A day in the life..of an armchair protestor

(republished with kind permission)

Steven Sumpter

Steven Sumpter

I am exhausted. I’m so tired that I can’t get out of bed right now. This is because I spent yesterday supporting the March For The Alternative and UK Uncut in any way I could from home.

My living room became a media hub. Along with my sister (@apricotmuffins on twitter) I watched multiple TV news sources, twitter, blogs, emails and news websites. To do the job we had four computers, six screens (including the 32″ TV) and phones, laptops etc. Both of us had Tweetdeck running with six columns of tweets and hashtag searches.

Late on Friday I was drafted in to help out with the virtual protest map from Disabled People Against Cuts. This is a map of many people that could not protest because of illness or disability. After a chat on Skype with the organiser I got to work adding emails of support to the map, eventually getting to sleep after 3am.

Saturday morning, I had promised to spend an hour with my wife over breakfast. I stuffed myself full of painkillers around 9am, and drank coffee. I sent my wife to take coffee to my sister (who lives next door) and wake her up ready for our day of virtual protesting.

A quick check of twitter showed that my automated scheduled tweets about the protest map were being retweeted at a good pace, drawing attention to it. I replied to a couple of tweets to clear up some confusion that my scheduled tweets had caused – people had assumed that I was awake!

Then at 10am I staggered out to the Lantern eating house for breakfast with my wife. To resist temptation, I handed my phone ever to her to keep it away from me! We enjoyed a nice breakfast and I managed to talk about things other than the protest.

Back in the house at 11, my sister and I set up for our protesting. She moved her computer into my house while I frantically tried to fit an extra hard disk into my PC to handle all the TV recording that I would be doing. Unfortunately my new gigantic heatsink was making this difficult! Finally at a little past 11 we were up and running. I sat at my desk with my PC, my old iMac on a table behind me. I set my PC to recording Sky News, and my iMac recording BBC news. My sister was watching on the main TV, switching between channels as they showed anything relevant.

Our biggest task of the day turned out to be keeping the DPAC map up to date. Logging in to the email account showed 54 messages waiting to go online, with more pouring in. I set my sister up with the email and map and showed her how to add people, and we attacked that task. I did the ones with pictures myself as it was a little more involved. Some where frustrating, since they didn’t include their location which made it difficult to add them to a map! Others had misunderstood and sent us long messages, promotions for events and other things which were not suitable for our map of solidarity.

All the while we were carrying out this task we were also watching twitter and the TV for updates about the march. Any time an interesting comment, update or insight came up on twitter I retweeted it to my followers. When the TV showed us anything interesting I reported that on twitter as well. As the day developed, I started to grab screenshots from the TV news and put them up on twitter. Although I was recording everything, the only clip that I managed to get online was a part of Ed Millibands speech. I’ve got hours of footage that I hope to publish a bit more of later.

This whole process was very intensive. I have to admit it was very difficult for anyone else to speak with me since I was completely immersed in what I was doing. Our atmosphere, much like the march, was one of excitement. Unfortunately this was all very draining for me. I eventually had to stop for a rest, in spite of the constant supply of caffeine and codeine. My first rest was 10 minutes on the sofa but still watching the TV. It wasn’t really a rest for me, but it was enough to keep me going a bit longer. My second rest was rather forced on me since I had completely run out of my ability to stand or walk, was scrambling up bits of what I was writing, and forgetting what I was doing. Lots of drugs, tea, and half an hour flat on my back in pain, and then I forced myself back to the computer for the final stint.

For the final part of the day we were retweeting as much of UK Uncut as we could, although there wasn’t a lot available. I put together a blog post with some text and a lot of screenshots from the TV news. I wanted to produce a report on UK Uncut but I just didn’t have enough information, and the photo sharing site that they were using seemd to have crashed under the load.

Finally, I was just too tired to continue. I stayed at my computer a little longer, watching twitter but mostly zoning out. I eventually went to my bed around 8pm, and spent a lot of the evening drifting in and out of consciousness.

This was my day of protest. I can only hope it made a difference somewhere.

protest poster

Transport to the March can be found here.

We will keep you posted on access for disabled people when we have the information.

This is the video of the Workshop at the People’s Convention on Saturday 12th February at the Friend’s House in London.

With many, many thanks to Jon Cheetham of Bellerose Films.

On Saturday, we as disabled people, stated we wanted Rights not Charity at the People’s Convention.

Here there is an instrument where we can exercise our rights – the UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

According to the Joint Committee of Human Rights published 4th January 2009

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was agreed in December 2006 and came into force on 3 May 2008. The Convention builds on existing international human rights instruments to “promote, protect and ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities”. The UK wasclosely involved in negotiating and agreeing the UNCRPD and was one of its first signatories.

We see clear benefits in UK ratification, particularly because it sends a strong signal that the Government takes equality and the protection of human rights for people with disabilities seriously.

Disabled people celebrated this protection of our human rights. Two years down the line before our first report back to the UN, we have a Call for Evidence on Article 19 – the Right to Independent Living by the Joint Committee.

Please do read the Call for Evidence and respond where you can. This is important because we can show how our rights have been violated and calls attention to it.

(www.parliament.uk/jchr.)

JOINT COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS

CALL FOR EVIDENCE

The Joint Committee of Human Rights, chaired by Dr Hywel Francis MP, today announces an inquiry into the implementation of the right to independent living for disabled people, as guaranteed by Article 19, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Committee invites interested persons and groups to submit evidence on this issue and would welcome written submissions by Friday 29th April 2011.  Further information about the Committee’s inquiry is set out below, together with questions the Committee intends to address.  You do not need to answer all of these questions in your written submission.  The Committee particularly welcomes submissions from disabled people and their families about independent living and how Government policies, practices and legislation or the activities of public authorities and others can implement the right to independent living in practice.

This Call for Evidence has also been prepared in an Easy Read version which is available on the Committee’s website: www.parliament.uk/jchr.  Copies can also be obtained by contacting the Committee on 020 7219 2384.

Background

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Disability Rights Convention) builds on existing human rights treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.  Its purpose is to:

“Promote, protect and ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.”

The Disability Rights Convention is the newest treaty in the UN human rights framework.  The United Kingdom ratified the Convention on 8 June 2009.   The Convention has at its heart the principles of equality and independent living, which are designed to ensure that disabled people enjoy their rights on an equal basis to others.  The first principle of the Convention provides that there shall be:

“Respect for the inherent dignity, individual autonomy, including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons.”

Public authorities have specific duties to promote equality for disabled people in the Equality Act 2010.  These duties broadly reflect the obligations of the Government in the UN Disability Rights Convention..  That Convention recognises that disabled people have a right to access community life without discrimination.  For example, Article 19 provides:

“State Parties to this Convention recognise the equal right of persons with disabilities to live in the community with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the Community”

The right to independent living

Independent living is described by the Office for Disability Issues as follows:

Independent living is about disabled people having the same level of choice, control and   freedom in       their daily lives as any other person.

Independent living was placed at the heart of the last Government’s policy on disability.  Each of the three main political parties expressed their approval of the Independent Living Strategy published in 2008, which sets out actions aimed at improving the choice and control disabled people have over the services they need to live their daily lives.[1] The aims of the strategy are that:

  • disabled people (including older disabled people) who need support to go about their daily lives will have greater choice and control over how support is provided; and
  • disabled people (including older disabled people) will have greater access to housing, education, employment, leisure and transport opportunities and to participation in family and community life.

In June 2010, the Government explained that it was looking at further ways of taking the Independent Living Strategy forward.[2]

In December 2009, the Scottish Government, the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and the Independent Living Movement in Scotland signed up to a shared Vision for Independent Living in Scotland.[3] No similar national strategy exists in Northern Ireland or in Wales.

• Should the right to independent living continue to form the basis for Government policy on disability in the UK?

• Do existing policy statements, including the Independent Living Strategy, represent a coherent policy towards the implementation of the obligations in Article 19 of the UN Disability Rights Convention?  Could current policy be improved?  If so, how?

• What steps, if any, should the coalition Government, the Scottish Government or other public agencies take better to meet the obligations in Article 19 and to secure the right to independent living for all disabled people in the UK?

• If you consider changes to policies, practices or legislation in the UK are necessary, please explain.

Impact of funding on the right to independent living

The impact on the right to independent living of restricted funding, including proposals for cuts in the emergency budget and in the Comprehensive Spending Review, is not yet clear.  A number of changes have recently been announced which may impact positively or negatively on the ability of disabled people to “have the same level of choice, control and freedom in their daily lives as any other person”.

The Committee would particularly welcome evidence on these recent developments:

the decision, announced in the CSR, to remove the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance for all people living in residential care;

changes to the Independent Living Fund;

“the Big Society”;

restrictions on local authority funding, social care budgets and benefits reassessments;

increased focus on localisation and its potential impact on care provision, and specifically, on portability of care and mobility for disabled people.

• What impact does funding have on the ability of the UK to secure the right to independent living protected by Article 19 of the UN Disability Rights Convention?

• How will recent policy and budgetary decisions impact on the ability of the UK to meet its obligation under Article 19 to protect the right of all persons to independent living?

Participation and consultation

The Disability Rights Convention is based on inclusion of disabled people in policy development and decision making.  Article 4(3) of the Convention specifically provides that State Parties shall “closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities…through their representative organisations” in any decisions concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities.

•What steps should the Government take to meet its obligations under the Disability Rights Convention to involve disabled people in policy development and decision-making, including in budget decisions such as the Comprehensive Spending Review?

•Are the current arrangements for involvement of disabled people in policy development and decision-making working?

Monitoring the effective implementation of the Convention

The UK is required to submit its first periodic report on the implementation of the Convention to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in summer 2011.  This report is being coordinated by the national focal point in Government required under the Convention, in the UK, the Office for Disability Issues.  The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) -together with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) – has a responsibility under the Convention as part of the national implementation mechanism to promote the effective implementation of the Disability Rights Convention (Article 31).

• What steps should Government take to ensure that disabled people’s views are taken into account when drafting their reports to the UN under the UNCRPD?

• As part of the national monitoring mechanism, what steps should the EHRC, NIHRC and SHRC take to ensure that the Convention is implemented effectively?

You need not address all these questions. Short submissions are preferred. A submission longer than six pages should include a one-page summary.

A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to jchr@parliament.uk and marked “UK extradition policy”. An additional paper copy should be sent to: Greta Piacquadio, Joint Committee on Human Rights, 7 Millbank, London SW1A 0AA.

It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals submitting written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the Joint Committee on Human Rights will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

A guide for written submissions to Select Committees may be found on the parliamentary website at: http://www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/witguide.htm

Please also note that:

  • Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.
  • Evidence becomes the property of the Committee, and may be printed, placed on the Internet or circulated by the Committee at any stage. You may publicise or publish your evidence yourself, but in doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee. Evidence published other than under the authority of the Committee does not attract parliamentary privilege. If your evidence is not printed, it will in due course be made available to the public in the Parliamentary Archives.
  • All communications to the Committee about the inquiry should be addressed through the clerk or the Chairman of the Committee, whether or not they are intended to constitute formal evidence to the Committee.
  • The members of the Committee Are:

    Dr Hywel Francis MP (Labour, Aberavon) (Chair)

    Lord Bowness (Conservative)

    Dr Julian Huppert MP (Liberal Democrat .Cambridge

    Baroness Campbell of Surbiton (Cross-Bencher)

    Mrs Eleanor Laing MP (Conservative, Epping Forest)

    Lord Dubs (Labour)

    Mr Dominic Raab MP (Conservative, Esher and Walton)

    Lord Lester of Herne Hill (Liberal Democrat)

    Mr Virendra Sharma MP (Labour, Ealing Southall)

    Baroness Morris of Bolton (Conservative)

    Mr Richard Shepherd MP (Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills)

    Lord Morris of Handsworth (Labour)

Our own Bob Williams- Findlay wrote:

If you accept, as I do, that the experience of disability arises from the negative interactions between people with impairments and their social environments – then technology can play a major role in “bringing this reality” to life by exposing it, offering solutions and demonstrating the ability of technology to both enable and disable people with impairments.

Read the rest at his guest blog at beyondclicktivism