Crippen asks ‘where are the young Disabled people?’ / 1 October 2009
Being of the generation that can say ‘I saw Hendrix play at the Isle of Wight Pop Festival’ (what do you mean, who?!) means that I’ve also seen a lot of water go under the disability bridge.
I wasn’t part of the original move by the Fiscally Impaired Against Segregation (FIAS) in 1970, when they identified disability as the exclusion of people with physical impairments from the mainstream of society. Nor was I involved with the birth of the Social Model during the same decade or the redevelopment of same in the early 80’s by the Disabled People’s International in order to include all impairments. But I did take up the Social Model banner soon after this and was involved with the British Council of Disabled People (BCODP) when they decided to make the removal of barriers within society their main focus.
Next came the protests and demonstrations about lack of access at the many company HQ’s, railway stations, bus stations, Local Government buildings and central Government offices during the 80’s and 90’s, the main protest banner being taken up by the Direct Action Network (DAN) and still being carried to this day.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because I suppose that I’ve carried the knowledge within me as to how we’ve arrived at where we’ve arrived at today, as Disabled people. This brings me to my point, and also to the reason for this week’s cartoon.
p class="MsoNormal">“So where is this Disabled People’s Movement?” one young Disabled guy asked me the other day. And when I tried to explain to him about our history, the way in which the Social Model had helped us to empower ourselves, he just looked at me rather pityingly and said: “Oh those old farts. That was in the olden days, man. It’s all different now!”
I suppose my dropped jaw must have indicated that he’d said something that had trampled over my sensibilities, because he quickly added: “That’s not to say that it wasn’t relevant all those years ago. But we don’t need anything like that now … do we?”
So there you have it … the younger disabled people of today look upon us as outdated old farts, spouting our slogans and holding up our Social Model understanding of disability which, according to at least some of them, has no relevance in today’s society. This probably explains why we don’t have many younger disabled people joining our ranks and as we ‘old farts’ all die off one by one, so our voice can only get smaller.
So, how do we attract these young disabled people? What can we do to make them think of themselves as part of the Disabled People’s Movement – to take a pride in the fact that we are all brothers and sisters together, still fighting for our rightful place in society?
Keywords: direct action network (dan),disabled people's movement,social model,young disabled people