Disabled People at the Coalition of Resistance conference
November 29, 2010
There were a lot of people ( reported to be at least 1,000) at the conference at the Camden Centre – many of them spotting the Coalition of Resistance tee shirts. The main hall when I arrived was overfull and spilled over to the next room. In fact some of the conference were held at the school next door.
I was disappointed and slightly cross that the workshop that I had wanted to attend were up stairs in the school without a lift. And then the other workshop I could have gone to was overfull and chock a block.
I am mentioning this because if disabled people are to be included, the organisers should have taken this into consideration when they chose the venue. I voiced this to one of the stewards and she was most apologetic and said it was because they had not anticipated the huge turnout which necessitated them to use the school premises. Someone further along then mentioned the fact that the venue had cost £5000 and people were charged just to recover the costs of hiring it. I nearly snapped that surely the point we were protesting about the cuts is because the ConDems are saying we couldn’t afford the expense of our services…..is the COR using the same excuse (of budget) for excluding us?????
I did however leave my contact details and told them that they should consult us about the next venue so that access issues are considered ( I wonder what they will say if I suggest BSL interpreters as well!?)
I piped up at the Equality workshop chaired by Zita Holbourne (in place of Linda Burnip, who did not manage to get there ) and spoke about the place of disabled people voices to be heard and that we too are protesting. That we lead the demonstration at the 3rd Oct protest. However our voices in protest are not always picked up by the press and we were not allowed to be part of the protest (read previous blog ) because we are disabled and seen to be ‘vulnerable’. And we have to point out that disabled people are not in the streets to protest in droves like the students because of various barriers – not least because of the genuine fear that it might be seen that if a disabled person is well enough to protest, they are well enough to work. (And this is a point that Lee Jasper (BARAC) used in his speech at the ending plenary, although he embellished it a bit). I also told them how the cuts are affecting disabled people that some have committed suicide and some are subjected to degrading services as the woman who had to use incontinence pads even though she was not incontinent. I told them about DPAC and a list was sent around to collect emails of people who wanted to be kept in touch.
I think the main impression that everyone took away from this dynamic conference that we have to get our act together and that we support each other, that unity in all so that we give a unified voice.
Speakers included Tony Benn (elected President of COR), Ken Loach, union leaders Mark Serwotka, Len McCluskey and Bob Crow, Green MEP Jean Lambert, and Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. The People’s Charter and Right to Work were represented in the huge plenary sessions, also addressed by a French trade union representative. There were speeches from student and school student activists, anti-war campaigners, pensioners’ representatives and black community leaders.
Please notice that though many speakers mentioned disabled people and spoke for us there were none of us included in the main speakers. We need to speak for ourselves – and I am asking where are our leaders in the disabled community, why are we not hearing their voices? What can we do to get those disabled people who can – get into action?
How can we DPAC make disabled people voices more voluble and turn up the volume about the cuts – we are the ones who are most affected by the cuts, are we not?
You can watch some of the excellent speeches at the Counterfire website.
Photos from the conference can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157625355252455/