Features Published 11 December 2014

We Will Keep Fighting

Amelia Cavallo on the legacy of Stella Young and the need to keep campaigning for access to work.
Amelia Cavallo

This morning, I woke up to some very sad news. Stella Young, a loud and proud advocate against inspiration porn, and one of the most amazing, hilarious, beautiful crip ladies I’ve ever heard of passed away very suddenly last night. I never met her but I wanted to, and I feel that given the circles I move in, our paths would have crossed and we would have been great friends and allies. She was an extremely talented comedian, writer and a very important disability activist who achieved far more in her short life than most manage in one full one. To get a taste of her humour, wit and fierce intelligence, it’s worth reading this letter she wrote to her 80 year-old self. 

This news in itself was enough to put a cloud over the day. I then discovered that two court cases dealing with disability rights have had verdicts that negatively effect the lives of thousands of disabled people. The first one is about a wheelchair user who was not allowed on a bus after a mother with a pram refused to move out of the accessible space. Apparently, the courts have stated that bus drivers don’t have to ask parents to move their prams out of the space DESIGNATED for wheelchair users. This means they can refuse to allow a wheelchair user onto a bus if a parent with a pram doesn’t move, even if their is room, despite the fact that buses are currently one of the few forms of accessible transport for people with mobility impairments.

By the way, all you parents out there who think this case is a win for you, it’s not. This case is not, nor was it ever about kicking you off of transport. Please don’t take it personally if people such as myself find this to be a completely unjust ruling. We don’t want to kick you off or disturb your sleeping infant. We want equal rights for all people, which really means that there should be space for prams and wheelchairs, and that in busy cities especially, everyone needs to be willing to compromise. This means that sometimes, you need to move out of the way.

The second and more devastating verdict comes after a long battle to save the Independent Living Fund. Today, the court ruled that it is “lawful” to close the ILF, thus forcing many of its former recipients into institutionalized care, or worse. I won’t get into details about the ILF here as I’ve written about it in the past, as has Natasha Lewis for this very magazine. I will just say that it is devastating and terrifying to think of how many people, including many of my good friends, will be severely effected by this totally inhuman choice, especially after their has been overwhelming proof of how the ILF benefits disabled people while creating jobs for access workers and personal assistants. Again, please ignore the propaganda that says this funding is mostly used by frauds, and/or that it is costing the government “too much”. Neither are true.

Of course, the fight for both of these cases will continue on, as will the fight to stop the changes to access to work for Deaf people and the the sign language interpreters they hire. It is hard not to feel devastated though. When it rains, it pours I guess. And sitting here, in my comfy flat, in my comfy pajamas, I feel like one of the lucky ones. I’m not currently on benefits (though I am aware that monster is always lurking around the corner), I have a job that I love and am well supported for my needs… for now anyway. I can’t help but think of any angry expletives towards our current government…. which I will leave to your imagination… and I wonder, why am I writing all of this, again? I think it’s because thanks to the fight from people like Stella Young, I still have hope that the majority of the world is full of good people, and that if we crips keep yelling loud enough about equality, we’ll get it some day, despite the currently bleak situation. I also hope that by putting this info here, you, the reader will become educated, think and act. Get to know disability politics and the advocates and artists who have been and continue to fight. Vote in the next election, know who you’re voting for and why you’re voting for them… even if the reason is to vote against those you dislike (such as Tories or UKIP… my own opinion obviously) Also, write to your MP’s, support equality, join the save the ILF campaign. Add your voice to the mix, because we need you now more than ever.

Access Impossible: Jess Thom on the access to work cuts.

Graeae’s artistic director Jenny Sealey on  funding cuts to access to work and the general state of the UK after the Paralympics.  

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Amelia Cavallo

Amelia Cavallo is a visually impaired, USA born actor, singer, musician, circus aerialist and aspiring academic. As a performer, Amelia has worked with various companies throughout the UK including Graeae Theatre, The Raven Theatre Company, Extant Theatre, Future Ruins and Natural Diversions. She also worked as a sway pole performer in the 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony, and conversely as a burlesque artist for Criptease Unlimited as part of the Southbank’s Unlimited festival. Amelia is currently a Phd candidate at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama researching the potential normative structures in acting processes via disability studies and crip theory.

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