Activist dropped by disability charity over offensive tweets (updated)

(For those coming back for a second time – the edit is as the bottom of the article)

From The Disability News Service we have

A disability charity [Leonard Cheshire Disability(LCD)] has had to scrap plans to sponsor a disabled activist to attend the Labour party conference, after it was alerted to a string of offensive messages he sent other disabled campaigners on the social networking website Twitter.

This has been making the rounds on Twitter recently, and I’ve been thinking about it a little. The activist in question, Simon Stevens (@simonstevens74 as it happens) is someone I quite like the existence of. For sure, we would, if we corresponded, disagree about almost everything that it is possible to disagree about including, but not limited to, politics, disability rights, accessibility,  engagement style, and polite use of Twitter, but netherless I pay attention to him, partly because I think ignoring people who disagree with you isn’t a particularly healthy way for a society to function, but also because it is oddly nice to know that the disability community is no more homogenous than any other community.

Regarding some of the facts – there’s an interesting (and I think well recovered from PR standpoint) side to this: the statement by LCD said:

“We have decided to withdraw our support for an independent campaigner attending the Labour Party conference. We made this decision with regret after we had read recent public statements by them.

“The purpose of the Access All Areas programme is to enable campaigners to express their own personal views at conferences. But we have always made it clear to them that this should be done with courtesy and respect for others.”

Which is kind of interesting: the notice appears to say that it’s not Steven’s views that are a problem (they are certainly not mainstream-disability, as a range of bloggers have noted) , or the reactions of other people with disabilities to the idea of him in some sense representing them (which have been… forthright) , it’s that he expresses them in an impolite way. Which I think says are remarkable amount about british culture in its right…

For interest, the text of the Access to All scheme is here (it doesn’t mention representing the community as a whole). It’s also worth reading the Kittysjones piece on the subject, (which gets bonus marks for quoting and linking to sources).

EDIT – 1 month later,

I’m updating this piece because Simon has made his side of the story known…. and has put forward a campaign. I’m going to applaud several things about this.  Primarily, he’s put forward (I understand) all of the documents relevent to the campaign, even those that show him in a poor light – and that sort of disclosure is something I’d like to see more of regardless of where one is on the ideological scale.

 

But that’s not the most important thing, the most important thing is that far too many disabled people are ignored, far too many are patronised, and far too many are taught to be content with what they are given. And if there is one thing I can say about Simon Stevens, is that if he thinks he’s being mistreated, he will raise hell.  For anyone with a disability, a health condition,  a vulnerability – I would rather they were disagreeing with me than being silent.