Organisers of a national “summit meeting” of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), grassroots campaigns and trade unions hope it will “reinvigorate” the disability movement.
The National Disabled People’s Summit is being funded by unions, and co-organised by the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance.
Organisers of the summit say there is a need to explore how to co-ordinate resistance and organise joint campaigning in the wake of years of austerity measures that have targeted disabled people.
They point to the report in August of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, which concluded that cuts to social protection in the UK had caused a “human catastrophe” for disabled people.
At least 24 different organisations and campaigns are already signed up to take part in the summit in central London on 4 November.
Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s new shadow minister for disabled people, is set to attend, and is likely to speak briefly, along with Ellen Clifford, from Inclusion London, and Bob Williams-Findlay, a former chair of the British Council of Disabled People.
But the focus of the event will be workshops on areas such as independent living, social security, accessible transport and inclusive education, where participants will try to agree plans for campaigns, and aim “to inspire concrete activity that will lead to real change”.
One reason for the summit is to try to identify disabled people who can take a lead on campaigning, following a year in which the movement has lost some of its key figures, including Debbie Jolly, Sophie Partridge, Robert Dellar and Eleanor Firman.
Clifford, Inclusion London’s campaigns and policy manager, said: “In terms of losing key campaigners, the last year’s been really awful and it has really had an impact on capacity.”
She added: “The summit won’t appeal to everyone because the position behind it is a clear anti-austerity one that not every single Deaf and disabled person or disability organisation may subscribe to.
“The aim is to build new alliances between all those who want to fight neoliberal attacks on our rights and to reinvigorate our movement for change.
“I am really excited about people working together who have not worked together or campaigned together before.”
She said: “Over the past year in particular we have lost a number of experienced and committed activists.
“We need to empower new campaigners to get involved and gain the confidence to take and lead collective action that can not only bring about the reversal of damaging cuts but also go forward in creating a society founded on principles of fairness and social justice, equality and human rights for all.”
DNS reported last month how the idea for the summit came after Mandy Hudson – who represents disabled teachers on the new National Education Union – and colleagues on the TUC’s disabled workers’ committee, realised how many disabled people were having to fight individually to secure the support they needed to live independently, and decided it was “time for a more strategic view”.
The summit is taking place at the headquarters of the National Education Union in Mabledon Place, near Euston and King’s Cross stations.
Attendance is free, and can be booked online.