The Paralympics are a perfect time to raise awareness of attacks on disabled people’s rights, says DEBBIE JOLLY
FOLLOWING on from the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) actions during the London Paralympics, we’re set to return in September with a week of action on the theme of Rights Not Games and once more centred around the Paralympics.
In theory, large sums of money are spent to enable these Games to take place.
This year, however, the funding of the Games seems to have hit a major snag as very few events tickets have been sold and the funding for poorer countries to attend and take part seems to have dried up meaning many countries’ Paralympic’s teams may be excluded.
Ironically this is in spite of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) having a surplus of £1 billion.
Regardless of those funds, it seems disabled athletes do not merit having any of that money spent to assist or include them in the games.
In fact, rumours abound that one of the main reasons the International Paralympic Committee is so short of money is because $60 million has been taken from the Paralympic budget to prop up the mainstream Games in spite of the IOC’s surplus.
So even in the world of Games, disabled people fare second best, as is the case in our real world, which is filled with disabled people who face multiple barriers to inclusion every day of their lives, along with constant and repetitive battles to get the support they need to simply live.
DPAC knows that it is not just British disabled people who are facing a loss of rights. It is a worldwide phenomenon.
So this year we’ve opened up our week of action to include activists from many other countries and will end the week with a conference, including international participants from Canada, Greece, Ireland and other countries, where disabled people are also facing the impact of neo-liberal austerity policies.
John McDonnell, the Shadow chancellor will also be addressing the conference.
We are also hoping to link with disabled activists in Bolivia to have supportive protests on September 7.
In Bolivia, hundreds of disabled people marched for over three months and laid siege to the Ministry of Justice in a bid to have their state support increased from the current rate of $144 a year.
The Bolivian state responded with riot police and tear gas. The disabled people didn’t back down, however, and physically fought with the riot police for two days using crutches, walking-frames and wheelchair parts.
They gave as good as they got.
Some weeks later those same disabled people suspended themselves from bridges and motorway flyovers using ropes tied to their wheelchairs and swung over the oncoming traffic.
The activists used shock as a tactic to try to bring their message to the world.
Disabled people in Britain were promised that the London Paralympics would be a watershed moment in the advancement of our rights.
But sadly that has not been the case.
Not only are many of our Paralympians facing the removal of their motability vehicles — due to the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance which will prevent them from training and taking part in competitions — but Britain is the first country in the world to be investigated by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities for the grave and systematic violation of disabled people’s human rights.
Little wonder Theresa May is so desperate to scrap the Human Rights Act.
This is why our week of action is so important: Because, while we are not opposed to the Games or the contestants, we need to use this brief window of opportunity where disabled people are once again in the limelight to show what is happening to our rights both here in Britain and across the world.
The rights we previously fought for and won are being stripped away daily and so as activists we must fight on and seek the changes we need to empower ourselves and others in our battle for equality and justice.
So please join us on any or all of the following dates:
-Sunday September 4 — #ArtsForRights, 4pm venue TBC
-Monday September 5 — #Right2IL: Right to Independent Living report launched into the closure of the Independent Living Fund, 2pm to 4pm Houses of Parliament, Committee Room 21 followed by protest poetry and pop-up street theatre, 5pm outside Houses of Parliament
-Tuesday September 6 — #RightsNotGames: National day of action, see DPAC website for your nearest event
-Wednesday September 7 — #NoMoreClaimingDeaths: 12pm opposite Downing Street
-Thursday September 8 — Online action: see www.dpac.uk.net for details