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Knocking down the wall / 29 June 2012

Last week at the Shape media conference I had the pleasure of meeting Kristina Veasey. She has taken part in two Paralympics and talked about her own experiences competing as a disabled athlete.

For most of us non-athletic Crips, and in particular those of us involved in disability arts, the world of the Paralympian seems remote to say the least. We see them as single minded Super Crips with no interest or involvement in disability politics and protest. What we do hear about are those sporty wheelchair users with amazing upper body strength telling non-disabled people that they don't need ramps!

The media love them as well, providing photo opportunities of 'good' disabled people (as opposed to 'bad' disabled people who are scrounging on disability benefit and can't be arsed to find a job!).

All this media hype of course goes to reinforce the stereotypes of disability that Mr and Mrs Jo Public know and love. The acceptable face of disability versus the unacceptable.

But having chatted to Kristina after her talk, I learned a few things. For example did you know that all Paralympians have to sign a contract that specifically prohibits them from taking part in any political protest during the duration of the games?

This means that if they did protest for the duration of the games, (against ATOS for example) they would have sacrificed years of training and would have to return any medals that they had won.

But some paralympians find ways around the system. For example Kristina told me that was why, as a retired paralympian, she became Amnesty International's paralympic ambassador during the Beijing games - "so I could give voice to protest."

Perhaps between us all - paralympians, activists, disabled artists - we could start to tear down the wall that the media & society have erected and start working together.

As ever the challenge is to be able to communicate more openly with each other and to be prepared to let go of those unhelpful stereotypes. I include myself in this as a veteran of creating and maintaining some of these stereotypes. My exchange with Kristina was a kick in my assumptions which I found very helpful and thought provoking.

Perhaps all disabled people, all working together could create a power base strong enough to bring this government and their draconian measures to a shuddering halt.

We can but hope.

BTW if you do have tickets for Paralympic events you may be asked to participate in an on-line survey. Why not use this opportunity to voice some of our concerns about the dichotomy between the experiences of paralympians and many other disabled people. Here's your chance to comment on the gap between the portrayal of paralympic athletes and the daily struggle against barriers that most disabled people face.

Keywords: 2012 olympics,access issues,art,art and mental health,artist,benefit cuts,cartoons,crippen,cultural olympiad,cuts to services,disability,disability art,disability arts online,disability history,disabled peoples movement,disabled peoples protest,disabled women,media representation,paralympics,politics,positive activism,relating to wheelchairs,young disabled people


Dr Satendra Singh

11 July 2012

Dear Dave,

It was great to see Crippen cartoons on web. I am a medical doctor as well as person with locomotor disability. I am co-founder of a Medical Humanities Group at my medical college where I have founded a special-interest-group on disability-Infinite Ability.

As you notice, Graphic Medicine has been listed as a medical humanitarian approach. I shall be grateful if:

1-You can agree to post few Crippen cartoon for my website

2- If you can kindly make a cartoon pic of my 'Infinite Ability' logo

3-If you can advice us on how to take the process of 'sensitisation of massess' forward.

It is great knowing you.

Dr Satendra Singh


3 July 2012

@ArtyFarty - My artwork is available for any disabled person or organisation of disabled people to use as part of our continued struggle against the oppression we experience within society.

The disabled people behind the 'Boycott the Paralympics' are focussing on the involvement of ATOS (read more on I fully support and which is a seperate argument from the issues in this blog. OK? :-)

Arty Farty

3 July 2012

Great blog Mr C. You deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for this if nothing else! Just one question though. What's your artwork doing on the banner for the 'Boycott the Paralympics'web site? Doesn't this go against what you're saying here?


3 July 2012

Thanks Ed. Interesting to hear that the black athletes were also more focussed on the human rights issues at the time. This makes it even more appropriate for a similiar gesture from a disabled athlete at the paralympics don't you think?

Ed Freeman

2 July 2012

Excellent article as always, which reminded me of The Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics where a protest was made by the African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos; the athletes made the raised fist gesture at the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City. The Australian competitor, Peter Norman, who was neither Black nor American, also wore a human rights badge on his shirt during the ceremony to show his support to the two Americans. The event was one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympic Games. Tommie Smith stated in his autobiography, Silent Gesture, that the gesture was not a "Black Power" salute, but in fact a "human rights salute"


1 July 2012

Well done Crippen! People can make a decision to stop accepting the stereotypes fed to us by the media. Stereotypes which allow the old divisions so that we can be ruled more easily. PS there's a lot of stuff happening on Twitter - people standing up against Atos and publicising the tragedies and travesties.

richard downes

30 June 2012

There's a film coming out soon about the famous black power salute of olympic champions - this is probably the source of the olympic committee's contractual stipulation on no politics.

Thing is even though these guys were stripped of their medals we all now who won regardless of the knowing the names to the degree that 40 years on a film is being made.

I guess these winners were equally concerned about a political situation as well as athletics.

In this there is hope of working together


29 June 2012

Thanks Esther and Colin. It's good to feel that something positive can grow from this. Let's keep this dialogue going ...

BTW if anyone would like a copy of the cartoon I'd be happy to forward it to you via email. Just send your contact details to ''


Esther Fox

29 June 2012

Just wanted to say an excellent Blog - you have summed up so well much of what I was aiming to express in my previous comment, but with real examples that give this debate such pertinent meaning. Thanks again and love the cartoon.

Colin Hambrook [ED]

29 June 2012

Excellent comment! I agree absolutely about the need to work together. We hear regularly through our networks at DAO about disabled people unfairly thrown off benefits after Atos health assessments.

Yet these abuses are rarely reported in the media. There was one report a year ago in the Guardian on Larry Newman who sadly died from lung problems soon after being declared fit for work.

Yet if you follow the work of Linda Burnip on you'll see that these unfair decisions are far from isolated.