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Disability Arts Online

Shit Bucket Challenge / 5 September 2014

You must have heard the collective groan from thousands of disabled people across the country as the latest charity gimmick rolls out across the UK. Yes, the 'Ice Bucket Challenge', yet another divice aimed at raising money for the many charities that claim to represent us.

By participating in this sort of fund raising event, people have not only been conned into supporting the stance taken by these big disability charities - that disabled people are unable to live their lives without them - but that we continue to be the subject of mindless, undignified stunts, that undermine our real credibility as meaningful members of society. By associating us with the continued role of society's 'Jester' we are still seen as an object of amusement or at worse a target for abuse, humiliation and discrimination.

For many years disabled activists like myself have tried to educate society into watching well meaning but misguided folk wallow around in a bath of cold custard to raise money for disability based charities does nothing to address the real issues around disability. Namely the oppression and inaquality that disabled people continue to face everyday.

Most of these charities are run with only a token involvement of disabled people, often in the role of unpaid, focus group members. The mainly non-disabled people employed by the charities not only benefit from a well paid job, but also receive perks and benefits denied to the very people they claim to represent.  

By their very nature, many of these charities depend upon the general public feeling sorrier for disabled people than - let’s say - abandoned kittens in Greece. And in order for society to feel this, we have to be portrayed as tragic, but brave or plucky, and needing their help to overcome our awful handicaps. In this case ‘help’ is defined as giving money to the particular charities that claim to represent us by participating in some 'funny', one-off stunt.

By perpetuating this scenario, the big charities continue to suck in vast amounts of money, with only a small percentage actually filtering out to those disabled people they supposedly represent.

Compounding this, Mr and Mrs Public having donated some money, go away feeling that they’ve done their bit for society and that the problem of ‘the disabled’ has been sorted. What in fact has happened is that the stereotypical beliefs that most people have about disability have been reinforced yet again, making it even more difficult to get our own messages about equality and civil rights across.
 
So the next time you think about taking part in the current craze of Ice Bucket Challenge, think about what you're actually doing and saying about disabled people. Talk to us and ask how you can work with us to turn this whole cycle of oppression around.