While there are fears that traditional methods of disability activism are on the wane, a new campaigning spirit is been forged using the social media revolution. The past 18 months have seen the first flowerings of a new network of activist groups and a shared, inclusive approach that has thrust their engaging campaigning style into the public eye.
Galvanised by the government’s welfare reform agenda, the new activism arguably is helping to renew a disability movement thought by some to have lost its way in recent years. The staggering Twitter-driven success of the “We Are Spartacus” campaign in January announced the emergence of this new wave. This carefully planned viral campaign steered by a tiny band of activists almost single-handedly put the issue of cuts in disability living allowance on the public agenda.
Marsh says the approach is different from the old-style “chain ourselves to the railings” approach. It was partly a recognition that traditional activist techniques no longer guaranteed traction with politicians and the media, and partly pragmatic – the knowledge that illness or disability meant many activists were confined to their home for all or some of their life, but were able to engage productively through social media (Marsh calls it “bed-tivism”).
Twitter has given talented “accidental activists” like carer Nicky Clark the chance to change attitudes, most dramatically when she persuaded the actor Ricky Gervais to stop using the word “mong” (which she argued was an abusive term for people with Down’s syndrome). Activist Kaliya Franklin’s “ambush” of Labour leader Ed Miliband over the use of “scrounger” rhetoric (and the subsequent viral distribution of the encounter) had similar effects.
Source: The Guardian
20th August 2012