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People with disabilities rising up

Melissa Graham

September 23, 2013

Oppression knows no borders, but neither does the resistance posed by disability rights activists—from London, to Montreal, to Toronto.
The tactics used by governments so far apart geographically look eerily similar: austerity, cuts to social assistance programs and supports, unlawful removal of people from these programs, and violations of human rights and other laws—including the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which both Canada and Britain have signed.
Since the austerity crisis began in Britain, disabled persons have been hit hard by cuts to their quality of life, financially as well as through hate crimes and humiliation. For a perspective on what British people with disabilities are up against, here’s an example: Elenore Tatton died just weeks after she was assessed to be fit to work despite having a brain tumour. Almost a third of people who had been found “fit to work” appealed, and that decision has now been reversed. Tragically, thousands have died waiting.

But this September, people with disabilities in Britain and Quebec called for the end of ableism, and fought back.
Around 200 campaigners for disabled peoples’ rights protested at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in central London. They rallied outside the ministries for transport, energy, education and health, demanding equality for disabled people, before converging on the DWP. Activists came from all over Britain to be part of this week of action. Just two days before this, people with disabilities blockaded the entrance to BBC offices in West London after the BBC had been promoting the idea of cutting much needed welfare programs in Britain. There were also protests at inaccessible transportation sites.
The protests in the UK have been heard here in Canada. In Toronto, there was a solidarity rally outside the British Consulate in support of people with disabilities in the UK fighting against the cuts.
Meanwhile in Montreal, people with disabilities joined the fight by protesting proposed cuts to their support services. This would mean that more Quebeckers with disabilities would be forced to live in assisted living centres known as CHSLDs. These centres are often described like prisons, where “people don’t get to decide when they want to get up, what they want to do, what they want to eat.” The cuts are slated to take place next year.
The level of activity taking place within the disability movement is encouraging, and people are taking notice. Momentum is building, and it seems the disability movement is rising up.
Join the Toronto Disability Pride March, Saturday October 5, 1pm at Queen's Park.

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