-day life and if the Government go ahead with their proposed spending cuts, and the effects that it will have on Disabled people, this means that we'll be pushed even further into social exclusion and maybe even cut out from the mainstream altogether. The next poll could well show that ALL of those approached didn't know any Disabled people!
Members of the Disabled People's Movement are advising the CON-DEMs that they need to carry out a full impact assessment before making any cuts. The Government needs to understand the full consequences of reductions in Disability Living Allowance and Incapacity Benefit before embarking on this knee-jerk reaction to current over spending.
I'm always sceptical about what Scope has to say about the Disabled people that they claim to represent, but on this occassion I find myself agreeing with their Chief Exec when he says: "Without fully understanding the nature of disabled people's lives, or the impact these changes will have, the Government may find itself causing extreme distress and financial hardship to disabled people which could end up creating greater dependency on the state and an even greater demand on the public purse."
Couldn't have put it better myself Richard.
(The cartoon is from an original idea by Alison of Skegby Methodist Church - Feb 2010)
Sad News - I've just heard of the death of disabled activist Rowen Jade. Rowen has always been a passionate campaigner for an inclusive education system. After graduating with a Law degree she worked for the Alliance for Inclusive education, several centers for Inclusive Living and latterly as a freelance consultant in disability equality. My sincere condolences go to her family and many friends. Rowen will be missed by us all.
I'm often asked to produce some artwork or a cartoon for a piece of poetry or prose that has been created by a fellow artist. This one in particular fired my imagination and made me want to share it with you.
(for Jimmy Fingers, with peace love and understanding)
The place has walls,
I can touch them if I wish,
I could no longer tell you their colour
they are the same colour as all the walls
in all the other places.
Here I wander
Here I touch and feel
Here no-one can hurt me.
Here I am reminded when to eat and sleep
by a clock
that someone else watches.
Here I say what I am thinking
Here I say what thinks me.
That is why I am here.
Here is where I remind myself I am
When here is where I am not.
Because they haven’t got a name for that
Because they haven’t got a place
for people who do things they can’t find names for.
That is why I am here.
A recent survey shows that society has completely fallen for the latest piece of CONDEM misinformation that millions of pounds are being claimed fraudulently, especially those benefits that are designed to assist Disabled people to compete more equally in the work place. They also endorse the use of paid Bounty Hunters to track these alleged cheats down.
The fact that the government’s own figures show that this fraud claim is a complete nonsense and that millions of pounds lay unclaimed by those people who are entitled to them, doesn’t stop them from continuing to spout out this dangerous rubbish.
Disabled people have once again been identified as being either frauds and not entitled to the benefits they are claiming (and this particularly applies to those of us with a hidden impairment) or as being vulnerable members of society that need caring for (us crips having been lumped back in again with the ‘vulnerable members of society’ definition!).
So much for all of the hard work that has gone into identifying the disabling barriers that exist within society; the attempts to make society a more level playing field with Disabled people having an equal opportunity to live, travel, work and play along with our non-disabled brethren.
What next - licences for Disabled people to beg in the streets as ‘deserving poor’ as was the case a hundred or so years ago? With this lot in power nothing would surprise me!
PS. It looks as though there will be the biggest turn out ever of Disabled people and their allies for the planned protest outside of the Tory Party conference on 3rd October. Watch for some quick changes in the law as the CONDEMs declare us all terrorists and ban everyone from the streets during that week!
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.
Wow ... from Tuesday 24th August you'll be able to order your very own 'mini-Mandeville', the soft toy manufactured in China to represent the crip part of the 2012 Olympics.
It's only 25 pounds plus 4.95 delivery (guaranteed delivery within 2 days, or if you can't wait that long you can pay extra for next day delivery!).
Sorry to report that the boxed sets are already sold out, but you can always make your own box I would have thought?!
The only thing that worries me is that it says in the advertising blurb that it comes with small parts. I do hope that people don't get the wrong idea about us because of this. Although as they say, size isn't everything!
I've already ordered mine!
PS. In case you think I made this up, have a look for yourself! Click here for the link to the site.
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.
I have been musing on the attacks on Disabled people's day to day lives that this CONDEM coalition have already started making and watching with interest ways in which crips are grouping to try to resist.
High on the worry-list is the apparent complete lack of understanding by the government of the nature of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). As we Disabled people and our allies all know only too well, the basis of this financial support is actually to go some small way towards helping with the extra costs of being a Disabled person in a disabling society.
Yes, I know, it does only go a small way and there have always been plenty of hoops to struggle through to get DLA at all (like some 50 pages form of application just to start ... ). However, DLA is at least about acknowledging that many crips - whatever their circumstances - have extra support costs and find it more expensive to travel and get around.
Why is it then that the Budget statement and the Programme for Government, which spearhead the attack on DLA, entirely miss the point? The government talks about reducing dependency and promoting work in relation to DLA. Come on! DLA (as we all know) is a benefit which is available (at least in theory) to Disabled people whether they are in work or not.
For one thing, taking it away from people (by more stringent assessments) and reducing it will make it LESS likely that working disabled people will be able to carry on in employment. That's one of the (many) things that worries me about the CONDEM axe-people - they don't even seem to pause to grasp these basics in their ideological rush to slash anything to do with 'welfare'.
Lots of groups and organisations are already campaigning hard against the whole range of attacks on Disabled people, including on DLA. I found some good info on the Inclusion London website on the Programme for Government and how the Budget will damage Disabled people's lives. Depressing reading of course - but it is a damn sight more honest than any of the government's own stuff and more readable than a lot of the other analysis on the effects of the Budget.
Click here to visit the Inclusion London site. They have both a full version and an easy read version to download about the budget and the proposed cuts.
Rumours have been circulating about a TV programme that would enable celebrities to aquire an impairment for a week in order to see what it's like to be disabled (I kid you not!).
It now turns out that the former Mrs McCartney, Heather Mills is working on such a programme although she has refused to say which broadcast company it is with or when it will be aired.
She has said however that she wants to get people like tv presenter Eamonn Holmes to spend a week in a wheelchair to see what it's like to live with a disability: "You would have to be looked after and pushed around by your wife,” she told him on his early morning show.
She added: "We would also get a chef like Gordon Ramsay, blindfold him, and put him in the kitchen for a week."
I thought we'd progressed beyond this type of disability 'awareness' theme and that if anything, the tv companies would realise the importance of portraying real Disabled people encountering real barriers within society.
As we've said many times before, this equates to a white person putting on black grease paint and being expected to suddenly develope an insight into the oppression faced by black people within our community. It just doesn't work that way!
Perhaps Ms Mills would benefit from attending a disability equality training session, run by Disabled trainers and learn something about the social model understanding of disability. Only then will she understand that this type of programme only re-enforces the negative stereotypes of disability and adds to the ignorance that results in the discrimination that we face every day.
I'm using this week's blog to reproduce an email circulated by Bob Williams-Findlay regarding the attack by this government on Disabled people who are claiming Disabled Living Allowance (DLA).
"Since the Budget there has been a major uproar over the ConDems plan to 're-assess' people on DLA. What is clear is that there is now a new smear campaign, not unlike the ones against IB, to discredit DLA claims. For those with access to the BBC iplayer I've included a link to Jeremy Paxman interviewing Ed Balls."
"The statements made by Paxman need to be challenged by people who support disabled people's civil and human rights. The 'slash and burn' attack on the benefit system will put many people's lives at risk if DLA is withdrawn - I know, I'm one of them."
"We have no time to waste, a new campaign coalition is needed; a coalition that brings together both disabled and non-disabled people. We need an active voice in the mainstream - a voice that challenges the lies about DLA, expose the real agenda - cuts in welfare - and combats the ideology that's says DLA should be only for the 'most vulnerable'."
"If we don't all stand up and be counted then many of us will see our DLA taken by one hand and a one-way ticket to Switerland offered by the other!"
Bob Williams-Findlay (Former Chairperson of the British Council of Disabled People)
This episode of Newsnight is available on BBC iPlayer until Wednesday 30th June 2010
Our old friend George is carrying a useful piece of advice in his current blogspot which relates to the sorts of underhand techniques that some sales persons resort to when selling to Disabled people.
Having worked in the dim and distant past for Motability in Harlow and then as a mobility consultant for several vehicle converters I can verify that many of these companies are only focussed on one thing - to get you to part with your money.
I doubt that the standards have improved very much but I can remember one company that literally tested new products on their unsuspecting customers and then washing their hands of any responsibility when vehicles inevitably fell apart or failed to provide the access that they were supposed to.
I even supported one customer in court when we discovered that her American vehicle, which had been converted to RH drive in this country by a bunch of cowboy access converters actually caught fire, trapping her in the automatic wheelchair clamps as the electrical circuits burned out around her. Very scary stuff, especially when her only means of access, the automatic wheelchair ramp also failed to work!
Many of the companies who converted vehicles for wheelchair users, whether as drivers or as passengers, failed to alert their clients to the fact that by cutting away significant areas of the base vehicle, moving the fuel tank (and sometimes fabricating a replacement tank of their own), this invalidated the base vehicle warranty.
Let's face it. Are the Ford Motor Company going to stand by their safety warranty when the integral strength of the vehicle has been compromised and replacement petrol tank has been installed in the wall alongside of the rear wheelchair passenger? The original petrol tanks are subjected to every test possible, including crash testing, whereas the replacement tanks, made to an inferior design and of an inferior material could only be 'crash' tested by the customer!
Hopefully the rogue converters have all been rooted out and the reputable companies are the only one's allowed to convert vehicles for wheelchair users now.
I certainly hope so.
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.