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!).
The present government, seemingly run and controlled by a small clique of ex Public schoolboys, seem intent on taking us back to the 1950s where people did what they were told, without question. And the alarming thing is that this tactic seems to be working!
Let's just look at what has been happening with regard to Disabled people. Seemingly overnight the ConDems have managed to reverse the process in which society was begining to view us in a more positive framework.
People were beginning to accept and support our right to accessible housing, accessible transport, access to mainstream education, etc., and also the right to represent ourselves, rather than be beholden to the big charities whose main preoccupation seemed to be to keep a lot of non-disabled 'disability professionals' in work.
The view that we were helpless, pathetic creatures who needed to be cared for and detained within 'special' institutions - basically kept off the streets - was also slowly changing thanks to the pioneering work undertaken by disabled activists and academics over the past 60 years or so.
We'd started to succesfully challenge the negative stereotypes of disability that were portrayed on television and in the cinema and also encouraged some of the media to write about us in a more positive framework. Slow work and constant hard graft, but we were getting there.
But, in the short time that this lot have been in power, they've managed to reverse much of the progess we've been making. They have been sabotaging many of the tools we had aquired for creating our independence, encouraged the press to portray us as benefits scroungers and a drain upon society, and effectively set us back some 50 years. And what's even worse, is that the general public are falling for it all!
But are we down hearted? Too blooming right we are! So what are we doing about it?
I'd be interested to hear ...
One of the main problems affecting many disabled people at the moment is a lack of income. And, as a result, a reduction in the ability to make those choices that affect the quality of our lives.
Until recently, many disabled people earned a reasonable income from providing professional services to organisations which provided disability equality training for their workforce, as part of complying with their legal obligations in relation to employment and providing services. But recently this, and other equality training, seems to have slid right down to the bottom of the agenda - if not off the agenda completely.
Crippen the cynic believes that this is all part and parcel of the present government's efforts to undermine our status as equal citizens in society. First, they labelled us all benefit scroungers and a burden on society. Then this gave them licence to go ahead with their cuts in support services, giving a bit of encouragement along the way to those charities that claim to represent disabled people. So this - among their many other evil acts - has resulted in a reduction in funding everywhere and signposts a one-way route into residential care for many of us.
Many disabled people spent several decades wrestling disability action and equality training away from the "simulationists". Those were (and alas still are) largely non-disabled people, who think that making people wear a blindfold for 5 minutes enables trainees to understand what it is like to have a visual impairment or sending people out into the high street in a wheelchair shows trainees just how brave it is to tackle life on wheels. Having slogged to make disability equality training more meaningful, apparently now our skills are no longer recognised as valid or having any value.
Apart, that is, in those organisations which seem to have revived the old tradition of inviting a disabled people to come in and talk about their own experiences, providing them with a cup of tea and a sticky bun for their trouble.
So if you are one of those crips providing your services for free, could I just remind you that it took years of hard graft to establish our role as professional disabled people in the field of equality training. The last thing that we need is for our disabled brothers and sisters to undermine us in this role and to devalue the importance of this work.
It also goes without saying that we need to earn a living and be in a position to fight against those right wing bigots who don't want us to have any part in their Big Society!
As many of us will know, being a disabled artist and not allied to any group or organisation, it has always been extremely difficult to obtain funding. And those of us who produce work that has an overt political edge are even more handicapped (sic) by the funding system.
That's not to say that groups and organisations of disabled people who have applied for funding have had it any easier. For example I'm aware that our esteemed Editor Colin Hambrooke spends a large amount of his time searching for funding and then completing the endless application forms that inevitably go with this - and Disability Arts on Line (DAO) is one of our more established disability arts organisations.
And now the bloody CONDEMs, not content with slashing our benefits and support services have declared their 'Big Society'.
This involves not only the big disability charities coming back to haunt us with a vengeance (click here to see Crippen's political blog ) but also brings in the big corporations. These corporations will be encouraged to offer sponsorship to artists, including disabled artists who will be expected to compromise their art in order to obtain funding from a specific commercially oriented funder. Funding organisations like the Arts Council may well become redundant in this scenario.
And let's not forget the new funding process called the 'National Portfolio (NP)'. This is going to change the funding landscape yet again as the system of having Regularly Funded Organisations (RFO) is overturned. As usual most of the funding will probably go to organisations like the Royal Opera House (ROH). The subsidy on bums on seats at the ROH exceeds any other subsidy for the arts. So the toffs are being subsidised at everyone else's expense ... what a suprise!
Cartoon in the pipeline re the National Portfolio ... watch this space!
I was recently privileged to see Liz Carr make a brilliant, gutsy speech at the People's Convention on 12th February 2011. She spoke from the heart on behalf of every disabled person facing the uncaring attitude of this government. I'd like to share it with you...
"Thank you … I can only dream of being on the platform. One day … One day we’ll make it" (this was due to the fact that Liz was relegated as a disabled speaker to the area in front of the stage - the stage, as usual being inaccessible!).
"Disabled people make up 20% of the population. That’s a conservative estimate. We are hidden impairments, we are visible, we are old, we are gay, we are lesbian, we are black, we are white, we are all sorts of people, that’s who we are.
But what we are not is… We are not victims. We are not scroungers or frauds. We are not vulnerable or work shy. We are not charity cases or burdens or ‘unsustainables’ or useless eaters. We are fighters, survivors, leaders, comrades, brothers & sisters in arms, campaigners, citizens and equals.
This, like for many of us, is not a new struggle. Our history is littered with disabled people being scapegoated, demonaised, discriminated against and oppressed. It is also a history of disabled people fighting back against this.
From the League of the Blind who unionised in the 19th Century to fight for their rights, to the war veterans who marched on Whitehall for the jobs and respect they were due, to disabled people fighting to escape residential care in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s forming the Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation, to those of us in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s who chained ourselves to buses to secure equality in public transport and in law … We have been here before.
However, we are faced with a horrific onslaught of attacks from all directions. The cuts that we’re all talking about today, we encounter those cuts too – whether it’s the increase in VAT, privatization of our basic services, of the NHS, of cuts effecting the public sector – we experience them too as disabled people but on top of that we’re having our benefits whipped from us, we’re being assessed by ATOS. People in care homes are having the mobility component of their DLA (Disability Living Allowance) removed. We’re being charged for the basic right to have a wee, our Independent Living Fund money that allows us to be independent within the community is being removed in 4 years time, Incapacity Benefit is being scrapped and replaced by the unforgiving ESA (Employment Support Allowance), on top of that there is hate crime, limits to housing benefit, Access to Work, to transport and if we want to challenge it, to Legal Aid too. That’s fucked as well.
Disabled people are living in fear. We are living in poverty. We are going to be living in the Dark Ages where they decide between the deserving and the undeserving poor. But, we will not let this happen. Because through our history, what we have learnt is that the media, the policy makers and the Government will try to separate us into our different groups. They will try to weaken us. They will try and make us compete against each other for whatever crumbs are on offer, fighting amongst ourselves, individualizing this struggle, dividing us so that they may conquer and change the balance of society in favour of financial capital rather than social capital and equality. That’s what happening. We cannot afford to let this happen.
We are fighting for our lives, for our freedom, for our existence. That’s how important it is to disabled people and for everybody here today. It is about our basic liberty, our basic right to life. We will not be hidden away. We will not be hidden away behind close doors, out of sight out of mind, in our homes or institutions.
We will not settle for charity rather than rights. We will not be forgotten. We will not be silenced. We must mobilise and in doing so not forget those who cannot take to the streets in protest but who can through virtual protesting.
We must politicise. We must educate ourselves and others in what’s happening in our own and wider campaigns. We have to radicalise. This is about revolution not reformation anymore. We must unite. As disabled people, as disabled people and allies, as everyone - we must unite. Together we are stronger. Thank you."
here's hoping that you had a great holiday and are all fighting fit for 2011?!
I'm just getting over man flu (second dose) so have been a bit lax with regard to posting here for a couple of weeks. I am, however putting the final stages to the follow-on from my last blog where lots of you mailed and messaged me with ideas and suggestion about involving the disability arts movement with the current anti-cuts protests throughout the UK. I hope to have this up within the next couple of days. It will be well worth waiting for, I promise.
As I've previously mentioned. I'm now running a seperate blog to carry my more political work and you can see what I'm up to there by clicking on the following link.
It's a scary time as this government are gradually clicking all of the pieces of their 'Big Society' into place, and the recent white paper intended to change the way that people give to charities in the UK is a part of this. This will affect all aspects of disabled people's lives and is part of the bigger plan to get us off the streets and back into Care Homes!
Click here to visit this article and leave your comments
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.
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.
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.
I've recently received an email from a Disabled equality trainer in Australia asking if she could use some of my cartoons about labelling within her courses. She hadn't come across the concept before and felt that it might help her to get across the equality message to both non-disabled and disabled Australians.
"No problem" I replied, and then began to wonder if other readers of this blog in other parts of the world were as ignorant of this concept as she was. With this in mind I've recreated a simple example and cobbled together some information about the subject for you.
The concept of labelling people, especially Disabled people has been with us since early times. Then we were made to wear labels that identified us as ‘witches’ or as the ‘familiars’ of bad spirits or ‘changelings’, or, if we were lucky, as the harmless village ‘dolt’ or ‘idiot’. Although if hard times came, such as a crop failure or something equally as harmful to the community, then the ‘idiot’ often became the 'scapegoat' and was disposed of to appease the gods.
As times progressed and society became more enlightened (Ed - our American readers should note the use of irony here!) we were seen more as figures of fun and were given the labels of ‘Jester’ or ‘Fool’. Those of us with mental health issues were also allowed to entertain the nobility, but were put on display in places like Bedlam and given the labels of ‘Mad’ and ‘Insane’ regardless of our actual condition.
We were also given the label of ‘villain’ in early children’s stories, usually with an eye or a limb missing, or labelled as the ‘weak’ or ‘needy’ character whenever sentimentality or charity were portrayed by such as Charles Dickens and other writers of his time.
Following the onset of the industrial revolution we were deemed ‘worthy poor’ and allowed to beg, and some argue that this is where the label of ‘handicapped’ (cap in hand) originated. The label ‘Invalid’ also appeared about this time and literally means ‘not valid’.
The medical professionals during the 19th and 20th century, deciding that we needed repairing brought with them their own labels. These ranged from the familiar ‘idiot’ to the ‘imbecile’, the ‘feeble minded’ and the ‘moral defective’. More labels followed as they began to split us into groups of impairment, resulting in 'Mongol’ and ‘Spastic’ to name but a few.
The more subtle labels remain to this day and are still used by those groups and organisations who wish to control us and wish to separate us from society. It is mainly the charities that rely upon the power of labelling, still portraying us as ‘vulnerable’ and ‘incapable’ amongst other disempowering descriptions. The medical profession also continue to play their part, although have changed some of their labels to appear more progressive; ‘Cerebral Palsy’ replacing ‘Spastic’ and ‘Down’s Syndrome’ replacing ‘Mongolism’ for example.
Remember, labelling people is about disempowerment and only works if the person who is given the label agrees to wear it.
Following the news relating to Local Authorities being advised by the Department of Health to give preference to tenders for services from User-Led Organisations (ULO's) it got me to thinking about the groups and organisations that have traditionally gone after this work.
These are, of course, the organisations 'for' disabled people, those charitable concerns that have been doing it to us crips for a very long time and who have established the status quo that effectively maintains our role as recipients of their charity.
I can't see them quietly standing to one side as organisations run and controlled by Deaf and Disabled people end the monopoly that they have enjoyed for the past 60-odd years.
Some of these organisations have already started an underhanded strategy by quoting the social model into their press handouts and publicity materials. Although this is as far as it goes, as their practices are still based solely upon the medical and charitable models of disability.
My mate Dawn runs the Mentally Wealthy blog and has some interesting postings around the subject of user involvement. Click here to visit her blog.
I'm currently doing some collaboration with Vicky Wright, disabled writer and actor (she recently played a lead role in the CH4 Cast Offs series) and you can see the result of our first piece together in her powerful open letter to the comedian Frankie Boyle. I'll keep you posted about any future work we do together ... Click here to visit Vicky's article.
Has anyone else noticed that having adopted our social model language, the big charities and government departments have started to twist the wording around so that the 'problem' is back with us crips?!
For example, a recent press release from the Department for Work and Pensions contains the lines: 'It is clear that the current assessments are failing to pick up on people with major barriers to work' (this refers specifically to Disabled people). Now we could be charitable and say that this misrepresentation of the Social Model concept is down to a lack of understanding and ignorance on their part. Or you could see this as yet another example of how 'they' are always going to label 'us' as the ones with the problem!
Still don't get what's happening here?!
Well, traditionally Disabled people have been seen as the ones with the problem and that we have to either be cured or fixed in some way in order to fit in with society. Along came the Social Model understanding of disability and the concept that 'it was society that was throwing up the barriers that disabled us' was introduced. As well as taking the 'blame' away from us crips it was now a much easier task to focus on society and identify and remove those barriers that were disabling us. Eventually this understanding was introduced into mainstream thinking and began to replace the Charitable Model understanding so loved by society and the many charities that had been set up to represent us, and also the Medical Model understanding which put the specialists in charge of our lives.
As I see it, this subtle change back to Disabled people 'owning' the barriers means that we've now come full circle, allowing society to opt out of its responsibilities once again and with us crips being at fault!
Where do we go from here I wonder?!
Sometimes when an old cynic like me thinks we are not making any progress and there’s too much of the same-old, same-old, I get a dig in the ribs and a reminder that us crips do occasionally have some influence. This nudge was another example of how we have penetrated the portals of policy and power.
Thanks to years of background work, solid research, lobbying, persuasion, arm-twisting and hard, under-funded graft by crips, disabled people’s (and carers´) organisations are now officially sexy and sought-after. There’s a big conference coming up this week run by the Department of Health on user-led organisations (ULO's). Of course lots of it now is in that impenetrable language – officialese – but there you go.
“The success and sustainability of User-Led Organisations is a vital part of the transformation of Adult Social Care and the wider personalisation agenda ... each Local Authority with social services responsibilities should have a User-Led Organisation in place by 2010. This conference is an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the successes achieved by ULO's ... ” goes the conference blurb.
Actually we do have something to celebrate here. These people just didn’t wake up one day and think “ah, let’s do something positive for the disabled [sic]”. Like with pushing for anti-discrimination legislation, like crips campaigning their guts out for direct payments (and individual budgets) and much, much more – being a thorn in the side of the Powers That Be does sometimes have an effect.
Before you think I’ve fallen into a vat of schmaltz and popped on a pair of rose-tinted specs, I hasten to assure you that the Crippen crap-o-meter is still pulsing. We need to see Councils putting some financial welly into all this to support crip organisations, properly and without strings attached.
We need to see this top-down rhetoric having a real effect locally – and – oh, please! – we need those medical-model, finance-gobbling, charity-focussed ‘for’ organisations to move over and let us take control of our lives.
A special thanks to Mrs Crippen for her invaluable input here.
Disabled activists, who campaign to raise awareness of those disabled people who are currently incarcerated in one of the many homes run and controlled by the big disability charities, are often asked, "but surely in this day and age, no one is kept in these places against their will?"
In answer to this, I want to tell you about John (not his real name), who resides in a Leonard Cheshire home for young disabled people. We've exchanged emails a couple of times and I've sent him a copy of my 2010 cartoon calendar. He told me that he has to hide the calendar because the staff wouldn't approve of some of the cartoons in it, especially those that parody the type of behaviour that the staff participate in!
John, like hundreds of other disabled people in his position, faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life trapped in the Leonard Cheshire system. There is no support offered to those disabled people who want to break away from this institutionalised care; no advice on how to navigate through the bureaucracy that prevents him and others from accessing the sort of care package that would allow him to live on his own, or with friends. He talks of being patronised and treated like a child; visited by 'do-gooders' whose sole objective, it seems, is to get another dose of that 'feel good' factor at his expense.
John has given me permission to reproduce the following extract from his last email...
"Do you know we have Father Christmas coming round on Christmas Day? I mean, some fat patronising bloke in a red suit comes round with his stupid sodding bell saying "Ho Ho Ho" and giving out presents (invariably tins of shortbread; there's a glut for the next few weeks.) We're all adults, it's a home for young adults (though some people are now elderly having lived here for years) and that's what they do; treat us like little infant kids. What's perhaps even worse, is that a lot of the people here don't get to go out. I mean practically never, not for weeks upon end; as they don't have the support they need and family don't bother with them. We could really do with volunteers from (say) the local Lions to get people out of this depressing and distressing place. But we only ever see them on Christmas Day when they come and make themselves feel better about themselves by patronising charity towards us cripples.
I hide from him. I mean - a 30-odd year old man hiding from Father Christmas in his own home. It's not pretty, I tell you."
So the next time you see a member of the Disabled people's Direct Action Network (DAN) shouting out "Free our people!" think about John and hundreds of other Disabled people just like him.
Hi folks. I'm starting 2010 as I mean to go on; gloves off and more in your face then ever before!
And my first question for this decade is: 'How much longer do we have to beat our heads against the wall of discrimination that exists in the UK?'
I don't know about you but I'm getting pretty pissed off about the lack of any real progress regarding public perception of us crips and our role in society. It's still mainly those over paid non-disabled parasites who run those big organisations that have been set up to represent us (but without including us in their management) who are perpetuating the 'Tiny Tim' image that society has of us. Let's face it, it's in their interest to preserve the status quo of disability as without it, they'd all be out of a job. It's also in the interests of the various government departments that control our finances, job prospects, etc to let these sanatised organisations continue to represent us. Imagine what could happen if they opted to speak to real Disabled people? It might mean them having to get off their fat-cat arses and start to address some of the real issues that exist for us!
And I also predict that you're going to see more Disabled people out on the streets protesting in the UK this year. Led by such organisations as the Direct Action Network (DAN) and some of the other larger groups of Disabled people, we'll be making our voices heard like never before.
So, fellow crips and non-disabled allies alike, prepare yourselves. It's going to be a lively year!
Our esteemed Editor Colin has invited the dao bloggers to look back over the past year and highlight some of the events that have crossed our keyboards.
Never one to stick to a brief and usually finding ways to expand the boundaries (Ed: Tell me about it!), I delved into my back-up hard drive, clicked on the folder marked 'the beginnings' and came across the original cartoon that had started me on my career as Crippen.
I've redrawn it several times since then, adding colour, altering the characters, etc., but the context has stayed the same - so called non-disabled expert hogging centre stage and expounding their views on disability, usually to the detriment of Disabled people.
So I think the real message here is that until we are allowed to participate fully at those policy making forums that are deciding our futures, run and control those charities and organisations that have been set up to represent us and make redundant all of those non-disabled parasites who are making a living off of our backs, only then will the need for such politically inspired cartoons end.
Until this time (and don't hold your breath!) I'll continue to bang on about the injustices that run riot through the disability arena.
Have a good rest during this holiday period and join me again in 2010, along with all of my colleagues at DAO.
Most of you will have either seen it (or heard the audio description) or will have read about it. Either way, you'll have realised just what an impact the new Channel 4 series Cast Offs, starring REAL disabled people in the roles of the disabled characters has had on the disabled community. Fed up to the back teeth with non-disabled actors playing disabled characters, crips around the UK have voted a resounding YES! for this pioneering piece of television comedy drama.
The episode that has stayed in my mind starred the indomitable Vicky Wright (despite one of the non-disabled characters who seemed to have modelled himself upon Ricky Gervais hogging a lot of the script), I found that particular episode stood well on its own with a story line that made you work a little. The opening scene where 'April' looks at herself in the mirror, applies lip stick and gives herself a smile only to come back seconds later and wipe the lipstick off was a provocative portrayal of just how vulnerable we crips can feel at times, despite the war paint.
Vicky, as with Mat Frazer and the other disabled actors have shown through this pioneering piece of work that we're not just the pathetic recipients of charity that the mainstream press and television usually portray us as.
In one of the many interviews given by the actors involved Vicky commented: “This is not something that’s really been seen before, showing us as adults who drink, swear and have sex. I am sure there are going to be a lot of people saying, ‘My goodness, I didn’t know disabled people could do that’.”
Joel Wilson, one of the producers, has said: “I hope that this will do for disability what Queer as Folk [the 1990s drama about gay men in Manchester] did for gay people: make people see that disabled people are no more and no less fucked up than anyone else.”
Some of the criticism I've heard about the series from other crips has not actually been about the quality of the programme itself. It's been more about the fact that the writers have once again focussed more on the physical aspects of impairment, leaving out the high percentage of those with hidden impairments (disabilities) who are amongst the number of disabled people within the UK. Admittedly there was some reference to the people involved having experienced mental health issues, such as depression and being effected by the way in which society perceived them, but I think this is a valid point. It's also a good argument for commissioning a new series that involves some additional disabled characters!
Unfortunately, due to problems with t'internet I'm a bit late with this cartoon which was intended to come out during the recent Children in Need event on BBC Radio and TV. Still, better late than never ... and the idea of a Trojan Pudsey rather tickled me!
Needless to say, us Crips are still campaigning against this charitable farce. Our message is loud and clear and asks why do Disabled children still have to rely on this type of humiliationathon AND have to appear sufficiently grateful in order to get what should be there's by right (and to make the likes of Terry Wogan feel good about themselves)?!
When we were young, most of us had to endure this form of gate keeping as pretty well everything we needed to live within a hostile and non-accessible environment came through the charitable concerns set up to represent our particular form of impairment. We were expected to play the game and allow so called celebrities like Jimmy Saville to pose with us as we gratefully received our wheelchair or mobility aid.
Enough already ... give today's Disabled youngsters EVERYTHING that they need in order to achieve a level playing field. This includes access to an inclusive education, a fully integrated and accessible transport system, respite care for parents and siblings, access to free mobility aids and adaptations, full grants to make their property accessible, etc ... and all without them having to jump through these out dated and humiliating hoops!
What with our recent rant about Charities and the Lily Allen song that's being adopted by Gay Rights activists in Manchester, I thought we crips should get in on the act ... sorry about the language but it is in the lyrics of the song (bet I still get a comment from disgusted of Tonbridge Wells though!).
Incidentally, we're still having a problem with the comments section of this blog and you have to scroll down quite a way before you find it! Please do leave a comment as I'd love to hear what you think of the current cartoon. Thanks.
Following on from Bob Williams-Findlay’s comment last week about his experiences with the Spastics Society (now Scope), I invited him to write something for this week’s blog.
“It is very difficult to explain my mixed emotions regarding the Spastics Society, now renamed Scope. In many ways I feel I achieved what I did despite being subjected to psychological abuse whilst in one of their segregated schools.
There is little doubt that, up to the last two years at the Society-run Thomas Delarue School, my formal education was of a high standard and I obtained a range of ‘O’ levels. However the impact of activities outside the classroom was to have a massive affect both on my ‘A’ level studies and the rest of my life.
I’ve never been an Angel, but I doubt I was that much different to most 16-17 year olds. I became interested in my own sexuality, and attracted to a young girl at the school. This was viewed as a threat to the establishment, and my refusal to stop the relationship had dire consequences. The first sign of trouble was when I had my collection of poetry seized. I was banned from writing ‘pornographic filth’ and could only have my work returned at the end of term when I had to take it home. The offending line was: “I want to run naked through the long grass/ Feel the warmth of the sun on my skin…”
I was deeply unhappy about the many injustices that occurred at the school and this affected by studies. I failed my A levels and left school and went to another Spastics Society-run institution where I floundered for another year. At this time two important events took place; my father died, and I got engaged.
When I got engaged, the Spastics Society sent a social worker to talk to me about why I had done this. Unknown to me at the time, after our meeting the Social worker asked my mother if she knew what I had done and wasn’t she worried that I was probably an “over-sexed young man”.
Now, how one works out that somebody’s over-sexed from an hour meeting is beyond me but really that isn’t the agenda is it? The agenda is that at that time – we were talking about the early Seventies – disabled people were supposed to be asexual and incapable of intercourse.
My treatment wasn’t a one-off; others have revealed similar tales; including physical and sexual abuse. At no time have I been approached by Scope about what went on at Delarue, nor have I seen them take ownership of their ‘discriminatory history’, so forgive me if I don’t take their stance on disablism too seriously.”
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 recently posted this cartoon on Facebook and received emails from all over the world in support of the message that it contained. It’s not a new concept and I’ve lost count of the cartoons I’ve produced over the past couple of decades with the same message. But it still seems to hit the spot!
It seems that many of us Crips still feel oppressed and controlled by the many groups and organisations ‘for’ Disabled people that still exist, and who still insist that they are representing our aims and objectives.
Although some of these organisations have now started to include Disabled people on their management teams, there’s still a long way to go before all of these groups ‘for’ become groups ’of’ Disabled people and begin to truly represent us. Unfortunately, many of these groups ‘for’ are still wasting much of their resources on maintaining the status quo and are doing little to support us in our fight for Civil Rights.
Perhaps things could start to change if people, rather than just putting their money in the tins being rattled by disability groups, asked the question: “How many Disabled people are involved in the running of your organisation, and in what capacity?”.
World Wide movement
As well as regular contact with our friends in the States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, some of the emails I’ve received recently have been from Disabled people in Pakistan, India, Iraque, Afganistan, and Jordan. They are only just beginning to gain a voice in their own countries and have started to reach out to us here in the West to share our experiences of the fight for Civil Rights.
I’m starting to post links to some of these organisations on Facebook so if you’re a member and a friend of Crippen, please get in touch with them and offer your support. If you’re not yet a Facebook member, I recommend that you join and become a ‘friend’ of Crippen Disabled cartoonist. I’ll add you in and make sure that you’re kept up to speed with news and events.
Away from home
As some of you will be aware, I’m away from my home computer at the moment and relying on the use of Internet cafes and friends laptops to keep up to date with events and to post to my blog and other sites that I contribute to. It’s been great meeting up with old friends in the UK (although I’ve not been able to see everyone sadly) and if it wasn’t for the sun in Spain you know I’d be here braving the wet and cold with you all!
Disability Arts on Line (DAO)
Thanks to all you guys who have been logging on to this blog and other parts of the DAO site. It’s been fantastic to watch our figures grow as more of you become members and sign up to receive our newsletter. When you do visit, don’t be afraid to leave a comment on any of the blogs, etc. Even if it’s just to say hi!