By Us With US. Get onboard there Ain’t No Stopping Us Now – We’re on the Move. by John Doyle

john-doyle
John Doyle

Moving forward requires FORWARD MOVEMENT and PERPETUAL MOTION. We cannot get to where we want to go without unity of purpose, vision, and fearless determination. Remembering where we came from is the key to getting to where we want to go.

The way in which western society reacts to people with a disability has changed in many ways over time. Early Christians treated people with a disability with pity and developed a position of superiority over people with a disability. To many, disability represented an impurity of some kind.

During the Middle Ages, this belief increased and as people became increasingly superstitious, those with a disability became seen as the manifestation of evil. Some of the thinking was fostered by concepts of ‘the sins of the forefathers’ being manifested in the children. This lead too many disabled people being removed from the family and hidden away in institutions. It could be argued that the same prevalence of thinking was behind the removal of children from un-married women with those children then being placed into the “care” of the state in institutions such as the Magdalene Laundries, also known as Magdalene asylums, most women entering these such laundries were in fact unmarried mothers and in many cases these women were forced into such institutions by the powers of the Church and even family members who did not want to live with the ‘shame’ of having a woman in their home with a baby born outside of wedlock.

Many of these “laundries” were effectively operated as penitentiary work-houses. The strict regimes in the institutions were often more severe than those found in the prisons. Laundries such as this operated throughout Europe and North America for much of the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century, the last one closing in 1996.

World War 1, saw a dramatic increase in the number of people with a disability and the introduction of the concept of rehabilitation, where people with a disability were ‘retrained’. This approach continued after World War II.

The impact of the casualties of World War 1 and World War II then the Polio and TB outbreaks saw a dramatic increase in medical treatment, care and education for people with a disability, representing the beginning of ‘The Medical Model’ combined with the ‘Charity Model’ of disability – the idea that people with a disability needed to be cured and that others knew what was best for them.

This was the predominant attitudes to disability and “care” was provided in institutions where people with a disability were segregated from the rest of society.

In the 50’s and 60’s large numbers of previously non disabled people became disabled people after contracting Polio or TB and in the USA many people returned from the Vietnam War with significant disabilities.

The United States in the 1950’s and ‘60’s was a society in great change. A number of different movements developed side by side, all of which contributed to the birth of Independent Living. These changes included the Civil Rights Movement, the growth of consumerism, the rise of a self-help culture and a move away from segregating people with a disability in institutions.

It was within this atmosphere of change that a group of disabled students came together in Berkley, California to protest at their exclusion from mainstream society and to demand their own rights. This was the birth of the Independent Living Movement it was lead by people such as Ed Roberts, Judith E. Heumann in the USA and in Europe by people like Adolf Ratzka, Vic Finkelstein, Bente Skansgard, Mike Oliver, John Evans OBE, Lady Campbell of Surbiton and in Ireland by Martin Naughton, Joe T Mooney, Ursula Hegerty, Dermot Walsh and Florence Dougal and we borrowed and adopted Jana Overbo from America to name but a few.

People with disabilities, like the African-Americans, were seen as having been marginalised by American society. The idea that all human beings, including people with many different types of disabilities, should have equal rights and opportunities under the law, became the cornerstone of the Independent Living Movement

The Irish Independent Living Movement

Selina Bonnie a disability activist put it like this “The First Centre for Independent Living seed was planted in Dublin in 1992. This seed blossomed into an efficient and successful national movement. Throughout the years, many individuals and groups throughout Ireland and the world have praised the work of CIL and have acknowledged our organisation’s achievements.

These achievements are well documented and were chalked up along a very difficult, bumpy and inaccessible path. Many of us in the disabled community clearly remember the good, the bad and the ugly times. We started our journey as a nervous, ambitious and determined group of people n 1992, soon metamorphosing into a confident and even more determined body of people that provide a stronger and more effective voice of people with disabilities”.

Selina is correct it was a difficult, bumpy and inaccessible path but some disabled people throughout our history and our country who would not settle for second class citizenship set about identifying and then removing the barriers. People like Liam Maguire (IWA), Frank Mucahey (PWDI), Sinead Murtagh and Donal Toolan (Forum of People with Disabilities) and Martin Naughton (CIL) have beaten away some of the barriers which had made the path we travel difficult to navigate. In removing some barriers they have shown that with determination and vision, strategic thinking and application of the law and legislation the path can be made accessible.

Their main aim was and still is to empower and enable people with disabilities to achieve Independent Living, choice and control over their lives and to achieve full and active participation as equal citizens in society.

By Us With US can become the vehicle of choice for the next generation of disabled people who follow along the path opened by our hero’s. Together we can make another clearing in the road and make the next part of the road accessible to this and coming generations of disabled people.

Luther Vandross and the lyrics of Ain’t no stopping us now says it all for me I hope it says it all for you as well

“Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now”

Now, are y’all ready? Are y’all ready?
Here we go now.  Yeah, come on

Ain’t no stopping us now. We’re on the move.
Ain’t no stopping us now. We’ve got the groove.
There’ve been so many things that have held us down
But now it looks like things are finally coming around
I know we’ve got a long, long way to go, yeah
and were we’ll end up, I don’t know

But we won’t let nothing hold us back.
We’re gonna get ourselves together,
We’re going to polish up our act, yeah,
And if you’ve ever been held down before
I know that you refuse to be held down any more,

Don’t you let nothin’, nothin'(Nothin’ stand in your way, and all ago)
I want y’all to listen, listen (That’s right, to every word I say, every word I say about it)

Ain’t no stopping us now (that’s right)
We’re on the move (you said it, we’ve got the groove)
Ain’t no stoppin’ us now
We’ve got the groove

I know you know someone who’s got a negative vibe (who?)
And if you only happen they only keep you alive (shut up!)
They really don’t have nowhere to go
Ask them were they’re going, they don’t know

But we won’t let nothin’ hold us back
We’re gonna get ourselves together, come on
We’re gon’ polish up our act, yeah
And if you’ve ever been held down before
I know that you refuse to be held down any more

Why I’m here, by Sarah Fitzgerald

 

headshot-1
Sarah Fitzgerald

 

I am a Celtic Tiger cub. I was just eight years old when the first Centre for Independent Living was   established in Carmichael House in 1992.

Back then, I had no idea that there was an Independent Living Movement. Little did I know that a group of activists were out there struggling to achieve basic human rights for people with disabilities. People who were consumed by the need to be recognised as people with desires, hopes and passions, just like everyone else.

I didn’t know that the work of these people would later enable me to live independently, go to college, enter employment and even have a child.

As I’ve got older, I’ve become more adamant that people with disabilities should be treated equally, that society poses (and often constructs) significant barriers to equal participation. I’ve watched the examples of veteran activists, both those who are still with us and those who have left us (like Martin Naughton, Ursula Hegarty, Dermot Walsh and so, so many others). They were so passionate, so definite about what they wanted to achieve, that they persevered on behalf of all of us, making such great progress along the way.

Sure, they made some mistakes as well. But isn’t that one of the principles of the Independent Living Movement: the freedom to make mistakes, just as everyone else does?

The philosophy of Independent Living is so powerful and in its purest form, allows people with disabilities not only to make choices regarding their own lives, but also affords them dignity and respect and the freedom to make mistakes.

Unfortunately the recession moulded the meaning of Independent Living into something that does not sit well with many of us. The underlying narrative is that money is tight, and this has morphed into a justification as to why our dignity and independence seems to be constantly under threat. We live in a state of fear that a service that enables so many of us to be independent could be whipped away from us at any moment.

When Martin and those who worked with him in the early days set up the first Center for Independent Living, they did so knowing they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. And since the beginning of the recession, disability activists have been fiercely protecting our right to Independent Living and Personal Assistance. Yet, there’s a sense of fear and of vulnerability that if we are not seen to cooperate with State Bodies and service providers that vital services will be taken away.

Aren’t you sick of it?

‘By Us, With Us,’ is a newly formed group of disability activists who want to capture the spirit of those gone before us, and to pay tribute to those activists who brought about the change that enable us to enjoy Independent Living. I also set up the blog for selfish reasons I admit. As a ‘Celtic Tiger cub’, I want to know more about the history of the movement so that we can try and recapture the essence of it.

Each of us have a part to play in bringing back the spirit and the passion of the Independent Living Movement, and I’ve no doubt that by coming together, we can do just that.

Welcome to By Us, With Us!

Hi everyone!

 

As you can see we have created a ‘By Us, With Us’ blog. The purpose of the blog is to give people a space to reflect on the progress of the Independent Living Movement and to commemorate those who have passed before us. It will also offer regular updates of the planning process of an event we are hoping to hold in September around the theme of ‘Our Lives In Our Hands’. It’s hoped this event will tie in with the Strasbourg Freedom Drive.

‘By Us With Us’ is a group led by activists with disabilities. It is not tied to any one organisation and its agenda and purpose has been defined by the group, although it is supported by the Center for Independent Living, who will help us in reaching our goals. At present our purpose is to organise this commemorative event, as well as to try and bring back the spirit of the original Independent Living Movement.

Contributions to the blog are very welcome. This can be written reflections,  videos, photographs – anything about the last twenty-five years that you want to share. Memories of those who have left us, past events, and where you want the movement to go in the future.

Ideally this should be a positive space, a space of celebration. We are all too aware of the many struggles facing us at the moment, and the Movement itself is not as strong as it was, but it is hoped that by reflecting on the positives that many activists have achieved that we can unite and look to the future.

If you would like to contribute, please email byuswithus@gmail.com. Ideas might include:

 

·         Photos/video footage of the early days, the establishment of CIL

·         Photos/videos/write-ups of the Strasbourg Freedom Drive

·         Memories of any protests that Martin organised

·         Why the philosophy of Independent Living is so important to you

·         Tributes for activists/Leaders who have passed away.

Get your thinking caps on, and get emailing!