GMCDP have added our voice to the growing numbers of disabled people organisations both nationally and internationally who oppose Assisted Suicide. At a time when disabled people are facing massive cuts to services and benefits, we need support to live, not assistance to die. Not one of the major UK Disabled People’s Organisations or disability charities support Assisted Suicide legislation. Despite this, supporters of Assisted Suicide claim that disabled people’s opposition isn’t relevant as legislation is only intended for terminally ill people in pain. However, reports have shown that the majority of people requesting assisted suicide stated ‘loss of dignity’ and ‘feeling a burden’ as their main reasons. Pain scored low by comparison. Any Assisted Suicide legislation gives the state power to end our lives through fear and coercion and is sold to us as ‘choice’.”
From the birth of the industrial revolution to the present day, in the UK ‘Charity’ has had a profound and often detrimental effect on the lives of disabled people. Although often well intentioned, 'Charities' have traditionally acted and spoken on our behalf, without the consent or involvement of disabled people. Many disabled people argue that charities perpetuate the myth of the ‘helpless victim’, by the language and imagery they use to raise funds. In the early 1990’s the battle cry of Rights Not Charity” was a key component to disabled people’s protests against the likes of ITV’s ‘Telethon’ and the BBC’s Children In Need”. It was also a key phrase used in the mid 1990’s in our fight for a Disabled People’s civil rights legislation. The reasoning behind this was twofold: firstly, disabled people should not be subject to the whims of society’s generosity to meet what we see as our basic human rights. We also do not believe that disabled people should be portrayed as passive recipients of charity, and objects of pity, just in order to participate in society.
However, 'Rights' is only one aspect of disabled people's ongoing fight. Rights, by themselves will not bring about disabled people's full and equal participation within society. There must also be social, economic and political change.
Unlike the big Disability Charities, GMCDP is controlled by and accountable to disabled people. GMCDP has taken the decision not to become a registered charity as a point of principle, and does not accept money from funding sources that use demeaning and oppressive portrayals of disabled people.
GMCDP believes that, although great strides have been made, disability hate crime is still not dealt with appropriately by the criminal and justice systems. Many crimes against disabled people go unreported because of confusion over who to report the crime to. Some people are wary of the potential consequences of reporting crime, whilst there is also a perception that the police and legal authorities will not believe them. This is reinforced by the fact that disability is rarely considered to be a motivating factor in crime and antisocial behaviour. As a result incidents are given a low priority and very often appropriate hate crime legislation and policy initiatives are not applied correctly. Many of those subjected to disability hate crime face barriers in accessing justice and accessing appropriate support, meaning that often those who commit offences against disabled people face few consequences for their actions. In addition, there are very poor levels of support concerned with helping those disabled people who been subject to hate crime. In order to address this, and to better tackle disability hate crime in society, GMCDP believes that the following needs to happen, in order for disability hate crime to drastically reduce:
- A separate law implemented focusing on disability harassment and hate crime
- Greater access to justice for disabled people by providing training on the social model of disability throughout the criminal justice system, with disabled people themselves having a central role in the design and delivery of disability hate crime training
- Politicians to cease using divisive language around welfare reform
- The media to adopt a social model approach to reporting on disability
Segregated vs Inclusive Education
GMCDP believes that Disabled People of all ages are systematically, and unfairly, excluded from mainstream education by physical, organisational and attitudinal barriers. We believe that all disabled children should have the right to attend their local mainstream school. Inclusion is a rights issue. Segregated education is part of an oppressive and outdated system. That system is one element in the continuum of separate, ‘special’ provision, which denies disabled people the opportunity to be educated and socialize with their peers.
Being separated from non-disabled peers during childhood and teens leads to isolation in young disabled people’s future. Firstly, the young disabled people do not get the opportunity to interact with, or develop friendships with non-disabled young people. This isolates them during childhood in terms of not having a peer group to socialize with outside school. Secondly, denying young non-disabled people the opportunity to have young disabled people as friends leads to non-disabled young people and (and later on as adults) viewing young and adult disabled people as “different” and “other” to themselves. This often leads to a lack of understanding that disabled people are equal members of society, and can even be the cause of discrimination and prejudice, which in extreme circumstances causes disability hate crime.
Finally, we believe that all disabled people should be responded to in an age appropriate way and accordingly, when required, they should be supported to have autonomy over their financial arrangements.
Seven Needs of Independent Living
Information: Disabled people should have equal access to information. It is only with access to information that disabled people can make informed choices about their lives. Service providers should work with disabled people to produce and disseminate information for disabled people in a range of accessible formats, such as: audio, braille, easy-read, large print, BSL video, etc.
Peer Support: Disabled people should have the opportunity to be in contact with, and have access to the support of other disabled people. Resources should be made available to facilitate the establishment of Peer Support Group. Peer Support can be an empowering tool, as it enables disabled people to discuss, and draw strength from, our shared experiences.
Housing: Disabled people should have the right to live in our own homes. These homes should be accessible, and enable us to live independent lives. There should be ambitious, but achievable quotas and targets in relation to accessible housing. Both central and local governments should use all their existing powers to ensure that both private and social housing developments (including refurbishment schemes) meet the highest access standards.
- Disabled people should have access to information about what equipment and adaptations that assist us with day to day tasks. In addition, any application and assessment process should be simple and completed without delay. This process should not only apply to new applications but also in relation to the repair or replacement of existing equipment. Disabled people should not be denied necessary equipment because of their inability to pay.
Personal Assistance: Disabled people should be assessed for, and provided with, sufficient financial resources to employ Personal Assistants so that we can live independent lives. Disabled people should not be financially penalised due to the level of support required.
Transport: Disabled people should have equal access to all forms of transport that are available for the public to use. This goes beyond public transport, and includes taxis, planes, boats etc. GMCDP believes that transport regulators, licensing departments, central government etc should use all their existing powers of enforcement to ensure that disabled people have increased access to all forms of transport.
Access: Access in and around the built environment should be a priority for all existing and future developments. This should go beyond just ramps, drop kerbs, tactile paving, induction loops, signage etc, but should also include attitudinal barriers. Local authorities and other service providers should consult with disabled people amend their access policies that go beyond minimum standards and promote best practice.