Promoting disability or creating discomfort?

Recently, Ability Access posted an image of a woman amputee.

Facebook decided it was inappropriate and blocked the image.

Facebook told Simon Sansome who runs the page: “You will have to understand that some people see disability as disturbing. You will have to think about it like that.”

The Facebook staffer then said, “I have never come across a page that promotes disability.”

How does posting an image of an amputee ‘promote disability’? The image is of Vicky Balch. A woman who is body confident. She was a passenger in the Alton Towers crash and is now an amputee. I think it’s an awesome image. Full of strength and beauty. It shows Vicky coming to terms with her altered body.

Facebook has apologised. Accepting it was wrong to censor the image. That Facebook originally banned the image is worrying.

Disability Labour was proud to support the protest by DPAC outside Facebook’s London HQ, #DisabilityNotDisturbing had some wonderful images on their banners.

There is often debate on websites such as The Mighty and Psychology Today about ‘inspirational porn’.

Are body confident images of disabled people positive and supportive? Or are they negative and damaging?

Many disabled people hate the ‘inspirational’ tag.

Looking at the photo and reading the information about it, being photographed was Vicky’s choice. She was happy for Ability Access to use the photo. So, what’s the problem?

To suggest that the image ‘promotes’ disability is missing the point. The photo doesn’t show amputation as a choice.

It shows that becoming an amputee doesn’t take away the person you are inside.

I’m concerned with Facebook’s suggestion that some people might find disability disturbing.

Society is slow in accepting disabled people as a different ‘normal’. For someone born with Down’s Syndrome, that’s their normal. My normal is using a wheelchair.

If that disturbs other people, can I suggest that they look at themselves to ask why they feel that way? Life is not perfect, despite the pressures of advertising and aspirational blogs. We all have daily struggles, be it at work, living with a partner or raising children.

Yes, there are people who spend thousands of pounds on plastic surgery and designer everything else. That is their choice. But when life throws you a curve ball that includes being disabled, we have two choices. We either fight with and hate our bodies and ourselves so much that we land up being angry and self-destructive. Or we accept what has happened to us and learn how to live with that.

Learning acceptance is not about giving up or giving in. It’s about saying: OK, this is where I’m at, how can I make changes to ensure I have a good life and can do the things I enjoy? Adjustment is not always easy. We may have to learn new skills, or find new ways of doing things. We may need therapy. But we can have worthwhile lives.

As part of coming to terms with a disability, some disabled people find ways of being body positive. What is wrong with a photo of a woman comfortable in her body, despite losing a limb?

When I first looked at Vicki’s picture, I didn’t notice her amputated leg. Isn’t that how people should see disability? Not the core of someone’s existence, but one of the sum of parts we all are?

Facebook decided it was inappropriate and blocked the image.

Facebook told Simon Sansome who runs the page: “You will have to understand that some people see disability as disturbing. You will have to think about it like that.”

The Facebook staffer then said, “I have never come across a page that promotes disability.”

How does posting an image of an amputee ‘promote disability’?

The image is of Vicky Balch. A woman who is body confident. She was a passenger in the Alton Towers crash and is now an amputee. I think it’s an awesome image. Full of strength and beauty. It shows Vicky coming to terms with her altered body.

Facebook has apologised. Accepting it was wrong to censor the image. That Facebook originally banned the image is worrying.

Disability Labour has supported the recent protest by DPAC outside of Facebook’s London HQ called #DisabilityNotDisturbing – there were some wonderful banners too!

There is often debate on websites such as The Mighty and Psychology Today about ‘inspirational porn’.

Are body confident images of disabled people positive and supportive? Or are they negative and damaging?

Many disabled people hate the ‘inspirational’ tag.

Looking at the photo and reading the information about it, being photographed was Vicky’s choice. She was happy for Ability Access to use the photo. So, what’s the problem?

To suggest that the image ‘promotes’ disability is missing the point. The photo doesn’t show amputation as a choice.

It shows that becoming an amputee doesn’t take away the person you are inside.

I’m concerned with Facebook’s suggestion that some people might find disability disturbing.

Society is slow in accepting disabled people as a different ‘normal’. For someone born with Down’s Syndrome, that’s their normal. My normal is using a wheelchair.

If that disturbs other people, can I suggest that they look at themselves to ask why they feel that way? Life is not perfect, despite the pressures of advertising and aspirational blogs. We all have daily struggles, be it at work, living with a partner or raising children.

Yes, there are people who spend thousands of pounds on plastic surgery and designer everything else. That is their choice. But when life throws you a curve ball that includes being disabled, we have two choices. We either fight with and hate our bodies and ourselves so much that we land up being angry and self-destructive. Or we accept what has happened to us and learn how to live with that.

Learning acceptance is not about giving up or giving in. It’s about saying: OK, this is where I’m at, how can I make changes to ensure I have a good life and can do the things I enjoy? Adjustment is not always easy. We may have to learn new skills, or find new ways of doing things. We may need therapy. But we can have worthwhile lives.

As part of coming to terms with a disability, some disabled people find ways of being body positive. What is wrong with a photo of a woman comfortable in her body, despite losing a limb?

When I first looked at Vicki’s picture, I didn’t notice her amputated leg. Isn’t that how people should see disability? Not the core of someone’s existence, but one of the sum of parts we all are?

Are Police Forces Reporting Disabled Protesters to the DWP?

On 14 February 2019, Disability News Service journalist John Pring reported that;

“Tory conference police force admits sharing information on protesters with DWP” 

Disabled activists have demanded an inquiry after a police force that has patrolled four Conservative party conferences since 2010 admitted sharing information about protesters with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has now become the second police force to admit sharing information about people taking part in protests with DWP, following a similar admission by Lancashire police.

But GMP has also admitted having a “sharing agreement” with DWP, even though the department explicitly stated two months ago that it had no such arrangements with any police force.

The admissions have followed claims reported by Disability News Service (DNS) that police forces have been targeting disabled protesters taking part in peaceful anti-fracking protests across England.

Our Reaction

This disturbing report lead Disability Labour to commission its its second research project. We wanted to determine which police forces were acting in the same way was Greater Manchester. 

We see the possibility of the police reporting those who chose to legitimately protest, on a variety of issues, to be a gross breach of civil liberties.

It is no business of the DWP how we spend our time and energy. The concept that just because a disabled person is able to join a protest, they should not be in receipt of benefits, is extremely coercive and has no place in a civilised society. 

We only collected data from the 43 county or metropolitan forces. 

The report highlights a number of concerns, firstly the failure of 12% (5) of police forces not to respond despite a follow up email.

That 79% (34) of police forces did not hold any data on whether their officers had reported disabled protesters to the DWP is concerning. Just 7% (3) forces said that they had no policies about what action should be taken in relation to disabled protesters and the DWP.

That decisions appear to be left to individual officers to determine as they see fit is worrying. Police officers, like anyone else will have prejudices. Whilst they are supposed to be impartial and the majority of officers probably are, there will always be ‘rouge’ officers who could well hold grudges. 

The issue of exactly what information was passed by Greater Manchester Police to the DWP, remains unclear. The full research report gives all the detail on this. Questions to the DWP did not result in any useful information or clarification. That is no surprise.

A disturbing trend is the introduction of Police Liaison Officers at demonstrations.

Civil liberties group, Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) recently produced a reportadvising protests not to talk to the police officers in baby blue bibs at protests.

Police Liaison Officers(PLOs) are a common sight on many protests. They like to pretend they’re the protesters friend and claim they are there to facilitate your protest. But their real purpose is to gather intelligence on protesters. 

Would they be the sort of police officer who reports people to the DWP? 

Our advice is simple; “Be careful who your ‘friends’ are and what you tell them.” 

 

The full report and data tables are available in pdf format below. 

Disability Labour wishes to record our sincere thanks to Milena & David Zenati-Parsons for all the time and work they have done pro-bono on this research. 

 

Police & DWP Data      FOI Report Police & DWP

Words Matter – Spoonie or Energy Impaired

Last year I got an invitation to participate in the Chronic Illness Inclusion Project. It’s run by a Disability Labour member, Catherine Hale who I’ve now got to know well. 

 

The research project is exploring the validity of the concept of Energy Limiting Chronic Illness as an impairment group and as part of the Disabled People’s Movement.

 

‘Spoonie’ as a concept first came about in 2003 via a blog post by Christine Miserandino

 

More recently an article in The Mighty used the analogy of a mobile phone battery to describe Energy Impairment 

 

The choice of a spoon as part of our DL logo was deliberately chosen as an image and illustration of our everyday lives.

 

We use spoons / spoonie amongst ourselves to describe not having enough energy to do the tasks that everyone else takes for granted. Whilst this makes sense to us and it’s easy to explain to others, it’s not one that is easily recognised by medical professionals.

 

CIIP has come up with the term energy impairment to describe the difficulty that so many of us face with not having enough spoons/energy to do what we would like to do each day.


Whilst I love using the term spoonie and and have badges with a spoon on them, I can understand why some people think that we need different terminology.

 

Could there be some sort of scale to compare our energy levels to those of someone who is not energy impaired? One of the most difficult things about being energy impaired is how to quantify our inability to do things because we are just too exhausted.

 

We’re not “just tired” as people seem to think, it’s more fundamental than that.  It is literally about saying if I have a shower and get dressed today I can’t do anything else until after lunch because I’m just too exhausted to move.

 

For me it’s much more important that I keep up to date with what’s happening in disability politics and the world in general than I waste spoons getting dressed when I don’t have to go out that day. 

 

How often have I heard another spoonie say; Now I’ve cooked my meal I’m too exhausted to eat it”?

 

We need to explain to medical and other professionals that being energy impaired has a huge impact on us everyday. Energy impairment is not just applicable to those who have ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Energy impairment is a massive part of our lives if we have chronic pain, fibromyalgia or any other long-term condition.

 

Using the term energy impairment gives us a different status. It is a direct comparison against non-disabled people who do not have to battle the difficulties we face every day.

 

If I was to compare how I am on a good day with what I used to do at work running a large Nursing Home, I probably function at about 20% of my previous life. That’s without factoring in things like travel to work and and doing household tasks. 

 

That’s easier to explain to the doctor or nurse and possibly social workers or OTs, even if the latter two don’t seem to want to accept what many of us tell them. 

 

We talk about people having a visual or hearing impairment so why not talk about being Energy Impaired?

 

I’ve started to use the term Energy Impaired in papers that I write, and in the way I talk about my own conditions. I think that by doing so it could encourage medical and other professionals to better understand the way my various diagnoses impact my life

 

I want to encourage Disability Labour members and supporters to use Energy Impairment as a descriptor. It is a simple concept to grasp and could easily be used as part of describing disabilities within documents, training and policy. 

 

If disability bloggers and activists use the term Energy Impairment too, it would be a great way of populating this description across the disability community and eventually into mainstream medical terminology.

 

I hope and believe that it can help to change the way disabled people are perceived.  


Fran Springfield Co-Chair