April 11, 2011
I attended the march as a working disabled journalist. I thought it was a perfect opportunity to talk to disabled people whose voices had so far not been heard in the media coverage of the fight against the government’s spending cuts, including in my own news stories.
In all, I spoke to more than 30 disabled people before and during the march and the rally. What soon struck me as I started to interview disabled protesters was the wide range of reasons they gave for being there. Some were on the march or at the rally because of cuts to services, some to protest against threats to vital disability benefits, others because of concerns over the government’s policies on inclusive education or the tone of the government’s rhetoric around benefits. Some spoke out about the government’s targeting of disabled people, while there was unsurprisingly a lot of fear and anger about the proposed removal of the mobility component of DLA from disabled people in residential homes.
I was struck by the feeling of solidarity among protesters, but also the passion and sense of outrage among those who took part. Individual disabled people had felt the need to travel across the country, despite the barriers they faced in getting there, to make their voices heard.
I hope these and other voices will now be heard even more loudly at the 11 May Hardest Hit march. As a reporter it is not for me to say whether their views are right or wrong, although it is probably not hard to guess what my views would be… What is most important to me is that these voices are being heard.
John Pring is the editor/founder of Disability News Service.