Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People – what it is, how to join/be an ally.

We’re doing  blog posts (and hopefully more than that!) around the question of practical local solidarity. Today, Mx Dennis Queen from GMCDP kindly answers interview questions.

1. Who are you?  (Where did you grow up, etc)  Why and how did you get involved with GMCDP?

I’m Mx Dennis Queen. I am a disabled activist and I live in South Manchester. I arrived here, aged 18 having previously lived abroad, although British – due to my father’s job. Somewhat an adopted Mancunian now, I live with my rainbow family on a big social housing estate. I got involved in Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People in 1998, after I met another activist who was involved in the disabled people’s movement, at an impairment related charity.  She told me about the Social Model of Disability, the disabled people’s movement and that I was lucky to have a radical Coalition right near me. I joined GMCDP straight away to learn more about disability politics.

At that time we had a lot more coalitions of disabled people and disabled people’s organisations around the UK, and some have since shut down due to difficulties with funding, especially since 2010. Meanwhile the giant mega charities, where our business is represented by non-disabled people, continue to find that money flows well – for example the Cheshire Foundation, and SCOPE.

I only recently got involved in our committee 2 years ago, having been involved in lots of other ways over the years, from participating in projects and workshops, to supporting campaigning, playing music at events and making information.

2. What is GMCDP? How long has it been going, what has it been focusing on over the last couple of years?

GMCDP is a local coalition of disabled people – one of the oldest in the UK, we just turned 35.

Coalitions of disabled people are run and controlled only by disabled people. Our staff are all disabled people and only disabled people can be full members although we welcome associate members as allies. We are a type of DPO – disabled people’s organisation.

GMCDP welcomes all kinds of disabled people – by which we really mean ‘people who are disabled by how society is organised’. Our members include neurodivergent people, learning disabled people, mental health system survivors, Deaf and hearing impaired people, people with visual impairments, people with physical impairment, and a lot of people with more than one of these. Our members also may experience multiple oppressions, including being LGBTQI people, people of colour / BAME people, or women.

Many of our members are allied to other movements, or are part of other communities. (I’ve certainly blocked the odd road with XR youth wing, “Manchester Families Rise Up”, to support the youngest local climate activists to protest on our streets safely)

GMCDP represents and campaigns as a coalition of disabled people in matters that concern our community across the 12 districts of Manchester, as well as involving in national campaigns and networks. We aim to share information about emancipatory politics and bring disabled people together.

We currently run projects that support self advocacy and independent living, meetings and workshops, we are creating a database of Disabled People’s Organisations in the NorthWest, and we also convene Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel, which many local disability organisations are involved in. We run sub groups in GMCDP about specific things like Communications, and Campaigning, which members can join.

At the moment we are involved in local and national disability campaigns – nationally, currently about equal access to health and social care, and self representation – and locally, around housing, mental health services and access to the Peterloo Memorial.

Disabled people have been denied independent living and fair access to healthcare during the pandemic.

For example, as well as being locked away in institutions where the disease could thrive, many people were given notices , or asked to sign notices to say they don’t want life saving treatments. (Do Not Attempt Recusitation and Do Not Attempt Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation.) It was mostly elders and learning disabled people who were targeted for this denial of healthcare.

Many more of us won’t qualify for fair access to healthcare if we need intensive care, or resuscitation, due to the Frailty Score system that will be imposed on us in hospital. This affects hundreds of thousands of us.

An important piece of work for people to be aware of, is some Covid related information about speaking up for ourselves / fair access to healthcare, and an emergency health passport (which contains a segment to refuse a voluntary DNAR / DNCPR) . This information is in British Sign Language and Easy Read, as well as various types of print. We would be grateful if everyone could share these in their networks so that as many disabled people as possible may access it. The links are on our main page at: https://gmcdp.com/

3. What is/are the most common/frustrating things that happen when able-bodied (or is the best term something else?) people try to be allies but do it badly?

We say ‘non-disabled’, because lots of physically ‘able’ people are disabled people too. 🙂

These are my personal answers.

When non-disabled activists are not aware that disabled people have had an active self representing movement since the 1970s, that can feel frustrating. It’s great when allies find out about us, learn our politics and support us, or ask us to represent ourselves in relevant issues.

When people speak for, and about us, instead of with us, often not even representing our real views, that is always a mistake. This comes up in many forms – sometimes because those speaking benefit from our oppression, sometimes because people want to help, but need more information .

It’s especially hard when it’s around matters like assisted suicide and euthanasia, where people imagine what we want, and what think they would want, instead of finding out what people with that experience actually think, in reality.  Then we see allies, instead of advocating for everyone’s fair right to healthcare and support, instead saying disabled people’s lives are so awful that we should be helped to die.  That is always devastating. In the disabled people’s movement, we fight the unfairness and lack of support instead. So everyone can have the best quality of life possible.

(The only national organisation run by disabled people that campaigns about these issues opposes the further legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia – see http://notdeadyetuk.org/ )

In the day-to-day world, it’s simply about finding out what disabled people need before making assumptions. As individuals we are all different, so it’s not about allies needing to know already what we need, so much as them needing to find out. Just ask us.

As a group we have political organisations that we need other movements to know about , so they stop taking the lead from big charities which only ever represent their own interests, at best, and at worst, lock disabled people away in institutions (eg Cheshire Foundation, National Autistic Society).

In organising, it’s about working with your disabled membership to make everything as accessible as possible. Networking with DPOs can help get an idea of our movement’s emancipatory politics, as well.

4. What next for GMCDP?  What upcoming events/campaigns?  What skills, knowledge are needed? If people were go get involved in its activities, what would they find themselves doing?

We’re continuing our work on housing, mental health services, information, the Disabled People’s Panel and advocacy with young disabled people. We will continue to involve in local and national campaigns.

Our sub groups will continue and various members meetings, which are routes to get involved – as well as member’s workshops about a variety of topics.

We hope to network more with other radical organisations, to grow our membership at a much needed time and be inclusive of our intersectional peers.

 

5. Anything else you’d like to say.

Come and join Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People if you want to know more about these things!

Thanks for talking to us!

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