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Disability Bitch and the big effort march

18th May 2011

• Disability Bitch is published every other Thursday.
• The rest of the time, you can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
DB in a tank
Readers, I hate to say it, but I have enjoyed the world this week. The disability fraternity has been extremely noisy, and I'm not just talking about Professor Stephen Hawking claiming there is no heaven. Again.

He also spoke of his admiration for the NHS and his support for universal healthcare, and explained theoretical physics was "one of the few areas in which disability is not a serious handicap."

Steady, Prof. Soon the British government will be hiring you as a disability employment consultant.
Professor Stephen Hawking
But, for once, Stephen Hawking has not been the most vociferous disabled person in the media this week. I don't know if you've heard, but there's been a march.

Last Wednesday, thousands of disabled people took to the streets to protest against Cuts to disability-related benefits and services. The march was called Hardest Hit because that's what the people attending claim to be. That's to say, more hard hit than any other group.

Actress and cake baker extraordinaire, Jane Asher, turned up. Minister for disabled people, Maria Miller, did not. And people wonder why I prefer baked foodstuffs to politics.

Not that anyone missed her, because police estimates suggested that between three and eight thousand people turned up. I love it when disabled people complain. A march full of disableds complaining about their lot is probably my ideal day out.
The Hardest Hit march
I didn't go, and not because I didn't want to. It's because, even though it was the shortest march in the history of the universe from Victoria Embankment to parliament, I didn't have the energy to get that far. Really, I didn't.

Readers, may I be frank: I believe the reaction to this march - or lack of reaction to it - is symptomatic of the way the impairment-challenged British public underestimate disabled people. How often do you hear people say that sentence, eh?

Sure, it got some column inches in the liberal newspapers, but overall the coverage was underwhelming compared to that afforded to, say, the student protests back in December. If they'd jeered at some members of the Royal Family, the story would have rolled on and on.

Eight thousand just doesn't sound very much when you compare it to the vast numbers on the streets protesting about student fees. But let's remember that when I got out of bed and stumbled into my kitchen to put the kettle on this morning, it was a minor miracle. Small in the grand scheme of things perhaps ... but rather impressive.

Getting four disabled people into the same pub to celebrate my birthday is always a bit of an effort; getting a dozen into the same bit of central London at the same time would've impressed me very greatly. Eight thousand in one place blows my cynical little mind.
A placard held by a protester during the Hardest Hit march
It's not like everyone hopped on the tube. if only. There were accessible portable toilets delivered along the route of the march just to make this event happen. Think about that for a second. In the days when I used to attend major music festivals, I'd consider myself lucky if I saw one accessible loo on the entire site.

Whatever you feel about the political message of this march, the fact that it existed at all is a little bit cool.

On which note, I'm going for a lie down. I walked to my local park this morning and I'm now exhausted and won't be leaving the house for another week and a half. You know how it is. And if you're wondering why you haven't seen any disabled people on the streets for a while, it's because they're all indoors with the blinds drawn, recovering from Hardest Hit.

Facebook / Twitter

This week in social networking heaven, my followers and fans have mainly been talking about the Hardest Hit march, and Prof Hawking's atheist declarations. Oh, and the encounter I had with a random drunk who wanted to know what I had done to my toe.

Follow me on Twitter or like me on Facebook

Comments

    • 1. At 12:41pm on 19 May 2011, PredHead wrote:

      Great write-up, DB!
      Congrats to all the marchers; Ms Miller, shame on you. I was not well enough to attend, alas.
      As for Hawking... atheism's for the soulless. Agnosticism, however, at least nurtures some form of hope. But we are only people.
      Fliss :-)

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    • 2. At 9:25pm on 27 Jun 2011, Ray_Aldred wrote:

      DB,

      I too really don't have the energy to do much in terms of going out and protesting. The persons that do are highly organized in their efforts and probably had a significant amount of help. But these two points are not the basis of this post. What I found interesting is that after your write up there was a Facebook and Twitter buttons! You see, I think social networking and the internet is changing the way we members disabled community are being active. No longer do we have to throw ourselves on the stairs of a government building and crawl up them to make a significant point and be heard. We can sit in our offices and computers and twitter, or organize a facebook group and garner support that way. We can write articles about other protesters in support. While it is important to be out and socially active in the "real" world, we also have at our fingertips the ability to garner support with a simple push of a "like" button on a facebook page. What a wonderful world we live in now where we don't even have to leave our houses to be politically active. Hmmm on second thought, that's a little scary.

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