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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hardest Hit March: Part One

I am very excited and proud. The disability rights movement in Britain has scored a huge victory. Every major British paper is reporting about the Hardest Hit march that took place in London. As the Brits put it: "Disabled people, those with long-term conditions and their families are being hit hard by cuts to the benefits and services they need to live their lives. The Hardest Hit campaign, organised jointly by the Disability Benefits Consortium and the UK Disabled People’s Council, brings together individuals and organisations to send a clear message to the Government: stop these cuts."

What struck me aside from powerful visuals of the march in London was the same thing that has undermined the disability rights movement in the USA: the inability to form a powerful political coalition. If the British can do it and hold a massive march in London then we in the USA can do the same.

Look at the diversity of groups participating:

Leonard Cheshire Disability
Sense for deafblind people
Arthritis CAre Empowering peope with Arthritis
Parkinson's UK Changing Attitudes
Mind For Better Health Care
Disability Alliance
Terrence Higgins Trust
Action Duchenne
Deafblind UK
Sue Ryder
Motor Neuron Disease Association
Radar the disability rights people
National Autistic Society
MS Society
Action for me
Child Poverty Action Group
Disability Wales
Inclusion London
Macular Disease Society
Dementia UK
Tourettes Action
Transport for All
Stroke Association
Ambitious about Autism

This list is not complete. The point is disparate disability groups came together to say no. No we do not accept the proposed budget cuts. We are human being and out lives have meaning. We are important. The draconian budgets will compromise lives.

What really stunned me is the number of people that assembled and marched. Many had never protested before. All had a great deal of difficulty getting to London. Simply put the mass transportation system that works wonderfully for those that can walk is a disaster for people with disabilities. Thus the fact that about 8,000 people showed up to march is astounding. The visuals are nothing short of awesome. I was moved to tears and encouraged about the power of ordinary people. I thought of the wonderful capacity of people to adapt to disability and society's effort to exclude. This dichotomy is so frustrating. We people with a disability have so much to give to the world and yet we are devalued and needless obstacles put in out way. Yet we overcome--over come social bias that is not our disability. There is nothing to overcome when it comes to disability itself. It is society that disables us not our bodies.

Maybe I am nuts but a large part of me is deeply moved by disability. I do not see flaws but a human being that adapts in the strictest sense of the term. I think of my adviser at Columbia, Robert Murphy who wrote the Body Silent and published and accomplished more after he became a quadriplegic. I think of how he used to drive to work with Morton Fried (a famous anthropologist) whose eye sight was terrible due to diabetes. Fried would drive even though he could not see. Murphy would direct him even though he could not move. To me this is human adaptability at its best. And that is what I saw in the Hardest Hit March--the very best humanity has to offer the world. Hopefully the British Government saw what I did.

Pictures and videos to follow.

1 comment:

Matthew Smith said...

"Action for me" should read "Action for ME", although I didn't see any evidence of them there. The bit in that report about the marchers being a small fraction of those affected, because many others would simply not have been able to get there, applies to ME especially (not only because of money - travel has become dreadfully expensive in the UK recently because of rises in fuel costs and fares, and there are only so many spaces for wheelchair users on trains - but because of the nature of the illness).