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(en) DA #29 - Social Democracy & Other Myths - Actions+Comment: Hurricane DAN

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 22 Feb 2004 06:50:35 +0100 (CET)


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It was like a hurricane - warnings were made over the tannoy, signs
covered and security put on standby. Yes, DAN - the disabled
people’s Direct Action Network - were back in town, rattling the
big disability charities and sending their staff of mainly non-disabled
people scuttling inside. October really is the hurricane season.
Hurricane DAN was creating a big stir on the streets of central
London with a series of direct action demos, while over at
Westminster, the winds of protest were blowing at a more leisurely
pace. A lobby in support of the Disabled Peoples’ Rights and
Freedoms Bill was taking place at Parliament on Wednesday
organised by BCODP - the British Council of Disabled People. The
lobby took place as the three-day street protest by DAN members
ended in central London.

Among the charities ‘hit’ in the direct action demonstrations
were Scope, RNIB and Mencap. The message to each of the big
charities was blunt and sometimes even rude: “Move over and let
us talk for ourselves.”

A DAN spokesperson said, “These charities should shut up and
shut up shop. They are not run by us and not controlled by us, yet they
claim to speak for us.” The message to charities on DAN stickers
was even more blunt, saying; “Fuck off and stay fucked off”.

“We say to them that despite the messages they put out about
disabled people being powerless and needing their help, we are
powerful and it’s time for them to go.

Charities have become the major stumbling block to disabled
peoples’ freedom, running many of the institutions that segregate
us from mainstream society.”

In spite of the strong and sometimes abusive language, the
spokesperson stressed that DAN was a non-violent organisation.
“We base our methods on tried and trusted civil disobedience
methods - from Gandhi and the black civil rights movement
onwards.”

Not surprisingly, the protest was not well received within
organisations such as the RNIB, although inside the building some
staff were said to be puzzled by the demo. “I was trying to find out
what we had done to warrant this,” said one staff member.
Another said that people inside had not even heard of DAN.

In addition to objections about the work they do, a major criticism
aimed at charities like Scope, Mencap and RNIB is the number of
disabled people they employ. The big charities have a poor record in
this area: the RNIB recently followed others in announcing the
appointment of a non-disabled CEO, Lesley-Anne Alexander, on 2nd
October this year.

An employment survey in Disability Now (published by Scope) earlier
this year revealed that Scope had a tiny number of senior managers
with disabilities (0.9% of staff earning more than £30,000 p.a.)
When it came to staff overall, Scope did little better, with just 3.5%
being disabled employees - lagging significantly behind groups like
GLAD (Greater London Action on Disability) and Arthritis Care.

Mencap (2.8% of staff disabled) and Leonard Cheshire (over 2%)
were also mentioned as “lagging behind”. The journalist who
wrote the text accompanying the survey admitted there are
“gaping differences” in how far the big charities practice what
they preach.

“Can charities change?”, asked the headline accompanying her
feature. The answer from DAN is loud and clear: “No, they
can’t.”

DAN are highlighting some of the attitudes of the major charities to
their workforce. It’s not surprising that disabled workers get short
shrift from the charities when they often treat all their workers like
shit.
==============================================
Direct Action is published by Solidarity Federation, the British section
of the International Workers’ Association
* DA is the Solidarity Federation magazine which is about getting
real change with anarcho-syndicalism.


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