Next month’s march and rally to raise awareness of the impact of government spending cuts is set to be one of the country’s largest ever gatherings of disabled people, say organisers.
They hope more than 10, 000 disabled people will attend The Hardest Hit March in central London on Wednesday 11 May.
Jaspal Dhani chief executive of the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), said the huge numbers expected would send the signal to the government that its policies “are not just affecting a minority group of disabled people but the whole disabled community”.
He said: “This is about protecting disabled people’s futures. It is not just about the cuts taking place today, it is about maintaining rights and independence and promoting an independent living agenda into the future.
“Disabled people have fought long and hard over the decades for those rights and if they lose them now it will take decades to re-establish them.”
Dhani said he believed the government was consulting with disabled people and their organisations, but was simply ignoring what they told them.
He said it was vital to have such a protest that would concentrate solely on issues affecting disabled people, as last month’s TUC protest did not allow disabled people’s voices to be heard.
The 11 May protest – which will include a march, rally and “lobby” of parliament – is being led by UKDPC, with support from the Disability Benefits Consortium and backing from 60 disabled people’s and disability organisations.
Dhani said there had been some criticism that organisations “of” disabled people were “sleeping in the same bed” as organisations “for” disabled people.
But he said: “The issue is much bigger than whether we agree with the policies of the ‘for’ organisations. It is about whether we come together at a time when disabled people’s rights and liberties are being put back by 20 years.”
He said it was crucial that the march allowed the voices of the many service-users supported by the big disability charities to be heard.
The march will be followed by a rally, featuring speeches from disabled activists, while representatives of the three main political parties have been invited to speak.
There will also be a parliamentary “lobby” of MPs – in which disabled people will have the chance to talk to their own MP about their concerns.
Marchers will gather from 11.30am on Victoria Embankment by Horseguards Avenue, with the march set to start at 12.30pm.
The march will pass through Parliament Square and finish in Dean Stanley Street. The rally will take place in nearby Methodist Central Hall from 1.30pm.
The lobby is expected to take place in Westminster Hall between 2.30pm and 5.30pm. Those hoping to see their MP should write in advance for an appointment.
For more information and to register a place in the rally, visit www.ukdpc.net.
5 April 2011