by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass
As part of our focus on ‘Reclaiming Our Futures’ – the DPAC week of action (29th August – 4th September), we interviewed Simone Aspis from ALLFIE – an organisation fighting for inclusive education for all disabled people. In the first part of the interview, we talk about why the week of action is so important and how the media is playing its part in silencing the attacks on disabled people.
Why is this week of action so important and why does it need to happen?
“Disabled people are facing enormous attacks on their living standards, their rights to access services, the opportunities that non-disabled people take for granted on a number of fronts. Obviously in terms of cuts, in resources, government’s ideology – it seem very clear the government want to promote services and goods for the elite and not for the community as a whole. They seem to want to be moving much more towards non-disabled people, or for disabled people in segregated provision. And therefore we absolutely want to challenge that, because we’ve had 20-30 years of progress towards inclusion of disabled people and the rights disabled people have. We’re by no means perfect but at least that was increasing. Now we’re absolutely seeing an onslaught attack on disabled peoples’ rights to exist and to have the same opportunities that non-disabled people take for granted.
“The week of activity is really important because it brings disabled people together and we are launching a manifesto that disabled people have written – on the issues that are very important to us, as a means to promote the rights that disabled people want, the opportunities disabled people want, the things that we want. The same opportunities, the same things that non-disabled people take for granted. So really it’s an opportunity to raise the profile of, not just what disabled people don’t want, but the opportunity to say what we DO want, because a lot of times in the media we don’t get that opportunity.”
So you feel the voice of disabled people is missing a lot in the media? Do you think that has allowed these attacks to happen much more easily?
“Absolutely. It’s quite shocking, for example that the Children and Families Bill, the special education needs provisions that are going through parliament are attacking disabled peoples’ rights to inclusive education, watering down disabled peoples’ rights to access mainstream education, increasing segregated provision for disabled children and young people against the wishes of themselves, the families and the disabled peoples’ movement.
“In no way does parliament or government see that they need to speak to disabled people themselves. So for example, ALLFIE is the only organisation run by disabled people that promotes education. When parliament was seeking evidence about the Children and Families Bill and what the impact of the special needs provision will be on disabled children and young people, not one organisation of disabled people were invited to give oral evidence or written evidence. That Is quite shocking. Lord Nash has refused to meet us a number of times, as the only organisation of disabled people for education. Like welfare reform, when you look at the special education needs provisions, the voice of disabled people ain’t there in the education reforms.
“So the week of action is well, if the government don’t want to be seeking our views, we’ve got no other choice but to take them to the appropriate departments and government.”
How have the media approached the attacks on disabled people and welfare?
“The view is that it is clear that the media is driving the whole welfare reform agenda and how much disabled people seem to be scrounging off the system where clearly disabled people are not scrounging off the system, because when you look at what disabled people are wanting, in terms of a level playing field, opportunities to work, the opportunity to access mainstream education, the opportunity to have decent housing, to have the assistance that they need in order to access the same opportunities that non-diabled people take for granted, well, I don’t see how disabled people are asking for any more than anyone else in this society.
“The media are actually portraying disabled people in a way that is completely outrageous and completely against the things that we do want and why we want them.”
Look out for the second part of this interview on Thursday.
If you would like to sign ALLFIE’s six demands, find out more about ther campaigns or contact ALLFIE e-mail or visit their site through: