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

Organised by Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC), Right to Work, Labour Representation Committee

Over 800 people came together on Saturday 12th in London to talk about the cuts and the way forward for the TUC march on the 26th March. Disabled people were there and the stage sported a big DPAC banner in the middle. The day was videoed and the DPAC workshop was also videoed. The report of the day overall will be elsewhere. Here we look at the great turnout by disabled people and celebrate the central place we had in this day.


The morning open floor brought great comments from some disabled participants, including, Richard Rieser, Adrian Whyatt and Sasha Callaghan on the effect of the cuts for disabled people, including the human rights abuses and the closure of poverty pimps ATOS offices across Scotland on the national day of protest against cuts.

DPAC Workshop

The DPAC workshop was held in the afternoon. It was great to see so many people at this with 50 or 60 people, some attendees from as far as Scotland. Speakers on the panel were Richard Rieser, Debbie Jolly, Sue Bott and Kevin Caulfield. The workshop was chaired by Eleanor Lisney. There were many comments and questions at the workshop, these included:

We are being sent back to Victorian times: we should all be involved in local anti-cuts groups, emulate DAN protests, disabled people need to be at front of things and be united

We are incensed by the coverage in newspapers against disabled people

Need to make sure we include Deaf people and those with invisible disabilities, but not impairment based- we cannot go back to arguing about impairments- we must all fight together, must be inclusive

Mental health resistance network couldn’t all get to London today but want to support and be included: facing difficult times being given ‘talking treatment’ but they (the government) concentrate on getting us ‘well’, but they just want to get us into work

Participant remembers Richard speaking at European Social Forum; there are many more people here and comments that Sasha did a brilliant job when speaking this morning about ATOS

We need to come together and find common ground, not just disabled people but across the board. We all need to fully support the campaign and get the trade unions behind this too

There are not many disabled millionaires and certainly none at the convention. This is an attack on working class people. We need to get joint campaigns with all anti-cuts campaigns. Disabled people need to link up, need to unite: Every single local group should make contacts with disability groups in the area

We need to stop people from the Charity sector taking over: Rights not Charity

Issues were raised with the dropping off of people from buses at Wembly for the 26th March TUC London march. Right to Work have sent a statement to Brendan Barber not to drop in Wembley because of access issues and cost of getting to central London for the march. Disabled people need to email too.

John McArdle of Black triangle reminded us of the story of Paul Reekie.

It was noted that sometimes people aren’t getting messages re demos and protests, but also that the police always seem to know where we are going to be.

It was suggested that a boycott of newspapers following the government line and producing rhetoric on disabled people as scroungers are boycotted including the Scottish Mail, Daily Mail and others.

A video of the workshop will be available soon


The afternoon was made up of invited speakers, feedback from the workshops and debate. The highlight of the afternoon was Liz Carr’s speech which received a standing ovation from the audience.

A full list of actions proposed by Disabled People against Cuts and accepted by the Peoples’ Convention

    The protest on 26th March needs to be fully accessible with disabled people involved in the planning. There needs to be representation of disabled people with and without visible impairments on the platform.
    We propose a day of national demonstrations against ATOS.
    We propose a month of action over the month of July to coincide with the second anniversary of the signing of the UN Convention.
    We propose that every local anti-cuts movement has an autonomous disabled people’s sub group. 

    We propose support for UKDPC’s day of disabled people’s protest proposed for 11th May.(to be confirmed)

We propose that we speak to our colleagues at Unison about how the cuts are being implemented.

Debbie Jolly

This information from Friends Meeting House web site:

The Quaker Centre Café serves a selection of Fairtrade teas and coffee,
hot chocolate, soft drinks, fresh fruit, sandwiches, boxed salads and cold snacks of which many are organic. There is a selection of healthy
breakfast items until 10.30am and soup of the day served from 12.00pm daily. It is located on the ground floor with an entrance on Euston Road or step free access via our Garden Entrance and is opening to the public:

Access arrangements
We would like Friends House to be accessible and welcoming to all. The
building was constructed in 1926 and its Grade II listing means that there are certain access limitations, however we are committed to doing all we can to ensure your visit is as easy and enjoyable as possible.

There are three designated on-street parking bays for blue badge holders on Endsleigh Gardens.

For Euston Station
Secured car park underneath the station, accessible via the stairs at the rear of the concourse. Vehicle access is from Melton Street. Disabled spaces are available and additional assistance can be requested to and from the car park.

There are more disabled parking spaces a bit further away at the British Library. There are three parking bays on the west side of the building, in Ossulston Street.
The main entrance to the Friends House is located at the east end of the building.  There is a small garden area in front of the entrance.  You can access the entrance and the garden from Euston Road and also from Endsleigh Gardens, which runs parallel to Euston Road along the rear of the building.

The entrance to the building is at a higher level than the adjacent
streets and there is a ramp leading to the entrance from both Euston Road and Endsleigh Gardens.  These ramped routes are 3800mm wide and have a tarmac surface. There are no handrails.

Alternatively, there are steps with two central handrails from the garden up to the main entrance.

Other entrances: There is also an entrance with 6 steps on Euston Road leading directly to the Large Meeting House (this is only used on certain occasions when we have larger events), and a stepped entrance on Euston Road leading into the new Quaker Centre – this entrance has 8 steps and handrails along both sides, although the steps are quite steep.

Reception Desk
The Reception Desk is situated inside the main entrance on the east side of the building. It is open 7.30am to 9.30pm and is always staffed.  The reception area and desk are accessible to wheelchair users.

+44 (0)20 7663 1104

There are three lifts in the building.  The two lifts in the ground floor
foyer are too small to accommodate a large wheelchair. However, we have a smaller wheelchair available to transfer to, in order to access the Restaurant and Rooms 17 – 19 via the right hand lift in reception. Please ask at reception if you wish to use this facility. The third lift is
larger and provides wheelchair access to the 1st & 2nd levels as required.

NOTE Most of the events by DPAC are all on the ground floor. There is only the *  Screening of ‘Blacklisted’ and workshop hosted by the Blacklist Support Group which will not be accessible to wheelchair users.

There will be an BSL interpreter for the workshop with another trainee to support Deaf delegates.

Guide dogs
Guide and assistance dogs are welcome.

There is clear signage throughout the building.

Sound enhancement system
Induction loops are fitted in Reception, Large Meeting House, Small
Meeting House,  Rooms 7,8 & 9, Drayton Room, Room 19, Room 1 and Room 2.
Please turn your hearing aid to the correct setting to use this service.

A portable infrared induction loop is available for all meeting rooms in
other parts of the building. For more information on this service, please ask our bookings team or at the Reception Desk.

Quaker Centre Café
The café offers a variety of high- and-low level seating and table
options. Quaker Centre staff will be more than happy to assist you in
bringing refreshments to your table.

There are toilets on the lower ground floor, ground floor, first floor and third floor of the building.  There are accessible WCs on the ground
floor, first floor and third floor

The restaurant is accessed via stairs or a lift from the ground floor
foyer (for wheelchair users we have a small version on site that fits the
right hand lift if required).  There are handrails along either side of
the steps.


A People's ConventionPlease remember to register yourself at the RtW website!

* Disabled people –

at the forefront of resistance Sponsored by Disabled People Against the Cuts

Introductions and welcome:
Eleanor Lisney co founder of DPAC
Eleanor is a campaigner for disability  equality and
works on access and inclusion for disabled people.

About Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC):

Debbie Jolly co founder of DPAC

Debbie is a campaigner for independent living who has worked with universities and organisations ’of’ disabled people at local, national and European levels on disability rights

On the panel

Disability movement/history and what’s at stake with the Conservative led Coalition:

Richard Reiser coordinator for UK Disability History Month.

Richard is an expert disabled international equality trainer, consultant and teacher.
Independent living and the Impact on Independent Living:

Sue Bott Director of the National Centre for Independent Living.

A disabled person with a visual impairment from birth, Sue has been active in the disability movement in the UK for many years
Local Grass Roots Actions against the Cuts

Kevin Caulfield Chair of Hammersmith & Fulham Coalition Against Community Care Cuts (HAFCAC)

Kevin is an active campaigner for all disabled people’s rights to equality and equal citizenship from a social model perspective at a local, regional and national level

We will be in groups to decide on two action points to take forward to the end plenary on how we will fight the cuts and especially in preparation for the 26th March TUC rally.

The venue is Friends Meeting house near Euston Station. You need to book tickets from £2 unwaged £5 waged to cover the costs of putting on the conference.

Access of venue – Friends Meeting House is accessible for wheelchair users. Accessible Parking can be found at Euston Station (£25 per day). Frequent buses stop at Euston station.

BSL We have requested for BSL interpreters. We are still looking very hard for BSL interpreters – please let us know asap if you are willing to help!

There is a hearing loop in the hall.

Easy Read worker will be available at workshop.

There is NO access to Screening of ‘Blacklisted’ and workshop hosted by the Blacklist Support Group

Lunch is NOT provided – there is a vegetarian cafe en site at the venue. Eateries and food available at Euston Station including Nandos, Harry Ramsden Fish and Chips, and Marks and Spencers.

For those unable to come, Jon Cheetham (of Bellerose Films) has kindly offered to help video it.


Liz Carr

Liz Carr

Disabled comedian and activist Liz Carr will be speaking at the People’s Convention with

Eyewitness from the Egyptian revolution

Diane Abbot MP

Tony Kearns CWU senior deputy General Secretary

Jane Loftus CWU President

Alan Whittaker, president of UCU

Pete Murray, president of NUJ

Jimmy Kelly, Head of UNITE in Ireland

Steve Hart, London and South East regional secretary of Unite

Zita Holbourne, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC)

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Katy Clark MP

John McDonnell MP

Barbara Pettine of FIOM (Italian metal Workers Federation)

Captain SKA, producer of the hugely popular ‘Liar Liar‘ YouTube hit

Alan Gibbons, children’s author and organiser of the ‘campaign for the book’

Barnaby Raine, School student activist

Mark Bergfeld from the Education Activists Network

Jody McIntyre, the student who was hauled from his wheelchair by the police during the student demo in December

Darren Johnson, Green Party London Assembly Member

Michael Chessum, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts

Kat Craig, vice chair Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers