20 February 2011

♫...London calling? Yes, I was there too...♫

Life, the universe and everything tried to stop me from making it yesterday. From nose bleeds to parking nightmares, I had it all go wrong. I was tempted to just declare "fuck it" and go back to bed (having only managed 3 hours sleep. Not cos I was doing anything fun; I just laid there staring at the ceiling all night). And once I arrived at Congress House I spent most of the day on the verge of a temper tantrum and wishing I had spent the day sleeping.

The first time I heard anyone mention the word "disability" was during the "does the left lead online?" session at 3:30pm. I could've kissed Laurie Penny for bringing up the fact that Labour abolished Incapacity Benefit and talking about the online grassroots disability movement.

This was after I'd spent hours listening to members of other discriminated-against groups tell me that their group was the hardest hit of all.

Now, some of those groups are groups that I also belong to (women, LGBT, working class) so I absolutely understand that they/we are disproportionately hit when you compare us to straight, white, middle class men. But to claim that those groups are the hardest hit group is just not true.

For example; I listened to Dianne Abbott talk about how women and people from a minority ethnic background will be the hardest hit by the cuts. She talked about how people from those groups are more likely to be made redundant because they're more likely to work in the public and voluntary sectors. The same is true of disabled people and for the same reasons; employers in the public and third sectors are slightly less likely to be discriminatory.

But in addition to being likely to lose their jobs due to redundancies in the public sector and funding cuts to the voluntary sector, disabled employees in those sectors are likely to have to quit work due to Access to Work cut backs. Disabled people are also facing cuts to their care packages (which may result in having to give up work due to not having someone to get you out of bed of a morning!) and loss of their DLA.

Abbott also talked about how women and black and minority ethnic folks are more likely to live below the poverty line. This is also true for disabled people. But on top of the current levels of poverty disabled people are facing the prospect of having to pay even more towards their care, losing their incapacity benefit due to the brutal new assessment measures and losing their DLA. People already have to pay more on being disabled than they get back in the form of DLA.

I am not, at all, suggesting that I think that other minorities will not be hit hard. I'm just starting to get annoyed with non-disabled people claiming their group will be hit "hardest" when that is not the case because disabled people experience the same issues but with some extra crap on top.

The complete absence of disability issues from the panels infuriated me too. Why weren't Transport for All represented on the panel talking about transport? Why weren't DPAC, The Broken of Britain or Where's the Benefit represented on the panel about how we're not all in this together? That disabled people are not only being cruelly hit by the cuts but also excluded from discussions about the cuts reminds me of a post I wrote last year about us being the lowest of the low, and something I wrote more recently about how anti-cuts campaigners prefer books and trees to us.

As I said, the session about the left online improved my mood massively. Not only was there an acknowledgement that disabled people exist, I also had a good conversation afterwards with some UKUncutters (apparently my reputation is starting to precede me).

Then there was the final plenary session. I may be utterly furious with the Labour party for not only the recent history in which they scrapped IB and gave us ESA, but also their ongoing support for the coalition cuts to DLA; but I still intend to vote for Livingstone because the improvements he made to the accessibility of London's transport had such a positive impact on my life. However even he managed to piss me off more than somewhat with his closing speech: He talked about how equal London is in term of race, religion and sexual orientation, but how unequal London is in terms of class and wealth. I think it says something about the inequality of disabled people that we didn't even get a namecheck.

I would love to live in a progressive London. Somehow I don't see that happening any time soon when London's so-called progressives turn up to Progressive London denying the existence of around 18% of the population.


  1. The disabled are a small minority, that's why they have no political appeal.


  2. Except that's not true: About the size of the minority at least.

    Between 3% and 10% of the population are gay. Around 18% of the population are disabled.

  3. Hi Lisa,
    Difficult one to explain.

    It may be that disabled people and chronically-ill people are not perceived as a bloc but instead as a number of discrete individuals or as being from all walks of life and all groups?

    It may be that the able-bodied want to be in denial of disability, lest it should happen to them (it MAY happen to them, and they'd rather not face that possibility).

    Whatever the reason, it's wrong!

  4. People with disabilities are used to being told what to do and what to say. This needs to change, people with disabilities should not be grateful for The support that they receive, it should be a part of basic human rights.

    People with disabilities need to take action in whatever way they can and not just sit back and take it.

  5. Anonymous7:06 pm

    I was also at the Progressive London Conference and was also frustrated disability issues didn't get much of an airing. There is more than meets the eye to the welfare cuts the Government is proposing, and we need the mainstream media, blogs and of course conferences to discuss these issues. I have recently authored a report for RNIB looking at why disabled people are in an uneviable position now welfare cuts are being introduced at the same time as cuts to public services.
    Andrew Kaye