Campaign for disabled people to be given the same rights as everyone else


As Channel 4 trailed the Paralympics with a promo entitled We Are The Superhumans on Wednesday, disabled protesters blocked off the streets of ­Westminster under the banner “>RightsNotGames.

A week of protests called out the great lie behind how we view disability .

We’re either superhuman or we’re scroungers, said Ellen Clifford from Disabled People Against Cuts. Otherwise we’re invisible.

Meanwhile, a Mirror reader called David sent an agonising email saying he was watching the Paralympics and had the same condition as one of the wheelchair sprinters.

But I am having £60 support a week taken away from me, he explained.

DPAC and other groups such as Black Triangle know the super-scrounger lie can be fatal for disabled people in the UK.

Austerity cuts including the Bedroom Tax , sanctions and brutal fit-for-work tests have cost the lives of countless disabled people since 2010.

Cuts that are only possible because the super-scroungers narrative tells us no real disabled people will lose out.

At London 2012, this was brought shockingly into focus when ATOS – a corporation then making huge profits from controversial ‘fit-for-work’ tests accused of impoverishing disabled people – sponsored the Paralympics.

Four years on, ATOS no longer conducts fit-for-work tests but it still has lucrative contracts assessing people for the Department for Work and Pensions.

Meanwhile, there are disabled people Ellen and I know who haven’t made it. The poverty and pressure have simply been too great to bear.

Before the protests this week, I went to the launch in Parliament of a report on the impact of the Government’s closure of the Independent Living Fund, which until last year supported 18,000 people with the highest support needs in the country.

The Inclusion London report is evidence our worst fears have been realised – patchy care, huge cuts in hours of support, people left in their own urine and stuck in broken wheelchairs.

Among the personal ­testimonies was one from Nathan, a wheelchair user.

He described how since his hours of care have been cut his carers have to leave his trousers undone, meaning he is embarrassed every time he has to answer the front door.

And if I spill my urinal on my jeans I have to sit like that until 7pm, he said.

Earlier, Coronation Street actress Cherylee Houston, who chaired the meeting, told the room: We have no right to leave our homes and local authorities are deciding what time we go to bed.

Contrasting this with the Paralympian feats performed in Rio right now hardly bears thinking about.

I came home to a message from Ian McInally, who cares for his brother Derek, a terminally ill kidney patient who I wrote about three years ago when his Disability Living Allowance was stopped.

Incredibly, dying Derek’s benefits have just been stopped for the third time.

The DWP says this was a system error and they have now apologised and reinstated the payments.

But for the McInallys and others, this agonising merry-go-round just never stops.

Also taking place this week, was a disability arts festival on London’s South Bank, including actress Liz Carr’s Assisted Suicide The Musical.

From Wednesday to Friday, visitors could watch live footage of disabled artist Noemi Lakmaier projected onto a giant screen at the Royal Festival Hall.

Noemi spent three days in a disused church tied to 20,000 party balloons, waiting for them to slowly lift her into the air.

It took over 24 hours just to lift off. All being well she is still in the air now.

When I spoke to her before she was tied up in balloon strings, she was upset a magazine had billed her art as superhuman.

It’s as if you can only be a beyond-amazing person or benefit scrounging scum, she said. In fact, we are human beings.

The Paralympics made a huge impact on my kids when I took them to see the wheelchair racing finals at London 2012.

And of course we should all get fully behind Ellie Simmonds, Gordon Reid, Lee Pearson and the other committed athletes who have faced their own challenges even to get to Rio.

The problem comes when disabled people are only visible for 12 days a year, performing superhuman feats on C4 or on the same channel’s ­Benefits Street.

Simmonds and her colleagues aren’t superhumans, but ordinary human beings who have overcome extraordinary odds to do what they do.

Which is true of all disabled people – not just Paralympians. But it is also true that Channel 4’s Paralympics slogan ‘Yes I can’ only applies if you have enough support to use the toilet and leave the house, enough money to eat and are afforded by the state enough dignity to survive.

At the moment, under austerity economics, a huge number of disabled people are told every day ‘No you can’t’.

The superhuman-scrounger looking glass through which we see disability isn’t just disabling, it’s part of a fatal narrative that is damaging – and costing – lives.

News Source MirrorNews

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