Crippen hears about the revival of direct action

I don’t know. I take a week off in order to move house and what happens … the peasants are revolting, that’s what happens. And not before time!

It’s taken Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) to revive the tradition of direct action onto the streets and to confront this government about its callous and inhuman treatment against disabled people, or as this government no doubt refer to us … the peasants!   

DPAC, along with other disabled activists is hoping its #AudioRiot protest in central London will help highlight concerns about a series of “devastating” changes to social security, including imminent cuts to universal credit.

They are encouraging disabled activists and non-disabled allies to bring drums, whistles, cymbals, bells, klaxons, loudspeakers – as well as their own ear protectors – and anything else that might help to make noise as they protest about the government’s social security policies.

The protest, which will gather outside King’s Cross station at 11.30am on Tuesday 28 September, will also highlight the government’s refusal to offer recipients of so-called legacy benefits – including disabled people receiving employment and support allowance (ESA) – the same £20-a-week increase given to those on universal credit during the pandemic. DPAC has stressed however, that the action will not be targeted at King’s Cross station.

Andy Greene, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, told Disability News Service (DNS) he believed there was a lot of pent-up energy among disabled activists who have not been able to take to the streets for more than 18 months.

He said: “People want an opportunity to come out and have the harm that has been done acknowledged.”

He said the government had made decisions during the pandemic that had led to the deaths of countless disabled people and had “got away with murder” because of the months of lockdown.

Disabled people had paid for the government’s decisions with their lives, he said, and there had been very little critical response to that, both from within parliament and outside it.

“There is no accountability. Nobody is holding anybody to account.”

The action will be the first time disabled people has taken to the streets since the start of the pandemic, and it will take COVID-19 protective measures for those activists taking part.

Greene said: “We understand that not everybody will be comfortable going back onto the streets and coming to London for direct action, which is why we will also have online actions, and we are calling for local actions as well.”

On Saturday 25 September, three days before the central London action, DPAC will be calling on members and allies to create an #AudioRiot in their local areas.

And on the day of the London protest, the high court will be hearing a judicial review being brought by two disabled ESA recipients who believe the government breached the European Convention on Human Rights by increasing the standard allowance of universal credit by £20-a-week, but not increasing the rate for 1.9 million ESA recipients by the same amount.

A vigil to support those taking the judicial review will take place outside the Royal Courts of Justice, between 9.15am and 10am on 28 September.

Read more about the action in Disability News Service.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software.

A large crowd of disabled protesters are picketing outside of King’s Cross station. They are holding several large yellow placards that, when held together show an unhappy face emoji along with the words ‘DPAC Protest’ in black print. Other placards show one with the DPAC logo and another with the words ‘disabled people are dying due to Tory cuts!’. There is also another large red placard with a skull and crossed bones symbol and the words ‘more Tory cuts means many more deaths!’ Some of the protesters are holding musical instruments including drums and cymbals and are making a loud noise. Two people are entering the station and are glancing across at the protest. One of them, a woman, is saying to her male companion: “Strange – I don’t recall hearing about this on the BBC?!”

Crippen has a wake-up call about racism

I’ve recently had a wake-up call from a couple of young black poets, whose work has slashed open the complacency screen that I’ve unwittingly stretched between myself and the increasing accounts of racism that are becoming an everyday occurrence in the UK.

I’m not racist, or so I tell myself. I like to believe that I treat all people the same, regardless of their ethnicity. These accounts of attacks against Black and people of colour are terrible, but I tell myself that there’s nothing I can do about it. As a white, middle class male any attempt that I do make in reaching out to people of different ethnicities would surely be seen as patronising and from a position of privilege.

One would have thought that as a disabled person I would be familiar with oppression in its many forms and that I would be seen as an ally in the fight for equality that Black and people of colour are waging. But the label that I carry of being part of the arrogant and condescending race that tore apart whole countries in the search for wealth and power still hangs around my neck. The resulting slave trade and exploitation of non-white labour both here and abroad only adds to this legacy.

But the poetry? You may have read the review in DAO recently about the anthology of poems Apricot Toast created by the Cross family and edited by disabled poet, writer and activist Merry Cross. Her twins Subira and Wandia focus much of their work on addressing the oppression and persecution that they experience as young Black people in a predominantly white society. And it’s this poetry that hit me between the eyes.

The twins talk about not having time for white ignorance. “The arrogance to overlook the structures built with the bodies of our ancestors for the benefit of their ancestors/ The structures that leave us little room to move, try to restrict us from breathing, flourishing, thriving …” and “You may want to adjust your behaviour, your colonial inheritance is showing/ You forget Your ancestors’ blood-stained hands still grip my ancestors’ kingdoms.”

They write about our racist childhood nursery rhymes and minstrel cartoons, violent assumptions, our stereotypes and ‘positive discrimination’, our distrust, our ignorance, and our hate. And as for England, the country where they were both born, they describe it as: “ … a country whose wealth was created by slaves. A country built on thousands of Black and Brown graves.”

Read their poetry. I can’t begin to adequately describe the feeling that goes into their work, but it certainly opened my eyes to the reality of racism in our society.

You can obtain a copy of the anthology of poetry from most major book-stores.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A white wheelchair user is using a paint brush to paint over white lettering on a black board. Alongside is another young disabled person holding a card that reads ‘addressing racism in disability arts’. On the floor besides a big tin of white paint is a list with several black related terms on it. The word black board has a line through it. The painter is saying: “That’s the black board nearly done – what’s next on the list?!” 

© 2021. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND

Crippen hears that International organisation of disabled people is involved in Wethe15 campaign

Well, it looks as though the organisers of WeThe15 have now promised that groups and organisations of disabled people will be involved in the running and organisation of the campaign.

Disabled journalist John Pring from Disability News Service (DNS) has been able to secure assurances from both the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) that despite the presence of multiple mainstream organisations and businesses as campaign partners, that WeThe15 will be a campaign led and controlled by disabled people.

The aim of the campaign is to “intensify political will to support and strengthen” the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) over the next decade.

This means the UK government itself is likely to come under pressure, particularly as IDA hopes to push for greater involvement of Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) in policy design, an issue in which ministers have faced significant criticism and are currently facing legal action in the high court.

The campaign will prioritise different topics through its 10 years, beginning with access to COVID-19 vaccinations for disabled people and then – probably – access to assistive devices.

So, let’s hope that by having IDA involved along with the Deaf-led International Committee of Sports for the Deaf they will be strong enough to appose any of the usual ‘compromises’ imposed by mainstream organisations and businesses.

As John Pring comments, the IPC’s decision to launch the campaign marks a significant change in its approach to disability rights. You’ll probably remember that its previous chair, wheelchair user Sir Philip Craven had said that he objected to the use of the word “disabled” to describe someone, and that he would “definitely not” describe himself as a disabled person!

You can read the full DNS article here.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A small group of disabled people with varying impairments and ethnicities are standing facing a Paralympian in a speedy wheelchair. One of them is holding a placard that reads we the 15. The Paralympian is flexing his large arm muscles and is saying in a very excitable manner: “Please can I carry the placard … I’m very strong … can I … can I?” One of the other disabled people is thinking: “Bloody super Crips!”

Crippen discovered that non-disabled people appointed as disability ambassadors

WTF?! He’s done it again! The so called Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson has appointed a string of non-disabled people to be his new disability ambassadors!

Surely that would be the same as appointing white people to represent the Black and Minority Ethic population or appointing white males to represent the women of this country … wait, they haven’t, have they?!

This latest ironic twist comes just as his government’s so called National Disability Strategy was claiming it would remove barriers to disabled people’s participation andacknowledge and appreciate the contribution that disabled people make to our national life” (you couldn’t make this up could you?!).

The strategy – heavily criticised by disabled people’s organisations – aims to “help ensure disabled people can play a full role in society” and “remove barriers to participation in public life”, while it claims that the government is “committed to ensuring fairness and inclusivity in public appointments”.

But Tomlinson’s announcement, published quietly as “guidance” but reported fully in Disability News Service appears to include as few as three disabled people in his new appointments. Although it’s not possible to say exactly how many disabled ambassadors there are, as the Department for Work and Pensions has always refused to provide this number, even though the role is supposed to be about championing disability inclusion.

I shouldn’t really complain, as this idiot keeps me so well supplied with material for my blog!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Two white men in grey suits are being directed towards a green screen with images of disabled people on them. Where the faces should be are large holes through which they can put their own faces. A large camera on a stand is behind them. The man directing them is saying: “Well if you’re going to be disability ambassadors – you’ll have to look the part … so get behind the screen and stick your face through the hole!”

Crippen tries to discover if disabled people are involved in the ‘We the 15’ campaign

It’s funny what pops into your inbox these days. This blog in particular relates to one such email I received regarding a new human rights movement. And not only that … it’s a human rights movement to end discrimination against disabled people!

The press release I received the other day is from a group calling itself We the 15. The 15 apparently relates to the percentage of disabled people there are in the world, although where this figure comes from is not clear. And apart from reference to using the colour purple and stating their aims as being “the biggest ever human rights movement to end discrimination against persons with disabilities and transform the lives of the 1.2 billion people in the world with a disability” (gasps for breath!), there is very little information about who they actually are.

I’m writing this a few days before the launch of their campaign on 19th August 2021, so hopefully there’ll be a bit more information about who the organisers are after this date. There are some clues. The language they are using for example doesn’t originate from the disabled people’s movement in the UK. It tends to be the language of the status quo, those organisations who claim to represent us but have no disabled people involved in their management structure. It’s also the language of those disabled people who aren’t familiar with the Social Model understanding of disability; terms like “persons with disabilities” being more indicative of our European or American brethren.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking them. Any move to address the oppression of disabled people throughout the world can only be a good thing, especially if disabled people are involved. But why the secrecy? I’ll be interested to see who reveals themselves on the 19th. Hopefully it will be a group managed and controlled by disabled people and not another charity based initiative which undermines our continued fight for full civil rights.

Watch this space folks …

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A large crowd of disabled people are standing in front of a large purple screen upon which is written ‘#wethe15’ and ‘19th August launch’. Behind the screen can be seen large banners being waved around. One reads ‘we represent persons with disabilities’ and ‘are you one of the 15%?’. Yellow hazard tape and bollards are keeping people away from the screened off area. An Asian disabled woman is saying: “So why is there no mention of groups and organisations of disabled people being involved?!”

Crippen blinked and missed a government sleight of hand!

Wow … I blinked and before you could say High Court action (see my previous blog) I hear that the government have decided to launch a shortened version of their long awaited National Disability Strategy!

Unsurprisingly, groups and organisations of disabled people (DPOs) have reacted angrily to this “tokenistic” and “rehashed” move by the government, complaining that once again they’ve not been included in any part of the consultation process.

Of course, the government claim that they have consulted, although when you look at the list of organisations who have “so generously shared their time and insights” we’re not surprised to see the usual suspects, Leonard Cheshire, Scope and Mencap etc., leading the field! For the uninitiated, most of them believe that disabled people are not capable of managing their own affairs, never mind playing a role in the running of their organisations.

And no matter how many times we inform the government that we are not represented by these people, but that we have our own organisations including People First, The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) and Inclusion London, to name but a few, they still go to the ones that maintain the status quo (for status quo read ‘keeping the disabled [sic] in their place’).

What’s that? (Ed: muted muttering) … apparently I stand corrected, there was one DPO that was consulted, the Disabled Motoring UK organisation!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

An elderly woman in an open topped car has been pulled over into a coned off area of the road. A large sign reads ‘National disability strategy’ and a white man in a suit holding a clipboard and pen is standing alongside of it. The suited man is saying to her: I’ve ticked all of the boxes for you madam – all you have to do is just sign it for me!”. The woman is saying: “That’s very kind of you dear – who did you say you were?!”

Crippen hears that Disability strategy delayed again!

Having told us that their controversial disability strategy would be published in the spring of this year … then the summer … then “soon”, the government appears to have been forced to delay publication yet again.

Our good friend and fellow activist Doug Paulley, along with several other disabled people have been granted permission to challenge the legality of its consultation process in the high court. This means that the strategy is on hold again, awaiting the outcome of this landmark legal action.

As far back as May 2018, Disability News Service (DNS) reported that the Department of Works and Pension (DWP) was refusing to say what had happened to its last disability strategy, Fulfilling Potential which was first launched in 2011. That one seems to have disappeared into the same black hole that Justin Tomlinson has had installed in his office since becoming Minister for Disabled People.

You can read more about this latest set back in Disability News Service.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is standing in Justin Tomlinson’s office holding a document that reads ‘more from Dominic Cummings’. Tomlinson is pointing to a large black hole that hovers in the corner and is saying to Boris: “Just toss it in there Boris – that’s where I throw all my disability related stuff!”

Crippen responds to Boris’ latest gamble with our lives!

So, instead of just throwing the baby out with the bathwater, Boris Johnson seems determined to flush most of the disabled community down the toilet along with anyone else who falls within the ‘at risk’ category.

Despite Covid cases having risen to their highest level since January, he is determined that most remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England will be lifted on Monday 19th July. This is in spite of a backlash from government scientific advisers who have warned that doing so would be like building new “variant factories” according to an article in the Guardian.

The move to remove restrictions has been supported by the new health secretary, Sajid Javid, despite his  recent claims that, based on scientific evidence, it would not be possible to eradicate the disease and that the country would have to “find ways to cope with it”, as we did with flu.

One of the government advisors Professor Stephen Reicher pulled no punches when he commented on Javid’s claims. He said: “It is frightening to have a ‘health’ secretary who still thinks Covid is flu. Who is unconcerned at levels of infection and who wants to ditch all protections while only half of us are vaccinated!”

Meanwhile a further 24,248 cases were recently reported in the UK – up from 15,953 on the same day the previous week with the north-east of England recorded a particular surge in infections. Only Oxford and Tamworth have recorded greater increases during this period.

A worrying final note from Christina Pagel, a professor at UCL who said: “Something weird is happening in the north-east, and it’s a bit worrying. Not only are cases there rising rapidly, so is hospitalisations and the proportion of tests recording a positive result.”

So, watch yourselves folks. I for one will continue to wear a mask whenever I’m mixing with people who are not part of my bubble. I’ll also still keep following the advice of the medics by washing my hands frequently and socially distancing myself. Boris may succeed in culling a high number of us with his latest gamble, but I’m determined it’s not going to include me!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is playing dice with the Grim Reaper who has Covid 19 printed upon his black cloak and carries his scythe upon his shoulder. Boris is saying: “You make gambling with the lives of disabled people so easy!”

Crippen supports disabled women’s protest over Covid deaths

Disabled women have begun a three-week protest to highlight “appalling” research findings that showed they were almost twice as likely to die from COVID-19 during the pandemic as non-disabled women.

Over 20 disabled members of the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) and allies – including the party’s co-founder, Sandi Toksvig – were outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday to begin their #91Percent campaign.

One protester said the research, conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), showed that disabled women have been treated as “collateral damage” by the government during the pandemic.

Freya Papworth, co-chair of WEP’s disability caucus, told Disability News Service (DNS) that she believed the disproportionate deaths were due to discrimination and oppression, including the impact of a decade of government-imposed austerity.

She said: “It’s so much more than just the pandemic. A group of people that were just so vulnerable to begin with to attack, to instability, because the safety net has just been completely destroyed over the last decade so there was nothing to kick in when we had an emergency.”

The party wants to ensure that the official inquiry into the handling of the pandemic crisis examines its impact on disabled people, including the disproportionate loss of life faced by disabled women. They believe these deaths were avoidable.

Disabled women and allies will be protesting in shifts for a total of 91 hours outside parliament over the next three weeks, ending with a larger protest on 20 July.

The party is looking for disabled women and allies to cover 90-minute sections of the Westminster protest, and also for disabled women and allies to conduct 91-minute protests in their own local areas. Obtain more information from the 91Percent campaign website.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is gloating at a young Asian female wheelchair user having put a large red sign around her neck. The sign reads ‘collateral damage’. She already has two other signs around her neck, one reads ‘burden’ and the other ‘useless eater’. Behind him is a civil servant with other red signs under his arm. Boris is saying: “Well we thought – what’s another label when you already have so many!”

Crippen asks how can we engage young disabled people?

The term ‘returning to normal’ is one that frequently arises whenever the possible ending of the current Covid restrictions are discussed.

However, for many disabled people ‘normal’ means a return to the constant and unrelenting battle that we face against an inaccessible society. A society incidentally, that seems to have lost interest in supporting our fight for independence, as well as looking the other way as this increasingly hostile government erodes our rights still further.

So how about we don’t go back to ‘normal’, making it clear that unless this government start to treat us seriously, acknowledging that our demand to be given the same rights as non-disabled people is a valid one, then we’ll … we’ll … Well, what will we do?!

Do we go back to those demonstrations organised by the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN) when we challenged the lack of access on public transport, or the negative portrayal of disabled people on Telethon and other charity based events? People like Sue Elsegood, who was arrested during several DAN actions, is still out there keeping the flames of DAN alive with others from the old group, but like me, they’re no longer the young, feisty activists who manned the barricades all those years ago.

The truth is that we’ve all got older. Are we still able to sit out in the cold and wet, being hassled by the police and members of the public who want nothing to do with our demands for full access to an inaccessible society? I know I can’t do it anymore, which is why I spend so much time at my computer creating images and writing blogs and articles like many others, to keep the cause alive.

So, what options do we have? Perhaps there’s a way of stimulating the younger Crips who are just discovering the many barriers that stand in their way? Could we reach out and offer to share our knowledge and experience with them? You may remember a blog I created recently about young disabled people who’d never even heard of the Social Model understanding of disability. Without this basic knowledge they don’t stand a chance of challenging a status quo that is loaded very much against them.

If we can get these younger Crips engaged, with our support they could make a huge dent in the complacency that exists. If we can harness their energy in a similar way that climate change activists have done, we stand a real chance of breaking down many of the barriers that society and this government have erected to exclude us all.

So, any ideas of how we could go about engaging these youngsters?

Please leave your suggestions and ideas in the comments section of this Blog.

Thanks folks.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The scene is the UK Games Expo exhibition which is identified by a large sign above the heads of a group of young people. One of the youngsters, a white male is using a self-propelled wheelchair and has a small laptop computer balanced upon his legs. A tall Black male and a smaller white female stand either side of him. Approaching them is an older white male using a power chair. He is holding out to them a DVD case with a yellow lightening flash on the cover. Behind him is a poster with the same symbol on it, over-written by the words ‘smash the barriers’. He is saying to the group of young people: “It’s awesome – you use something called the social model to smash through the barriers!” The tall Black youth replies: “Dope!