High-heels, institutional abuse, independent living, a bedroom tax protest, and a blunt challenge to the idea of pity…
The subjects of the 800 images created by disabled people for the Postcards from the Edge project range across themes of communication, discrimination, hope, loneliness, independence, despair and what it means to be human.
The project, launched last year by the disability charity United Response, aimed to give disabled people a platform to speak out about their lives by asking them to create a postcard that answered the question: “What do you want to tell the world?”
Although many disabled people came up with campaigning messages in their postcards, others focused on raising awareness of their own impairments.
One disabled man, Lee, celebrated how an iPad had transformed his life, while Ian Pyper, an artist whose work has been exhibited internationally, contributed a postcard inspired by the treatment of disabled people by the “fitness for work” contractor Atos Healthcare, titled: “Swallow the lies and watch who dies.”
One of the bluntest messages came from campaigner Shana Pezaro, whose postcard featured a photograph of her sitting in her wheelchair, along with the words: “I drink, I smoke, I swear, I F*CK.”
There were many whose entries raised concerns about the government’s welfare reforms and hostile disablist rhetoric in the media, with one by an artist called Rose stating: “I am a disabled artist. In the UK this means I’m a scrounger.”
Entries featured artwork, photographs, poetry and collages, and together build a picture of what it means to be a disabled person in modern Britain.
One of the disabled people who spoke at this week’s parliamentary launch of a new book of the postcards was Nathan Lee Davies, who created 19 entries for the project.
One of his postcards showed him sitting in his wheelchair, pointing to the words “No to bedroom tax” that he had spelled out in 2p coins on the bed beside him.
He had been told that his housing benefit would be reduced because he had a second bedroom in his bungalow, which he uses to store his hoist and other equipment and is occasionally needed for an overnight care worker.
He appealed successfully to his local council in Wrexham, but he said that designing the postcard had been “very cathartic”.
Other postcards showed how he felt “sidelined” by society.
He said: “I tried to explain through my postcards what it is like to be disabled in 21st century Britain.”
Sue Kent, another postcard-creator who spoke at the event, and a leading barefoot, no-hands massage therapist, contributed a postcard featuring a pair of red, high-heeled shoes and a poem – High Heeled and Gloveless – about how her love of such footwear as a woman with short arms was becoming riskier as she aged.
She said: “Just because I am disabled, does not mean I am not a woman.”
Kent said she had designed her postcard because she thought the project had been at risk of being a bit “dour” and needed a “bit of oomph”.
Dame Anne Begg, the disabled Labour MP who hosted the parliamentary launch, said she had been struck by the variety in the postcards and how they “challenge perceptions” of disabled people.
She said: “Many people still believe they don’t need to understand or recognise disabled people, but a disability can strike anyone at any time of their life – and that’s why it’s so important to be aware of disabled people’s opinions and views.
“This project is helping to confront these ideas and gives disabled people a greater voice.”
Kate Green, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, told the launch event: “There is a very unpleasant climate out there at the moment about disabled people.
“There is a very hostile rhetoric that disabled people are somehow scroungers and not playing their part.”
She said the postcards demonstrated that “nothing could be further from the truth”, and showed instead “the contribution that disabled people make in so many different roles”.
5 February 2014
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com