Currently running on Facebook is a campaign lambasting the Comic Relief 'Red Nose' day because, they say: "(We) are annoyed and distressed at Comic Relief's decision to include David Cameron in the video to this year's charity single by One Direction. They then go on to list all of the atrocities committed by Cameron, aimed at sick and disabled people, and those on benefits or on a low income.
Firstly, let me make it clear that I agree wholeheartedly with this group's stance against Cameron and the present government. What the ConDems are doing to certain sections of our society beggars belief. I have, along with other disabled activists, been in the thick of the fight against them and will continue to take my place alongside those who challenge the government.
However, to boycott an organisation that is the very antithesis of Tory policy, just because of Cameron's appearance in the video is, in my humble opinion, not exactly constructive.
Many years ago, when Comic Relief, Children in Need et al first appeared on the scene, disabled activists throughout the country were appalled at the patronising crap which oozed from our TV screens. Not only did we boycott these appeals but we also tried to make sure that everyone knew why. We chained ourselves to the railings outside TV stations, we leafleted and a few intrepid souls even managed to gate-crash televised events to publicise our cause. "Piss on pity", "Rights not charity", "Nothing about us without us" were bold new statements way back then.
We all know what Mr Wogan and his cronies did. They ignored us and have pretty much continued as if nothing had happened. Lenny Henry and the other, original Comic Relief organisers, however, started up a dialogue with us and asked what they were doing wrong. They listened when we explained and took our criticisms on the chin.
From this small step many of us began working with Comic Relief (arguably the ONLY such charity to have agreed to work with disabled people on our own terms). Some of the results have been the increased involvement of disabled people in the organisation, funding being directed towards organisations "of" rather than "for" disabled people and changing the "tragic but brave" stereotype that so damages our struggle for equality and full citizenship. (And it became an approach they've used with other groups they support, too.)
Those of us who are really long in the tooth will remember that landmark training resource "Altogether Better" which was so vital to disability equality/disability action training throughout the 1990s and beyond. Perhaps for the first time, it enabled Deaf and disabled people of all ages to tell our own story through the video clips and materials it brought together and it tackled some highly controversial issues head on. Who funded it? Well, Comic Relief actually.
So please guys, hammer Cameron and his cowboys as much as you can. I'm with you on that. But don't risk sabotaging probably the only organisation of this type which, in my opinion, has worked hard to take our issues on board and provided a level playing field for us all to operate together on.
Thanks for listening. Rant over (for now!).
When these latest figures hit my in tray this week I couldn't help wondering if this was further evidence of the effect of the government's targeting of disabled people?
Police figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland show that there has been a rise in hate crimes against disabled people during the past two years.
Although some of this could be attributed to an increased willingness to report such crimes, more than 2,000 such offences were recorded in 2011, which is up a third on 2010. This year's figures are proving to be even higher.
Hate crime monitoring began in 2008 to raise awareness of the problem. Perversely, hate crimes linked to race, religion and sexual orientation have fallen.
An offence is considered a hate crime if the victim, or any other person, considers it was motivated by hostility based on a person's race, religious belief, sexual orientation, disability or where the victim was perceived to be transgender.
Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, who heads the Association of Chief Police Officers' (Acpo) online reporting facility, True Vision, commented:
"The 2011 data importantly shows a further increase in disability hate crime.
"While we would obviously want to see reductions in the incidence of all hate crime, we suspect that disability hate crimes have been significantly under-reported in the past."
The Association for Real Change (ARC UK) launched a Safety Net campaign in 2009 - running for three years. They targeted 'Mate Crime' in which people would befriend someone with learning difficulties in order to rob or abuse them.
ARC UK is concerned that, without a sustained national campaign, more vulnerable adults with learning difficulties will be abused by people pretending to be their friends.
Rod Landman speaking for ARK UK said: "Identifying and tackling 'mate crime' is complicated. Victims often do not understand what is happening to them or are too afraid to tell anyone."
Mr Landman says that from his experience almost all of this type of crime goes unreported.
There are growing concerns that under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 the Court of Protection has been handed sweeping powers without adequate scrutiny and openess. This departs from the general principle of open justice held by other courts.
Holding its cases behind closed doors, the Court has the power to order that people with severe learning difficulties are sterilised, undergo abortions or have life-support switched off. It can even impose “experimental” treatments on these patients without their consent.
The Act also gives the Court power to order procedures “where that procedure or treatment must be carried out using a degree of force to restrain the person concerned”.
Previously High Court judges were asked to rule whether people with severe learning difficulties in the care of health authorities and councils should undergo treatments if they believed it was in their best interests. However, these cases were held in public and could be reported by the media.
According to sources Sir Nicholas Wall, the President of the Family Division sitting in the Court of Protection, ruled last week that a woman with cancer of the uterus must receive treatment even though she has a phobia of hospitals and needles. He stated that this was because she has a learning difficulty and so was judged to be incapable of deciding on her own “best interests”.
He then allegedly ruled that doctors should be allowed to sedate the 55 year-old in her own home, using a drug hidden in a glass of squash, and then detain her in a ward following the essential treatment.
The case was only the second in the Court to be made public.
And yes, this is in England and the year is 2010!
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is writing to all primary and secondary schools in England inviting them to become Academies and therefore independent of local authority control. This could mean thousands of schools leaving local authority control.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT (Teachers Union), argued that it was wrong to stop local authorities from having a say in proposals for new schools, and that [the proposal] represents a costly and unnecessary solution to a problem that simply does not exist. She added that such "Academies and free schools are a recipe for educational inequality and social segregation".
She's hit the nail on the head there ... For example, how many of these Academies are going to want to continue with integrating disabled children into main stream education when there'll be no financial incentive? Remember, these schools will be looking towards their local business community as part of their funding drive and these funders will expect to generating some form of profit from their investment. I wouldn't think that they'd take kindly to forking out for additional tuition and support for disabled children.
There's also going to be an emphasis on presenting as a school of elite learners and achievers, a 'corporate image' that will attract more high achiever pupils and investers. This is just an old Tory strategy dressed up as an exciting new way of looking at education in this country. We'll soon end up with an even bigger divide between the rich and poorer members of the community, and with the remaining state schools loosing their best pupils and teachers to the cash rich Academies.
It will be interesting to see what this government comes out with regarding disabled people specifically, apart from the general changes that they are proposing that will have inevitable consequences on our lives. Be sure that I'll keep my ear to the ground and report back on anything else that comes to light.
Please leave a comment at the end of this blog and let me know what your thoughts and feelings are about this issue and the others that are coming out of the woodwork.
I'm devoting this week's blog to directing you to another part of the Disability Arts Online web site.
Following newspaper and television coverage about a series of crass and unfunny remarks that Frankie Boyle made during his recent stand-up comedy routine about people with learning difficulties, specifically Down's Syndrome, our very own Vicky Wright has jumped into the fray with an open letter to him.
Please click on this link - www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk">Vicky's open letter - which really says it all.
Nice one Vicky x
Contrary to public understanding, we Crips spend more time overcoming the negative effects we get from the various charities that claim to represent us, than we do benefiting from the services that they are supposed to provide.
“But where would you be without them?” I hear some of you ask.
Well, for a start we wouldn’t be seen as a pathetic, needy, homogeneous group of people, to be treated with either pity or contempt. We wouldn’t be made to jump through the many hoops that these organisations have set up for us, nor would we have to perform as grateful crips in front of an audience set up to applaud the achievements of the said organisations.
The damage caused to Disabled people by most of the bigger charities over the whole of the past century is incalculable. From locking us away in institutions and away from the mainstream society, to diagnosing our physical impairments as a ‘mental handicap’ and therefore denying us the right to an education, these organisations have a lot to answer for. Representatives of charities have also caused us to suffer sexual and physical abuse as well as instigating a programme of control which sole purpose was to disempower us and make us even more dependent upon them.
This ‘abuse’ still continues, albeit in a more subtle way than in the past. Each year an example of this ‘charitable model’ concept of disability is given hundreds of hours of air time on national radio and television as celebrities compete with each other to see who can perform the most embarrassing stunts in the name of Disabled children. The children are then trotted out and made to show how grateful they are.
Little wonder that one of the more popular groups amongst Disabled people on Facebook is the ‘I shot Pudsey Bear’ campaign. Admittedly some of the bigger charities are slowly starting to get their houses in order and have begun to recruit Disabled people to positions of influence on their management teams. Scope is one example of this.
However, others, having hijacked a lot of ‘our’ language from the Social model understanding of disability and presenting a more enlightened image, are still controlling the Disabled people that they claim to represent.
The old slogan ‘Rights, not charity’ is still as valid today as it ever was.
I've recently been commissioned to produce some illustrations to accompany a talk on Autism. It seems that the various groups associated with Autism are now including most of the associated neurodiverse conditions within their remit, such as Asperger's Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia (numeracy dyslexia), etc. Some groups are also moving towards an understanding of the Social Model of disability and are interacting with groups and organisations of Disabled people in this respect.
Several people that I've been speaking to recently are working at celebrating their differences as people who have Asperger's and identifying what they have to offer to the Disabled People's Movement in this respect.
This cartoon is one I created after a discussion about the benefits of the MMR vaccinations available to parents and the concerns that they could create Autism in the children who have them.
here are some links to the various Neurodiversity sites ...
I've started to create cartoons based upon people who have Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. This has mainly been due to the contacts that I've been making through Facebook and the new networks of Disabled people that I'm 'meeting' through this facility.
It's a difficult area to work in I'm discovering, as the various people involved in this area of impairment tend to have different points of view regarding their position in the Disabled people's movement ... or not! Obviously, those contacts I'm making from the States and other areas outside of the UK tend not to use the Social Model understanding of disability and therefore don't see themselves as being Disabled people (people Disabled by the barriers that exist within our Society). They don't relate to being described as Disabled people and especially not people who are Learning disabled.
Equally though, some people in the UK with Autism, Aspergers, etc., don't relate to the disability side of their impairments whilst still arguing that it is Society that creates the problem and not the way in which they function (so not a million miles from the Social Model understanding).
I originally created this cartoon for someone over in New Zealand and ended up having to cut out the reference to disability in the cartoon (I changed the punchline to "... doesn't he have an off button?"). I think perhaps the cartoon works better for those of us within the movement who are challenging the way in which some fellow Crips see themselves as being exclusively 'physically' impaired and therefore 'proper' Disabled people!
Hopefully this will highlight the issue that only by being inclusive, and understanding that barriers are more than the physical ones that we encounter everyday, will we attract people to the movement who can bring with them the creativity and 'out of the box' thinking that we need in order to survive.
Here are some links that might interest you.