Kirsten Hearn’s account

March 27, 2011

Kirsten Hearn

Kirsten Hearn

I’m giving some feedback which I’d really like you to take forward to any review you might do. I will be raising these issues also with the police in my capacity as a member of the MPA(Metropolitan Police Authority).

Unfortunately, the TUC access arrangements for disabled people seemed to go wrong somewhere.

I turned up at Savoy Street at 11:15 am to find it empty.  I went down to the march on the Embankment, thinking you must all be gathered there. I was met by a seething mass of humanity that it was darn near impossible to get through.

When I finally found a steward who had even heard of a disabled people’s safe space and knew where it might be, they said the accessible bit of the march was at the front.  I then had to fight my way through but before I got to the front, the march started off and I had to run. The whole experience was very frightening and I was in a terrible state by the time I got to the DP space.

Had I known that the assembly point for the march was at the front, I would have gone straight there. It is my long experience of working with other March organizers that the safest place for disabled people to be is at the front of the march, behind dignatries. This is so we can set the pace and be easy to find.  The pace yesterday was going at a fair lick and I had to run!

Wearing my police authority hat, I had the opportunity to review the march plans in advance, including what ops disabled people had to be part of it. Ruth Bashall tells me that not only did the assembly point not work at Savoy Street for her either, but that the St James’s  Street marching  joining point for older and disabled people did not work either.  She could find no one who wanted to join the march and no way of getting on at that point. She finally joined me just before we moved into Hyde Park.

I wonder who made the decision to move the assembly point?  It would be good to talk about this some time and to find a way of feeding back. Was it the police who suggested the various assembly points and entry points? If so, I can deal with them!

I feel that I was put in danger yesterday. I was nearly crushed. I was completely deafened by the vuvuzelas (not the organizers fault) and I was absolutely terrified that I would be trampled , lose my p.a. and be alone in the crowd. I then had to hurry at a speed which was difficult for me to catch up with the front of the march, all the time fearing that I would fall.  I was in such a state by the time I got to the front that it completely ruined the day for me.

Kirsten Hearn website

Kirsten’s recent interview as a blind solo traveler on In Touch

On Saturday 26th March, yesterday, there was the biggest rally organised against the stringent cuts from the Coalition government. Disabled people are the hardest hit by these cuts and despite many barriers, disabled people have participated in the march. They came on trains and coaches from all over the country – from Scotland and Wales as well.

DPAC negotiated and campaigned the TUC to provide access so that disabled people are also included in the march and they have responded by providing access as can be seen on the Access and Disability page of the main March for the Alternative website.  For disabled people who really couldn’t make it – we have an online map to show the disabled people who wanted their virtual protest registered. There are many stories there.

The day after the event it is already very obvious that we have very little media attention and for many disabled people this is the first time they have been on such a march. As disabled people,  they went through considerable effort to get there with many barriers not faced by non disabled people. We shall make sure that our struggles are recorded and not lost. We can see that the media are only full of the violence as seen on our televison screens and echoed in all the newspapers. It is important that these stories are collated so that they are part of our history.

Supporters from DPAC, Black Triangle, Disability History Month and London Austistic Rights Movement, Newham Coalition of Disabled People


We would like to announce the launch of our website –

We started this blog under Disabled People Protest for the 3rd Oct 2010 protest in October. We are now moving to a website – its not too different from the weblog – we hope you will subscribe and continue to get information. This blog is linked at the new website as are the pages such as Virtual Protest Page and Buddies for Rallies.

Join us at the 26th March rally

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.

Transcript with many heartfelt thanks to Liz for agreeing to speak for disabled people at the People’s Convention.

Thank you… I can only dream of being on the platform. One day… One day we’ll make it.

Disabled people make up 20 % of the population. That’s a conservative estimate. We are hidden impairments, we are visible, we are old, we are gay, we are lesbian, we are black, we are white, we are all sorts of people, that’s who we are.

But what we are not is… We are not victims. We are not scroungers or frauds. We are not vulnerable or work shy. We are not charity cases or burdens or ‘unsustainables’ or useless eaters.

We are fighters, survivors, leaders, comrades, brothers & sisters in arms, campaigners, citizens and equals.

This, like for many of us, is not a new struggle. Our history is littered with disabled people being scapegoated, demonaised, discriminated against and oppressed. It is also a history of disabled people fighting back against this.

From the League of the Blind who unionized in the 19th Century to fight for their rights, to the war veterans who marched on Whitehall for the jobs and respect they were due, to disabled people fighting to escape residential care in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s forming the Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation, to those of us in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s who chained ourselves to buses to secure equality in public transport and in law… We have been here before.

However, we are faced with a horrific onslaught of attacks from all directions. The cuts that we’re all talking about today, we encounter those cuts too – whether it’s the increase in VAT, privatization of our basic services, of the NHS, of cuts effecting the public sector – we experience them too as disabled people but on top of that we’re having our benefits whipped from us, we’re being assessed by bastards at ATOS, people in care homes are having the mobility component of their DLA (Disability Living Allowance) removed, we’re being charged for the basic right to have a wee, our Independent Living Fund money that allows us to be independent within the community is being removed in 4 years time, Incapacity Benefit is being scrapped and replaced by the unforgiving ESA (Employment Support Allowance), on top of that there is hate crime, limits to housing benefit, Access to Work, to transport and if we want to challenge it, to Legal Aid too. That’s fucked as well.

Disabled people are living in fear. We are living in poverty. We are going to be living in the Dark Ages where they decide between the deserving and the undeserving poor.

But, we will not let this happen. Because through our history, what we have learnt is that the media, the policy makers and the Government will try to separate us into our different groups. They will try to weaken us. They will try and make us compete against each other for whatever crumbs are on offer, fighting amongst ourselves, individualizing this struggle, dividing us so that they may conquer and change the balance of society in favour of financial capital rather than social capital and equality. That’s what happening. We cannot afford to let this happen.

We are fighting for our lives, for our freedom, for our existence. That’s how important it is to disabled people and for everybody here today. It is about our basic liberty, our basic right to life. We will not be hidden away. We will not be hidden away behind close doors, out of sight out of mind, in our homes or institutions. We will not settle for charity rather than rights. We will not be forgotten. We will not be silenced.

We must mobilise and in doing so not forget those who cannot take to the streets in protest but who can through virtual protesting.

We must politicise. We must educate ourselves and others in what’s happening in our own and wider campaigns.

We have to radicalise. This is about revolution not reformation anymore.

We must unite. As disabled people, as disabled people and allies, as everyone – we must unite.

Together we are stronger.

Thank you.

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.

Crippen : The big society?!

February 16, 2011


Man in bed reading bookDescription: David Cameron is sitting up in bed, partially lit by a candle on a bedside cabinet. He is wearing blue striped pyjamas and his bedding is also blue. In his hands is a copy of the book ‘Brave new world’ by Aldous Huxley. He is thinking: “That’s the answer – we just clone more Tories!”

Visit Crippen’s latest blog where he attempts to penetrate the fog surrounding Cameron’s big society … you can also leave a comment