As Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) launches a nationwide week of direct action, Ellen Clifford sets out the agenda for the protests, which also involves alliances with other disabled groups and allies.
Last year, through our Anti-Atos Games we highlighted the disgrace of the Atos-run work capability assessment and the shameful treatment of disabled people by the UK government. This year with a growing range of Tory-led brutal attacks targeting disabled people, including the hated bedroom tax, the closure of the Independent Living Fund, the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance, the end of legal aid and devastating cuts to front-line services and support packages, Reclaiming Our Futures will see disabled people from across the UK organising to fight for an equal and fair society.
We are far from all in this together, with Campaign for a Fair Society research showing that disabled people with the highest support needs are being hit 19 times harder than the average person. Meanwhile the rich get richer with the wealthiest 1,000 UK residents last year increasing their wealth by £35 billion.
The government and right-wing media have used lies and misrepresentations to justify their policies. Labour has failed to challenge the rhetoric of the ‘benefit scrounger’ and the misconception that the welfare system is in crisis and urgently needs solving as the key to helping our economy. But public awareness is not totally against us. We have successfully discredited Atos and the work capability assessment and the bedroom tax is almost universally recognised to be unworkable and unfair.
As anger against the government’s treatment of its disabled citizens grows, support is building for disabled people’s protest. Reclaiming Our Futures, co-produced with a number of grassroots disabled people’s campaigns including the WOW petition and Mental Health Resistance Network, is being backed by the TUC, PCS, Unite the Resistance and trade unions alongside anti-cuts groups such as UKUncut, OccupyLondon, Fuel Poverty Action and Boycott Workfare. Together we are fighting for a society that is inclusive and fair for all.
This represents a step forwards rather than a departure from radical disability politics. As an isolated movement we are limited in what we can achieve in the face of an assault that is about much more than attitudes towards disability. The punitive austerity measures we are experiencing represent a deliberate ideological attack that seeks to redefine who is and isn’t disabled. In this attack disabled people are collateral damage to the big economic questions at play, meaning we are never going to be able to sit down and have a nice conversation about the best use of resources for disabled people. What we can do is work with other groups to build a shared vision of the society we want to live in, one that has equality, access and inclusion at its very heart. As disabled people we should be proud that we are viewed as leaders in the collective fight back.
Beginning on 29 August 2013 with Transport for All’s Crossrail protest opposing investment in new stations in the capital that aren’t accessible to disabled people, Reclaiming Our Futures is designed to be inclusive and accessible from online to on the streets, with an arts event, a discussion event on the social model of disability and a day of local protests. On 4 September, will see a mass gathering of disabled people, known as a freedom drive, in Westminster and a lobby of parliament to launch a disabled people’s manifesto. This will set out the key principles, demands and commitments that are important to deaf and disabled people and our allies, calling on Westminster and devolved governments to recognise and act on their responsibilities in fully implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The history of the disabled people’s rights movement is littered with examples of how we have come together to unite and fight – and win. This year through Reclaiming Our Futures, disabled people will come together with our supporters to celebrate disability pride and resist these vicious attacks.