Anne Rae, chair of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, said that the campaigners challenging government policies had become “pretty fragmented”, so there was a need for a national organisation with the “confidence and credibility to speak for disabled people with a strong voice”.
Rae is a former member of the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS), which is often credited with giving birth to the social model of disability in the 1970s.
She said: “There has got to be discussions about how we can form a national network, if not a national organisation, which has the confidence and credibility to speak for disabled people with a strong voice, because at the moment the voices against the government are pretty fragmented. We need to have a recognisable voice.”
She also said that disabled people attacking the government had to understand the need for a well-argued case against the oppression they were fighting against.
She said: “People will respect you if you have a reasoned, structured argument for what you are asking for.”
Rae said the disabled people’s movement had been weakened by funding cuts by local authorities, with the lack of “core funding” for disabled people’s organisations – rather than just project funding – a “big problem”.
But she said she also believed that the government had “head-hunted” people from the movement, who had then been forced to “water down their radical views”.
She said: “In my view they are – whether unintentionally or not – undermining the power of the united voice of disabled people by appearing to be representative of it but having to weaken their radical background.
“My view is everybody who is funded by the government is going to protect their continuity and you cannot bite the hand that feeds you.”
She said that no organisation would “stand by their radical principles” in such a situation, because they knew their funding would stop.
Rae was speaking to Disability News Service at an event held to debate the future of the social model, organised as part of Reclaiming Our Futures, a week of action led by Disabled People Against Cuts.
She also said she was “very suspicious” of the government’s Office for Disability Issues, which she said was “giving the impression of supporting disabled people” but was actually destroying people’s “radical mindset” and turning them into “effective speakers but empty speakers full of empty rhetoric”.
2 September 2013