Mike Oliver delivers a stinging rebuke to “parasitic” disability charities

December 2, 2017 by richard

BY JOHN PRING ON NOVEMBER 30, 2017

Listen

One of the key figures in the disabled people’s movement has come out of retirement to deliver a stinging rebuke to “parasitic” disability charities.

Professor Mike Oliver (pictured), the disabled academic who first defined the “social model of disability”, was speaking at an event hosted by the University of Kent last night (Wednesday), as part of UK Disability History Month.

The annual series of events was launched at a parliamentary event last week, and this year focuses on disability and art.

Those speaking at the launch included disabled comedian, activist and trainer Barbara Lisicki, who spoke about – and displayed – some of the tee-shirts designed and worn by members of the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN), and disabled artists Tanya Raabe-Webber and Tony Heaton.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell spoke of the importance of challenging stereotypes and how austerity had made it harder for disabled people to “fulfil their artistic ambitions and articulate their views about society” and how they face discrimination.

In his speech in Kent yesterday, Oliver warned of the risk that disabled people’s shared history was being “rewritten” by charities and politicians to “suit their own interests and agendas”.

He mentioned Scope, and a series of films it produced in 2015 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), which failed to point out that, in its earlier incarnation as The Spastics Society, it had been “bitterly opposed to anti-discrimination legislation in the 1980s and only reluctantly came on board when it became obvious that such legislation was inevitable”.

He also referred to former Tory leader William Hague, who told the BBC that he regarded the DDA as one of his finest achievements, when in reality he had “turned the legislation into a pale shadow of what it should have been”.

Oliver was heavily critical of “the big disability charities”, which he said had “proved predictably useless at defending the living standards and lifestyles of disabled people” from the government’s “vicious attacks, while continuing to do very well for themselves”.

He referred to the phrase “parasite people”, once used by the disabled activist Paul Hunt to describe those “who furthered their own careers on the backs of the struggles of disabled people to lead ordinary lives”.

Oliver said that these charities need disabled people “to be dependent and tragic, otherwise there is no justification for their existence”.

He told Disability News Service (DNS) before delivering the lecture that many of the big charities (although he was not attacking the individuals who work for them) – including Leonard Cheshire Disability, RNIB, Scope and others – were “parasitic on the lives of disabled people, and their attempts to reposition themselves as defenders of disability rights are an attempt to disguise this”.

He also included Disability Rights UK (DR UK), despite it being a user-led disabled people’s organisation, and he told DNS that one of its representatives recently spoke publicly “on how important it was to write letters to our MPs and government, as if (Oliver said) that hasn’t been happening for many years without changing much”.

He added: “If that’s their idea of political activism then yes, they should be included in my criticism, even if they are user-led.”

Philip Connolly, DR UK’s policy and development manager, said it was him who Oliver had heard speak at the UK premiere of the documentary film Defiant Lives.

He told DNS yesterday that he had “a long record myself in non-violent direct action so would never suggest that the only legitimate way of obtaining change is letter writing”.

He said: “Mike Oliver has never to my knowledge been in touch with me or Disability Rights UK so is not in a good position to pass judgement on us.

“He would be welcome to get to know us, and our CEO Kamran Mallick is willing to meet with him.”

He added: “I wouldn’t criticise those engaged in non-violent protest or those who write letters either; when we win it’s usually because of both. I did say this at the cinema and no-one took issue with me there.”

Oliver also spoke in his speech of how the Paralympics and the Invictus Games, the sports event for disabled veterans created by Prince Harry, are used by the government as political cover.

He pointed out that “not all injured ex-service men and women can or want to compete in elite sport and many who don’t live lives of deprivation, poverty and misery”, while the government is able to continue sending young people to “often illegal wars to get blown apart for their country”.

He told DNS: “The government among others are using disability sport to deny the reality of many disabled people’s lives and disguising the reality of their failure to provide proper medical and rehabilitation support for many servicemen and women injured in wars that are sometimes illegal.”

But he made clear that he was not blaming the organisers of the games, and did not mention Prince Harry by name in the speech, and pointed out that his own rehabilitation from a spinal cord injury more than 50 years ago owed much to disability sport (he won table-tennis gold and bronze medals in the international Stoke Mandeville games that were a forerunner of the Paralympics).

Oliver also said in his speech that disabled people needed to be careful of rebranding disabled people’s history as a struggle for rights, when “it has always been much broader than that”.

He said: “Rights on their own are easily incorporated into the agendas of governments without requiring them to change very much at all.”

He highlighted the UK government’s “post truth” claim that it was a world leader in disability rights, after the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities published a “damning report” in August in which it accused the government of “going backwards” on independent living.

And by positioning disabled people as “pathetic victims”, he said, the government had managed to launch “a massive attack on services and benefits for disabled people” while claiming that its “relentless assault on the living standards of disabled people is nothing of the kind but a heartfelt attempt to take public money away from scroungers and fraudsters and give it to the most severely disabled people who really need it”.

He concluded that disabled people needed to take responsibility themselves for “attacking the disabling barriers we face”.

He said: “What disability history teaches us is that we cannot rely on the bleeding hearts brigade and parasite people to do it for us.

“We have to do it for ourselves. We have to insist that our personal troubles are public issues that need to be resolved.”

Oliver also spoke about the divide that developed in the 1970s and 1980s between organisations controlled by disabled people – such as the Spinal Injuries Association and the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) – and “those that were about us but definitely not controlled by us”, such as Disability Alliance, which later merged with RADAR and the National Centre for Independent Living into DR UK.

He said his life had been changed by a UPIAS booklet, The Fundamental Principles Of Disability, published in 1976, which argued that “the root cause of our problems was the way society was organised and the disabling barriers we faced”.

This meant, he said, that he “no longer had to accept full responsibility for my impairment” and “now understood that my personal troubles were also public issues”, an insight that led him to develop the social model of disability.

He also spoke last night (Wednesday) about the part played by the University of Kent in developing the disabled people’s movement.

Oliver studied sociology and social anthropology at the university in the early 1970s, at a time when it was physically “unwelcoming” to a wheelchair-user, in contrast to the attitude of the staff and fellow students in the “generous times ushered in by the economic and cultural revolutions of the 1960s”.

He stayed on after his degree to complete his PhD, and to teach a masters course for professionals working with disabled people, which is believed to be the first postgraduate course in “what later became known as disability studies”.

At the time, he said, most writing on disability “was dominated by assumptions that disability was a medical problem and the focus was on illness and impairment”, and any personal focus was on disabled people as “tragic victims”, with the stereotype reinforced in popular culture through the “triumph over tragedy” genre.

He had wanted his masters course to challenge the idea that professionals working with disabled clients should focus solely on their “personal troubles and not how and why they were linked to public issues”.

Oliver’s first book, Social Work With Disabled People, published in 1983, introduced the social model of disability to a wider audience, and within five years, he said, “had become the mantra for many disabled people’s organisations and was beginning to make its way into official government documents”.

https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/oliver-comes-out-of-retirement-to-deliver-stinging-rebuke-to-parasite-charities



St Pauls’s Byatt Road, Stoke on Trent – Art Competition Winners

November 28, 2017 by richard

St Paul’s remove the barriers to disability through art

 The competition was idea of Nursery Teacher Mrs Turton who was finding out about the UK Disability History Month which started yesterday. She held a gallery to display the art work entered for the competition in which the children were asked to create art which promoted disability, re-create art which was created by an artist with a disability, or create art with something other than their hands.

 There were nearly 60 entries, plus other entries from parents and families.  Nicky Finney Head Teacher said “ I am really impressed with the thought and talent that has gone into producing these fantastic pieces of art.  The children have really challenged themselves and have involved their whole families in creating entries for this competition.  I am very proud of the children for producing such high quality work for such an important issue. I would like to pass on special thanks to Mrs Turton who has created this opportunity for the children to showcase their talents”

 The UK Disability History Month Website (www.ukdhm.org.uk) provided the information relating to the month and stated that: We would like local museums, libraries, councils, schools and colleges, work places and trade unions to put on exhibitions, talks and events during November/December 2017. So we thought we would start planning our event! The website asked us to examine artists who have been disabled, artists who have featured disabled people through a social model lens but also to understand the attitudes existing at different times over history towards disabled people through their portrayal in Art.  The winners of our competition were ‘Laila Wasim and Macy Tolley’ and ‘Violet Maskery and her mum Rebecca’. The parent only winner is Rebecca Buglass.

More information  Rebecca Winwood ,Byatt’s Grove, Longton, Stoke on Trent ST3 2RH.photographic@thesentinel.co.ukIMG_4480 artIMG_4488 artIMG_4492 artIMG_4493 art (1)IMG_4494 artIMG_4495 artIMG_4508 artIMG_4510 artIMG_4511 art



Celebrating the artistic history of people with disabilities – Shakira Dyer

November 24, 2017 by richard

> Celebrating the artistic history of people with disabilities

Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell speaking at a DHM event in Portcullis House, Westminster

Shakira Dyer reports on Disability History Month 2017 and its focus on the arts

UK Disability History Month (DHM) has existed in the UK for seven years, but not many people know about it.

Running from 22nd November to 22 December, it is a month to increase awareness of disability and the struggle for disabled people to have equal rights in society.

Every year it has a different theme; this year it’s disability in the arts.

Recently I went to an official DHM event at Hamilton House in Euston. DHM creator, Richard Rieser explained how disabled people had been represented in the arts in the past, as well as how disabled artists represent themselves today.

Shockingly, in the past many artists depicted the disabled as people to be laughed at. This was parodied in LS Lowry’s ‘The Cripple’, a social commentary on how able-bodied people viewed disabled people.

The Cripples, LS Lowry, 1949

Some famous artists in the past were actually disabled or had a mental health issue themselves, yet we don’t think of them in this way today, as their impairments were sometimes hidden.

For example, Leonardo da Vinci is thought to have had Asperger’s syndrome, as he was very dedicated to his work but found socializing difficult.

Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh are known to have experienced depression. Picasso expressed this in his artistic ‘Blue Period’ where he used darker colours and blue tones.

The Blind Man’s Meal, Pablo Picasso, 1903, courtesy of Gandalf’s Gallery

Today, more artists and singers are opening up about their disability or mental health issue. For example James Arthur and Lady Gaga, among others.

At the DHM event, disabled artists such as Tony Heaton and Tanya Raabe-Webber displayed their art and explained how they explored themes of inclusion and acceptance.

Tony Heaton is a photographer and sculptor, creating art that shows both psychical and social barriers towards disabled people, particularly wheelchair users like himself.

One of his creations, ‘Gold Lamé’ suspends a golden car from the beams of a museum. In the 1970s people with mobility impairments were given a ‘special car’, known as an Invacar, because there was an assumption the drivers were ‘invalid’.

On his website, Tony says there was only extra space in the car for a folded wheelchair. “The single seat meant that you travelled alone, the assumption had to be that you had no friends, family, lovers.”

At the DHM event, disabled artists such as Tony Heaton and Tanya Raabe-Webber displayed their art

Tanya Raabe-Webber creates portraits of people, both disabled and non-disabled, in a caricature style. She explores the human condition using both traditional painting and drawing, as well as technology such as iPads. Many of her portraits have been featured in the National Art Gallery.

Another artist, painter and model Alison Lapper was a presenter in BBC documentary ‘No Body’s Perfect’. Alison has no arms due to phocomelia, yet she shows this doesn’t stop her from being beautiful. The documentary aims to convince four camera-shy young people, to gain the confidence to be photographed.

Disability rights activist Barbra Lisicki campaigned with the civil rights group DAN (the Direct Action Network) for accessible areas on the buses and other essential rights.

She explained that DAN’s t-shirts had been effective in getting people to notice their campaigns. Slogans such as as ‘P*ss on Pity’ challenged the stereotypical view of disabled people as an object of charity, while the slogan ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ challenged the idea that disabled people had no say in charities representing them.

The group marched in protest and even chained themselves to buses to help raise awareness and change the law.

Although Barbra and others were arrested for their ‘civil disobedience’, the protests contributed to the creation of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, which made it illegal to discriminate based on disability.

You can read this BBC article about DAN’s campaigns.

At the event, we discussed how schools, colleges and universities could be taught about disability history. Schools could learn about famous disabled people who’ve made it in the arts (and other areas), who challenge negative perceptions of disability. The focus however should be on their artworks and their achievements, not just their disability.

What I think 
The event made me think about how the histories of so-called ‘minorities’ in society can be ‘lost’ or ‘swept under the carpet’ if they aren’t picked up by the mainstream, so that people on the outside and newer generations know what happened.

Hopefully the history of disability rights and art will not be lost. Online archives such as NDACA and ShapeArts are now being set up to preserve art by disabled artists for generations to come.

There needs to be more discussion of what is happening today to protect the rights of people with a disability or mental health issue, and ensure that we are no longer pushed aside. Although things are changing, disabled people still face barriers and social stigma imposed by society.

As inspiring as the speakers were at the DHM event, they came from the older generation. I’d like it if people younger people also spoke about their experiences.

For this year’s DHM, I’m working with a team of other disabled students at my university, King’s College London, to help launch events and raise awareness.

I’m also creating a website, Access The Arts, which will feature disabled artists from many different ages and backgrounds, showcasing their art and suggesting how they might be helping to change attitudes.

Shakira DyerOther articles by Shakira Dyer

Shakira is a visually-impaired writer and student at Kings College London, living in Tottenham. Loving history, literature and especially the German language, she wants to use all of these interests in a career someday. As a member of the Haringey Youth Council, Shakira represents the voice of young people in the borough, at local meetings and events.

http://exposure.org.uk/2017/11/celebrating-the-artistic-history-of-people-with-disabilities/
__________________________________________________________________________________
Exposure is an award-winning youth communications charity giving young people in north London a voice. Please support us to continue our work. Thank you.

 



Disabled People should vote Yes to Stay in Europe

March 21, 2016 by richard

Disabled People should vote Yes to Stay in Europe

As UK Disability Movement Rep on the European Disability Forum from 2004 to 2012 I fully endorse the position taken by Debbie Jolly and Richard Howitt. Disabled people in the UK are much better off in the EU and we should be playing a more active part in mobilising the 10 million disabled voters to vote to stay.
http://dpac.uk.net/2016/03/why-we-should-say-yes-to-the-eu/
http://www.richardhowittmep.com/index.php/18-02-2016-vote-to-remain-in-the-eu-for-the-europe-we-want-it-to-be-jeremy-corbyn-tells-richard-and-his-fellow-euro-mps-in-brussels

Let us learn the lessons of the history we have lived through. There is no doubt that we have gained a great deal in legislation on employment, transport, training, accessibility and Social Funds for training. The EU is enthusiastic about taking disabled people’s rights forward. In the UK successive governments—Labour, Coalition and Tory—have been doing the least possible to improve our position and indeed making it worse. Having EU legislation and directives as a fall back is in this situation is most important in safeguarding our rights. Because of the EU legislation:

  • Our buses, trains, stations, ferries, airports and air flights are accessible;
  • We have equal rights in employment and all employers have to make reasonable adjustments(various UK Government wanted to limit this to those who employ over 20;
  • The Blue Badge parking and access requirements operate throughout the EU;
  • Our Human Rights are supported and enhanced with institutions and hate crime opposed.

Gove, Johnson and IDS are all neo-conservative free marketeers who which to be rid of ‘red tape’ such as health and safety legislation and employment rights in a race to the bottom for ordinary people while they and their cronies get richer. Staying in Europe and building united opposition to this conception is the best thing for disabled people and working people.

We should not be seduced by xenophobic or racist ideas against immigration. We, ourselves, have and are subject to such prejudice and hate crime and should to know better.

Equally while those on the left arguing for exit claim the EU as a capitalist club- So the UK isn’t!!!

We must stay in Europe and fashion an alternative. The cross European Movement against austerity needs to campaign for a minimum standard of living for all citizens. The Disability Movement in all its fragments could start by unifying and turning outwards into Europe to work with the representatives of 80 million disabled people across Europe. The EU have ratified the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons ( without reservation, unlike the UK who put up 4 reservations) and has an active plan for its implementation including new legislation on Accessibility.

Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion and Coordinator UK Disability History Month



Where next for inclusion? – from rhetoric to rights 15 April 2016 UCL Institute of Education

February 24, 2016 by richard

What next for inclusion flyer 15 April 2016 V4



World of Inclusion wins Zero Project Award for Innovative Practice

February 19, 2016 by richard

World of Inclusion received an award in Vienna at the Zero Conference on Inclusive Education and ICT on 10th February 2016.http://zeroproject.org/practice/united-kingdom-wold-of-inclusion/
All the materials developed for the workshops and six films of the workshops are available in the Resources section of this web site



BBC Two living history.Anyone interested in taking part

February 15, 2016 by richard

UKDHM has been approached to see if anyone would like to take part in a living history programme shooting at the end of March for up to 3 weeks. They very much want disabled people to be in the programme and it will mean living in role for 2- 3 weeks. See below
So as I was saying, I’m working on a new BBC ‘living-history’ series which will recreate the Victorian slums of Britain and is looking for people (UK-wide) to become part of the community. We want to invite people with disabilities to come forward who are interested in history and up for the challenge. Please see the press release from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2016/bbc-two-the-slum?lang=gd

I work for a production company called Wall to Wall Media (www.walltowall.co.uk), which has made programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC One), and popular living history series such as Back In Time For Dinner (BBC Two) and Victorian Bakers (BBC Two).

We have been commissioned to make this landmark series for BBC Two over the Easter period 2016 that will recreate the Victorian East End of London and populate it with families, couples and adult siblings from all backgrounds and from all over the UK who are interested in experiencing the lives of the Victorian poor, or who currently live in Britain’s industrial cities. They may even have ancestors who lived in the slums of these major cities. The aim will be to live, work and make ends meet exactly as the Victorian poor would have done. The people selected will be expected to find work, master old trades and sell their wares in order to put food on the table and to make the weekly rent. We want to explore the period before the birth of the Welfare State and how the plight of the Victorian poor changed our nation for the better. We would like to hear from adults (they must be aged 18+). from all backgrounds who have different stories to tell about THEIR lives today. There was such a diverse mix of people who ended up in the Victorian slum community and we would like this mix of people to be truly represented in the people we select to take part – this will also enable us to highlight a range of issues at the time.

People who might be interested can contact us to find out more at casting@walltowall.co.uk / 020 7241 9228 or read more athttp://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/takepart/the_slum

We can assure you that we take our duty of care to our contributors very seriously and there will be many talks with the team here before anyone is asked to take part. We are confident that it will be a challenging but truly fascinating and unique experience for everyone involved.

I would be happy to answer any questions on 0207 241 9228.

Kind regards,

Harry

Many thanks,

Harry Harris



Successful day Conference and Launch of UKDHM on Portrayal of Disability in Moving Image Media.

November 24, 2015 by richard

Very successful day Conference and Launch of UKDHM on Portrayal of Disability in Moving Image Media.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell gave an audience of TV and film makers, actors and disabled people a strong message of support at the British Film Institute yesterday evening the 19th Nov 2015.
He said that the ‘New politics’ that Jeremy Corbyn and he were developing was based was based on treating others the way you wanted to be treated. In the past the Labour Party had focused on improving bread and butter issues for disabled people and that they had not understood that portrayal and the way it influences attitudes was more fundamental as it was this that led to discrimination. That now we will need to look at specific mechanisms for change this may include quotas and training to change portrayal and representation of disabled people in the media. There was now an open door to policy making in the Labour Party that there had not been before. (See www.ukdhm.org for the speech 17.30 to 26.00 mins).
John gave three political commitments:-
• The Labour Party will set up a policy dialogue with the organisations and individuals that disabled people think can make a constructive contribution on this issue. You need to advise us who should be round the table.
• We will go through policy making of the Labour Party nd ensure the issue of portrayal and representation of disability is inserted.
• If he had anything to do with it there would be a Manifesto commitment on representation as a foundation stone of how people perceive disabled people. We missed this out in the past.
Lastly, there was a campaigning role for all of us to bring attention to these issues and achieve solutions.
Philipa Harvey, President of the National Union of Teachers, conveyed the support of the union for the work of Disability History Month and said how the union was informing teachers of the need to raise the history of disabled people with children. Philipa also pointed out that a recent survey the Union had conducted showed many disabled teachers were being discriminated.
Elenor Lisney of Sisters of Frida talked about how images of disabled women on the screen had influenced her when growing up.
Richard Rieser, Coordinator of the UK Disability History Month talked about historically rooted stereotypes of disabled people based on myth, magic, superstition, religion and pseudo science that shape attitudes and are continually recycled. While there has been some isolated examples of good representation where we are just presented as ordinary; too often a new stereotype of bringing disability into narratives is considered as a ‘prosthetic’ to a weak storyline. There were more disabled actors and film makers but they were not being used anywhere near enough in broadcast media and film.

Richard then reported on the main conclusions of the Day conference. There should be tapered quotas to grow from 10 to 20% as the pool of talent grows. There needs to be more targeted training and work experience. Cuts in Arts subjects in schools and colleges should be reversed to develop the talent pool. All relevant union Equity, BECTU, The Writers Guild and Musicians Union should be pressured to do much more to gave portrayal of disabled people in the media. Acting for Change should be supported. Those who own and manage at a top level the broadcast media and film making must be approached and pressured to do more.
Earlier the Day Conference heard an analysis by Richard Rieser (Coordinator of UKDHM) of Image Portrayal using 34 film clips. This was followed by three panels of actors, writers and producers/directors/casting directors heard very interesting presentations and discussion . Participants included actors Sam West, Danny Sapani, Jaye Griffiths Liz Carr and Lisa Hammond; writers Laura Wade , Allen Sutherland , Rahila Gupta and Micheline Mason, Produces Ewan Marshall, Colin Rodgers, Ju Gosling, Paul Darke, Shirani Sabratnam, Colin Rodgers ; Director Ben Anthony and Casting Director Ros Hubbard.
There was general agreement that thought there was more portrayal of disabled people it was still far too little, often not realistic and stereotyped. There were disabled actors, writers and film makers out there but they were finding it very difficult to be b included due to many barriers. Currently BBC portrayal is 1.2% of the time whilst over 20 % of the population count as disabled people. The negativity and lack of realistic portrayal encourages negative attitudes, bullying and hate crime which is two or three times the level for other minority groups.
The following were agreed as a way forward
• Quotas – 20% should be disabled people. These to be tapered to keep up with the skill base from 10 to 20%

• More training – on and off screen

• Training live presenters with disabilities (Ade had 6 months extra training)

• Champion alternative voices – real life stories (challenge people to see things differently)Acting for Change

• Hold to account those who run and control the media – particularly publicly funded bodies

• UNCRPD – Article 8 implemented

• More support/funding for disability art events, especially at community level

• Need programmes which put forward the view of the disability lobby

• Pressure on the unions to be more proactive (e.g. Musicians Union, Writers Guild, BECTU, Equity, NUJ)

• Something like Turner Classic Movies (US) which showcase films with disabled characters in them – something for Film 4 and BBC to consider?

• Utilize new technologies (internet) to create pro-disabled media – there are businesses seeking to support new alternative platforms (training/experience both off and on camera)

• A new take on access is needed

• If films are state funded then they must be fully accessible to all.

• Challenge audiences to challenge their thinking e.g. Scope End the Awkward Campaign

• Question why ordinary supporting roles are not given disabled people.

For more information contact Richard Rieser UKDHM Coordinator Mobile 07715420727
e.mail rlrieser@gmail.com or info@ukdhm.org

For Review from Disability Arts on Line of the Day go to http://linkis.com/org.uk/OGDuQ



Very successful day Conference and Launch of UKDHM on Portrayal of Disability in Moving Image Media.

November 20, 2015 by richard

Very successful day Conference and Launch of UKDHM on Portrayal of Disability in Moving Image Media.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell gave an audience of TV and film makers, actors and disabled people a strong message of support at the British Film Institute yesterday evening the 19th Nov 2015.
He said that the ‘New politics’ that Jeremy Corbyn and he were developing was based was based on treating others the way you wanted to be treated. In the past the Labour Party had focussed on improving bread and butter issues for disabled people and that they had not understood that portrayal and the way it influences attitudes was more fundamental as it was this that led to discrimination. That now we will need to look at specific mechanisms for change this may include quotas and training to change portrayal and representation of disabled people in the media. There was now an open door to policy making in the Labour Party that there had not been before. (See YouTube for the speech 17.30 to 26.00 mins).

John gave three political commitments:-

  • The Labour Party will set up a policy dialogue with the organisations and individuals that disabled people think can make a constructive contribution on this issue. You need to advise us who should be round the table.
  • We will go through policy making of the Labour Party nd ensure the issue of portrayal and representation of disability is inserted.
  • If he had anything to do with it there would be a Manifesto commitment on representation as a foundation stone of how people perceive disabled people. We missed this out in the past.

Lastly, there was a campaigning role for all of us to bring attention to these issues and achieve solutions.

Philipa Harvey, President of the National Union of Teachers, conveyed the support of the union for the work of Disability History Month and said how the union was informing teachers of the need to raise the history of disabled people with children. Philipa also pointed out that a recent survey the Union had conducted showed many disabled teachers were being discriminated.

Elenor Lisney of Sisters of Frida talked about how images of disabled women on the screen had influenced her when growing up.

Richard Rieser, Coordinator of the UK Disability History Month talked about historically rooted stereotypes of disabled people based on myth, magic, superstition, religion and pseudo science that shape attitudes and are continually recycled. While there has been some isolated examples of good representation where we are just presented as ordinary; too often a new stereotype of bringing disability into narratives is considered as a ‘prosthetic’ to a weak storyline. There were more disabled actors and film makers but they were not being used anywhere near enough in broadcast media and film.
Richard then reported on the main conclusions of the Day conference. There should be tapered quotas to grow from 10 to 20% as the pool of talent grows. There needs to be more targeted training and work experience. Cuts in Arts subjects in schools and colleges should be reversed to develop the talent pool. All relevant union Equity, BECTU, The Writers Guild and Musicians Union should be pressured to do much more to gave portrayal of disabled people in the media. Acting for Change should be supported. Those who own and manage at a top level the broadcast media and film making must be approached and pressured to do more.



Why disability history matters

November 12, 2015 by admin

An article by Simon Jarrett.

 

It is Disability History Month, and some people with disabilities might be forgiven for asking ‘Who cares? As hard-won rights and benefits come under unprecedented challenge from austerity measures, the disabled community faces many battles.

Yet history is not as irrelevant as it may first appear. To understand where you are, it is often very helpful to know where you have come from. A sense of history, a reclaiming of the past, has been essential in many struggles for recognition and acceptance. The present has an unnerving habit of obliterating from memory those it wishes to remain invisible, or at the bottom of the pile. Claiming an historical identity, rejecting that invisibility, was an important part of the women’s liberation movement, gay rights campaigns and movements against colonial and racial oppression. It is now playing a similar role in the disability equality movement.

Disability history is often called a hidden history. It is nothing of the sort. People with disabilities gaze out from the past all the time. However, society tends to gaze back straight past them without noticing – a phenomenon which many people with disabilities may recognise.

In the middle ages thousands were disabled by the scourge of leprosy. Alongside them lived many more thousands of ‘creples’ ‘blynde’ and ‘deaff’, either disabled from birth or though accident or illness. There were constant debates about what this meant. Was it a punishment from God for sin, or did suffering on earth mean that people with disabilities were closer to God than the rest, and therefore superior? Some were cared for by monks and nuns, the small beginnings of hospital-type provision, but most lived in, and were very much a part of, their families and communities.  The eighteenth century saw the building of the first great hospitals which cared for some ‘maimed’ war veterans and those who were both destitute and disabled.

Yet it was not until the nineteenth century that institutional provision came to be seen as the norm for those deemed disabled, with a massive building programme of segregated asylums, workhouses and other institutions. For the first time the life of the disabled person was framed as a life best lived away from communities and families, under medical supervision. Disabled people were no longer 

understood as people who lived and worked, (yes, worked), in society. The great wars of the twentieth century massively increased disability levels, bringing about radical advances in assistive technologies, rehabilitation, mobility, environmental adaptations and public attitudes. After the Second World War disability rights campaigns, some led by war veterans, led eventually to the demise of long stay institutional care and the ‘new’ idea of care in the community.

So why does this matter? It matters because we need to understand that today’s ‘correct thinking’ about disability is just as much a function of contemporary beliefs and opinions as were ideas of sin and holiness in the middle ages. Professionals should understand that the idea of care in the community is not a new idea they have dreamed up – it is exclusion that has been the historical exception. The asylum movement only occupied 140 years of a thousand years of history. For as long as society has existed, people with disabilities have been a part of it, shaping and influencing, just as society has shaped and influenced their lives. To understand that, in schools, in workplaces and in government, is to begin to understand that exclusion is not inevitable, inclusion is not some vague theoretical aspiration.

Disability history is also riveting history. Disability History Month takes place from 22 November to 22 December 2015. Get along to a Disability History Month event if you can.Click here for more information.

Simon Jarrett is arts editor of Community Living magazine and is researching the history of ‘idiocy’, with a Wellcome Trust scholarship, at Birkbeck, University of London.He is the author of Disability in Time and Place, an Historic England web resource. Illustrations in this article are reproduced with permission from Historic England.  

Simon will be speaking at a Disability History Month event ‘Disability and impairment: a technological fix’ at London Metropolitan Archives on Friday 27 November, where he will be talking about impairment and mobility in the 18thcentury.