The following has been written by Bob Williams-Findlay, long time disabled activist and academic, who is explaining why Operation Invisible is taking such a firm grip on disabled people’s imagination.
“What is Operation Invisible? It is a simple idea: to bring together disabled activists and our organisations to produce ‘campaign material’ aimed at making our allies aware of our current dissatisfaction with how we are both seen and treated within mainstream organisations and campaigns claiming to defend and further the interests of disabled people. Key to the Disabled People’s Movement has always been the slogan: “Nothing About Us, Without Us” and this slogan remains central to disability politics today.
Disability politics are underpinned by the belief the society imposes social restrictions on people with impairments via structures, systems, environments and cultural attitudes. These restrictions disable, leaving us excluded from and marginalized within mainstream society. Disabled people are subjected to social oppression caused by unequal and differential treatment – viewed as burdens on society, socially devalued, patronised, physically denied access and made invisible. Too often we are seen and treated as objects of pity and spoken about by the use of degrading and oppressive language and labels – disabled people are not ‘the disabled’ or ‘the vulnerable’ – we are people who are disabled by the organisation of society not our failure to conform to constructed notions of ‘normality’, whatever that is, or our individual functional loss.
If disabled people are vulnerable it is because of the situations we find ourselves in, the discriminatory policies and practices we’re subjected to, and the differing forms of abuse we encounter. Our exclusion and marginalisation has resulted in us not being taken into account or having nondisabled people speaking on our behalf and deciding what is in our best interests. This is the basis of our invisibility and root cause of disablism.
Disabled people campaigned for decades for full civil and human rights; an end to social, economic and political exclusion. Yet, in 21st century Britain, disabled people remain largely invisible and powerless. Disabling barriers remain because institutions and other bodies still pay lipservice to inclusive practice – poor access, failure to make adjustments and no or little involvement of disabled people and our organisations in the decision-making and running of events and campaigns. How can you talk about solidarity in the fight against austerity when disabled people are absent or need to kick and scream to be heard?
Operation Invisible exists to challenge those who deny our right to participate as full members of society. We will shout: “Oi!” if you exclude us, patronise us, misrespresent us or deny us our Human Rights – friends or foes, the message is clear:”