“Ashton on Mersey were trail blazers. Now they are setting the clock back. As a disabled student Ashton on Mersey delivered a great education for me. Now they are set to put up barriers for the next generation of disabled students.”
By Rupy Kaur
I was born in the late ‘80s, an era where disability was kept out of the norm, and a disabled child attending a mainstream school was taboo. I started my early years at a “special needs” nursery called Rodney House, followed by a “special needs” primary school, Lancasterian. The reasoning for this was that I was born with cerebral palsy, and that, because I was disabled, special needs schools were the only kind that would accept me.
Don’t get me wrong, special school had its perks in that I would receive physiotherapy every day, and occasional hydrotherapy. But that was it. I was not pushed academically, and I was bored. We did get workbooks that I completed with enthusiasm, and in some respects I thought I was a mini Einstein as I was so quick to finish them.
I was brought up by my auntie and uncle. I remember in 1992, the new Education Act came out, which moved my uncle to push for me to attend mainstream school. He succeeded, however we were not able to get the school of our choice because there were only a few mainstream schools that accepted disabled pupils. These were called “barrier-free” schools. I completed my last year of primary school in Levenshulme, which was 12.2 miles away from where I lived, and I completed two years of secondary school in Wythenshawe, which was 8 miles away. I really enjoyed these two schools, although when I finally got to attend them, I realised that I was not as academically bright as I had originally thought, and I had to work hard to catch up with the other children. Additionally, it was very hard to socialise with my peers outside of school because they lived so far away. They didn’t really know where I was from and I couldn’t hang out with them after school because I had a taxi scheduled at the end of the day to bring me straight home. I felt like an outsider.
Ironically, though, there was a perfectly well-functioning mainstream secondary school across the road from me: Ashton-on-Mersey High School. I think Ashton is where I truly excelled. I loved the school, and loved socialising with peers from my local area. Because I enjoyed my environment, I flourished academically, and for the first time I felt as though I was accepted for being me. My disability was not perceived as being “other”, and socialisation made me feel part of the norm. Of course, at times I did feel different, but most teenagers feel different in some way or another.
Without attending Ashton, I would have never been able to attend my local grammar school and receive three As at A-level, study psychology at one of the top universities in the country, become a national representative of disabled students in the UK, sit on the board of a leading disability charity, and be working towards becoming a Doctor of Health Psychology.
I stand by my belief that a good education is the key to success, whether through academia or preparing a child to be able to function in the real world. I actually visited Ashton a couple of years ago and was amazed by their determination to include disabled pupils. When I was at school, there were only a handful of disabled pupils, but when I visited, they were very proud to tell me they now had over 100 disabled children and that each individual was supported so that they could socialise with their peers, disabled or not. I was so proud of the school and proud to be a part of its history. I went back to the charity that I was a board director of and encouraged them to apply the same practice. I don’t agree with segregation in any sense of the word, whether it’s because of disability, gender or religious beliefs; Ashton was a prime example of how everybody could work together in order to socialise children of diverse backgrounds and abilities for the real world.
Last year, my nephew completed his eleven-plus exams. He got accepted into a well-renowned local grammar school. However, because of the excellence I had seen in Ashton, I actively pushed him and his parents to attend this school instead. For my nephew, I wanted a future where disability is in the norm and to see him socialised in an environment where he knows no difference.
I was therefore extremely disappointed to read a recent article whereby I discovered that Ashton had decided to transfer its new cohort of disabled pupils to another of its schools, which is 6 miles from it. Ashton-on-Mersey is part of the Dean Trust, which runs several schools across the Northwest. The papers have described this cohort as moving from a “well-performing school to a worse school because of limited resources.” This may be the case, but for me there is a bigger issue. As I said before, education is not just about academic success, but the socialisation of children to accept people from diverse backgrounds. I am not just disappointed for the new cohort of disabled students, but for the current students of the school, disabled or not. If the school goes ahead with this decision, it is sending an outward message to children like my nephew that disabled people are not part of the norm, and should be dealt with separately. I want my nephew to grow up in a world which accepts differences; to come back from school knowing that disability is part of the norm, rather than boasting about how much money Rashford is earning at Manchester United while still receiving a sound education at Ashton due to its capacity as a sports college with funding from the club. If Ashton-on-Mersey can provide such an education to these young players, and has been doing since 1998, then I am sure there is a way to resource education for disabled pupils.
Ashton-on-Mersey should be proud of its accomplishment of educating those from different backgrounds, whether they are Manchester United’s next top player or a child with cerebral palsy. We are not back in the ‘80s, we are in 2016, and I urge Ashton to reconsider its decision to move its new cohort of disabled children to another school when they could be setting a prime example for all academies to follow.
Disability and the Bomb
Foreward: Many disabled people are angry that Leonard Cheshire Disability been awarded almost £300K to document the history of disabled people. We therefore thought it quite timely to reproduce the following article (first published in our Coalition News – May 1987), which is as powerful and relevant today as when our friend and colleague Ken Davis wrote it almost 30 years ago.
Disability and the Bomb – the connection
By Ken Davis
I am writing this on August 6th, 1986—the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on the unsuspecting, defenceless and innocent civilian population of Hiroshima.
There was no warning. After the explosion, some 140,000 ordinary people lay dead or dying. Men and women; old and young; teenagers and tiny tots; the sick in hospitals; babies in their mothers’ wombs. There was no escape.
They called the bomb “Little Boy” (what an insult, that humanity should be incinerated in the name of children!). The U.S.B29 bomber, the Enola Gay, carried more than one connection with disability. Little Boy was carried not only to inflict death—but to cause physical impairment in countless thousands of people. The Enola Gay also carried a person called Leonard Cheshire, founder of the international chain of segregated institutions for disabled people.
The disabled peoples’ movement has much to say on these matters. As it gains strength, it will add to the growing condemnation of war and violence as a means of resolving human conflict. Many more thousands of innocent people since Hiroshima have become disabled through war. The plights of our brothers and sisters in disability across the world cannot be imagined by us here in Britain. The suffering of those disabled people displaced by war into refugee camps is unutterably intolerable.
Back in 1982, the Disabled Peoples’ International made the following Peace Statement at Hiroshima:
“We, the representatives of all the world’s disabled peoples, have come to Hiroshima to make known our resolute condemnation of the arms race.
“We affirm, in the strongest possible terms, our determination to join with others and take our rightful place in the forefront of the worldwide movement of disarmament.
“We, the 500million disabled people of the world, declare that we will fight for the exclusion and annihilation of wars and nuclear weapons from the earth.”
Again, as our movement grows, Leonard Cheshire VC, and many others like him, how have used “compassion for the disabled” as a convenient stepping-stone to lucrative social careers, will be called to account for their actions. The Honours Lists are littered with the names of such people, who have chosen to speak and act in the name of disabled people without our authority.
This year—1986—is the International Peace Year. In a world besotted by war and violence, it is a timely reminder that there are higher ideals and finer values which can guide human conduct in the struggle to establish a better social order. It is also timely, on the 41st anniversary of Hiroshima, to remind ourselves of the long legacy of disability stemming from this shocking event.
The 1965 survey of the Hibakusha—the survivors of the bomb—showed their rate of physical impairment to be 350% higher than the Japanese national average. Some 44% of the survivors were sick or injured—a figure which had risen up to 59% by the 1975 survey.
Truly, those who died were the lucky ones. Obviously, cancers figure high in survivors, as does the incidence of leukaemia. These are caused by exposure to radiation and radioactivity, which guarantees long-term agony.
Many of those whose eyeballs didn’t burst in the intense heat now suffer from eye disorders. Microcephalic (small head size) victims have found their condition degenerating over the years. Gross disfigurement, e.g. from keloids on the skin, adds another dimension to disability. The psychological and social effects are profound and still imperfectly understood.
Many disabled people will be able to identity with the effects of these impairments. The Hibakusha share with us many of the same problems of rehabilitation and social integration. They suffer discrimination in employments, and even marriage. Their incomes are small, and they know as much about the poverty trap as any British claimant. Their families are the main source of support and, as they begin to age, carers come under increasing stress.
Through our membership of the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People, the Derbyshire Coalition of Disabled People is directly linked to Disabled Peoples’ International. Japan cones within the Asia-Pacific region of DPI, and the Regional Chairperson of himself Japanese—a spinal injured wheelchair-user, Senator Hita Yashiro. Hita is a living example of the additional grit and determination disabled people have to find if they seek high office.
Interestingly, the Chairperson of the DPI Human Rights Committee brought the news to the last DPI World Congress that putting disabled people away in institutions in Japan had been ruled a violation of human rights.
Relentlessly, the connection between disability and the bomb becomes clear. The mentality that made Leonard Cheshire a compliant participant in the mass creation of disability at Hiroshima is the same mentality which made him the instigator of the mass incarceration of disabled people in a chain of segregated institutions.
In the first place he went over the top of the heads of disabled people in a B29 bomber; in the second he went over our heads in the name of charity. Increasingly, over the years, both actions have come to attract just abhorrence.
In our struggle to realise the aims of the International Year of Disabled People—full participation and equality—we have to find the strength to insist that our representative organisations are fully involved in decisions about the dismantling of disabled apartheid. And we have to add our insistent voice to the clamour for world disarmament—with the aim of removing, for all time, this particularly horrifying cause of unnecessary disability.
Footnote: 1. Later research indicates that Leonard Cheshire was on the Big Stink (a B-29 support plane) on 9 August 1945 when the Enola Gay aircraft dropped the second atomic bomb, named Fat Man, on Nagasaki, and that he was not onboard the Enola Gay on 6 August 1945 when it dropped the bomb named Little Boy on Hiroshima as previously thought.
Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Cheshire, accessed 16 May 2015.
State Sanctioned Killing
I wonder how many supporters of Assisted Suicide/Assisted Dying also support the re-introduction of the death penalty? Those I have spoken to become very angry when the two issues are linked and yet they are both intrinsically examples of state sanctioned killing.
Currently Britain only allows people to take a life in self-defence, to prevent actions likely to lead to the loss of life and in times of war. Except for self-defence, this basically means only the Police and the military have the right to kill (in specific circumstances). Supporters of Assisted Suicide want to extend this to include doctors being able to “help” people to die.
Thankfully, the vast majority of doctors do not want to have this power. They believe that their responsibility is to preserve life not to participate in ending it.
History teaches to be wary of those doctors who think otherwise. It’s easy to point to the actions of doctors who participated in the Nazi experimentations and extermination of disabled people, and others, in World War 2. It’s also the case that the most prolific mass murderers in Britain have been doctors, nurses and pharmacists. Obviously these people were evil and, in most cases, chose Medicine as a means of gaining access to potential victims.
Less obvious has been the actions of some doctors in relation to Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) and the Liverpool Care Pathway. DNR was supposed to give people the choice to request no further intervention to prolong their lives. There is plenty of evidence to show that this decision was not always “an informed choice”, but was determined by doctors with no consultation whatsoever with the patient. In other words, the doctors decided that it was not worth keeping the patient alive.
The Liverpool Care Pathway is an “end of life” process designed to “manage” the treatment of people who are terminally ill. Again, the major criticism is that patients have not always been informed and consented to this course of action. In addition, the application of the process has, in some cases, been barbaric.
It’s little wonder, therefore, that many disabled people have not been reassured that the proposed involvement of doctors in any way offers protection, or safeguards, in the pursuit of Assisted Suicide.
Moving on from the role of doctors, what are the other issues that have been raised in support of changing the law?
Principally, supporters of AS have argued that the individual has the right of “choice”. Of course individual rights are important in a free, open and democratic society. However, these rights are not without limits. We accept restrictions on our individual rights in order to create a set of rules in which we can co-exist. For example, I have the individual right to punch you in the face, but you also have the right not to be punched.
At its most basic, society requires that no individual’s right should be at the expense of causing harm, fear or distress in another. The onus is on the advocates of AS to prove that their “right to die” does not undermine my “right to live”.
The other main argument is that poorer people are being discriminated against because the rich can afford to travel abroad to countries such as Switzerland, Holland, Belgium and parts of the USA where AS is legal.
Just because other societies have different rules doesn’t mean that we should adopt them. In the USA necrophilia is legal in Louisiana and incest is allowed in Alabama. In a number of countries around the world the age of consent is just 12.
Where we can agree with supporters of AS is in recognising that for many people end of life (palliative) care is appalling. No one should experience a painful and degrading end to their life. Yet many of us have seen our loved ones failed in this way.
We should be fighting together for this disgraceful situation to end. Not by extending state sanctioned killing but by enhancing support, pain-relief and dignity for everyone at the end of their lives. By-and-large the only people I want to kill, are those who want to kill me.
Dignity in Dying
Convicted murderer Abdul Basit is causing a major headache for the judicial authorities in Pakistan. He is a paraplegic wheelchair user who has been sentenced to death.
Pakistan implements the death penalty by hanging, with the law requiring the prisoner to stand on the gallows. The reason for this being that the length of the drop necessary to ensure that the neck is broken resulting in a swift death can only be accurately calculated if the prisoner is standing upright. Get this wrong and the result can be either, strangulation and a slow painful death, or potentially ripping the head clean off.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Basit are arguing that given the fact that he is unable to stand up then the sentence cannot be legally carried out. Furthermore, if the execution goes wrong the authorities face potential legal action for implementing a cruel and degrading punishment, which is illegal.
Bizarrely the lawyers are also arguing that as Basit is incontinent it would be humiliating to force him onto the gallows. I can’t help thinking that not only paraplegics are likely to soil themselves in this situation, I suspect I would too.
Oh give me a break. You rattle your tins for this? Disabled people deserve better!
Watching the breakfast news this morning I saw that SCOPE are continuing with their “End The Awkward” campaign, this time by teaming up with Channel 4 and disabled comedian Alex Brooker.
My problem with it is twofold. Firstly, is awkwardness really the burning issues for most disabled people? Secondly, the message seems confused as I’m not sure if they are saying it’s wrong to ask inappropriate questions or speak/act differently around disabled people; or are they saying that disabled people should put up with stares and questions about our missing bits?
Regardless, I am staggered that SCOPE are continuing to run this campaign for a second year and can only wonder how they settled on this as the issue they want to plough their time and resources into.
With disability hate crime on the increase, the closure of the Independent Living Fund, the bedroom tax, the Assisted Dying Bill, the cumulative effects of cuts on disabled people and the vilification of disabled people in the right wing press; why is SCOPE Still banging on about “end the awkward”?
Looking on the SCOPE website, the top of the home page highlights the campaign and the bottom of the page asks people to pledge £12.00 a month to help run their helpline. I wonder, are disabled people and their families phoning the helpline with concerns about awkwardness? I think not!
It shocks me that Scope, with all their funds, resources and media profile, that this the burning issue they are pursuing.
For what it’s worth I think SCOPE are wasting their money, money they make off the backs of disabled people, supposedly on our behalf, but in reality not!
They may say “End The Awkward”. I say “End The Waste Of Money”.
Further information on this piece at Disability News Service here