Oh dear. Some despondency reached the Justice Shed today. There were a few twitter threads of discussion around the fact that no disabled people were on the #LBBill panel at the Humanities gig at Manchester University.
Nope. There weren’t. Should there have been? Good question.
#JusticeforLB and the #LBBill have been organic, unscripted, slightly disorganised campaigns. Everyone involved is a volunteer. There’s no structure, no resources (other than goodwill which has been available by the shedload) and no agenda (other than effective change). Most importantly perhaps there are no vested interests.
Many #JusticeforLB campaigners are disabled. People have contributed in all sorts of ways. An open and transparent campaign. Anything and everything goes (just browse #107days to delight in this). A mix of determination, commitment, passion, humour, fear and fearlessness, and a refusal to be drawn into meaningless, empty and fake talk about what is about to change. The amount of hours and (crowd sourced) skills and support provided for free impossible to count.
This is in contrast to the spectacular failure of other efforts to make life better for learning disabled people. The National Audit Office are publishing their investigation into the ‘dread to think’ sums of money squandered on the Winterbourne View Joint (Non) Improvement Programme on Wednesday. This should make for an interesting – finger nails on the blackboard – type read. Big charities and other organisations have also talked the talk at length, across the last three or four years, within the stifling constraints of existing structures, organisational layers, an eye on salaries and the awkward position of being both campaigner and provider. Tripping over in jargon alley, distanced from the experiences and engagement of learning disabled people and their families, apart from the often tokenistic involvement of one or two disabled people, hands over ears to avoid properly listening.
So should there have been a disabled person on the panel on Monday? Of course there should. We’ve met with disabled people’s organisations. Cracking easy read bill resources are available. There have been events organised across the country focused on getting feedback from learning disabled people. Passion, commitment and effort have generated a mountain of feedback waiting to be analysed and fed into the next version of the Bill.
That the panel didn’t include a disabled person shouldn’t be a negative reflection on the campaign. It should raise questions, discussion and reflection on how meaningful involvement can happen within the context of no resources, little time (or structured organisation?) and an antipathy to tokenism. And what this means about ‘inclusion’ more generally.
As well as a shared commitment to making things different.