Disability Discrimination – It’s Over Right?!

WOW…a year since my last blog! It’s been a busy time both personally and professionally but no excuse really; so why come out of blog stasis now?

Well, back in the day I was very involved in the Direct Action Network protesting for for greater rights and freedoms for Disabled People. Not as active as many in the Network – juggling work with bringing up a young family etc. but did my share at demos and some.

Debates were had about successes and failures wrapped around the “Rights Not Charity” and “Piss on Pity” battle cries!

Pressure built on the establishment to address the civil rights issues being fought for and in 1995 the Disability Discrimination Act was passed; now subsumed into the Equality Act 2010. At the time it was celebrated by many, however like a lot of activists I knew it was a sell-out, still inherently based on the Medical Model of Disability. Certainly, individual cases have been won around proven discrimination; the key word unfortunately being ‘individual’ – there’s still no collective responsibility being taken by society as espoused by the Social Model of Disability.

I work in public service believing, or justifying to myself, that change has to come from pressure within the system as well as from external forces. Yet recent events make me hanker for some long lost Direct Action!

What are these events? Well to name a few:

The list could go on and on; however, as a punk rock/indie music lover here’s one more to throw into the mix -“Disabled music fans are unable to buy tickets: Human Rights Commission report

Sadly all of the above rings true to me both in the work I do and in my social life; plus, I know it’s a similar story for other equality groups. When I go out I feel under greater scrutiny, having a very overt impairment the stares/the comments etc. have always been there but these days they seem a lot more threatening and menacing!
Stepping back from my anger at the current climate I think there are a number of factors in play, not least the issue of ‘scapegoating’.

Scapegoating is the practice of blaming an individual or group for a real or perceived failure of others. The origin of the term comes from the Bible. The high priest in Biblical times would place his hand upon a goat’s head and transfer the sins of the community to the goat, which was then released into the desert.

It is not uncommon to blame others for our own mistakes, and especially to affix blame on those who are unable or unwilling to defend themselves against the charges. Minorities are often the targets of scapegoating. First, minorities are often isolated within society and are thus an easy target. Those in the majority are more easily convinced about the negative characteristics of a minority with which they have no direct contact. Violence, persecution, and genocide directed against minorities often occur when a minority group is being blamed for some social ill. Unemployment, inflation, food shortages, the plague, austerity and crime in the streets are all examples of ills which have been blamed on minority groups.

Look at how the media, politicians, etc. are portraying the increasingly toxic debate around Asylum Seekers and immigration – so wonderfilly satirised (great excuse to listen to it again :-)) in the recent track and video “Burn the Witch” by my all time fave band Radiohead:

Where Next?

So where does all this leave me. Well, I stll feel legislation is important but it’s too blunt a tool to tackle all aspects of predujice and discrimination. No civil rights movement has progressed without an element of disobedience and Direct Action. For me, and may be others, it can be a source of empowerment. Thus, I think I need to get back in the game.

I’ll continue to work on the inside – yet not sure how, with who or when but I’ll be back out there in some form actively protesting; it’s not as though there’s a lack of issues to go at!

Just to end, here’s a cracking TED Talk entitled: “I’m not your inspiration – thank you very much”. Really encapsulating another aspect of the debate/agenda and illustrating that Disabled People simply want to be part of society and not marginalised, patronised or objectified.

Until the next time…