I thought of the idea of Leeds Disabled People’s Organisation [LDPO] in late November, 2017, I was attending a screening of the documentary Defiant Lives which was being presented by one of my personal heroes Prof. Colin Barnes, at the University of Leeds. The documentary showed the history of disabled people’s activism in the UK, US and Australia.
While watching the documentary, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the fact that things had gotten much worse for disabled people in the UK (and the US under Trump) since the documentary had been shot in 2010-11. Since then the Tories have more or less managed to make legislation that was introduced to protect disabled people redundant, with their all-out assault on the Welfare State and cuts to transport, while totally scrapping programmes like the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
For many of us things came to ahead in late 2016 when the UN condemned the Tory government for ‘grave and systematic’ human rights violations against disabled people. The UN repeated this condemnation in 2017, but to no avail, the media in the UK (apart from a few outlets) maintained a blanket silence on the issue.
In the back of my mind, I was vaguely aware that on the 3rd of December it would be International Day Of People With Disabilities, that day can often seem meaningless in the UK, since as I have said, it is already quite clear that the Tories policies are causing severe social isolation, loneliness, poverty, and despair for many disabled people in the UK.
I decided spurred on by the documentary that I have previously described, that I wanted to try and make some sort of statement on the 3rd of December, so that the day felt less hollow, and just maybe something would come from this action. So I did what many an angry activist does these days and took to Facebook, tagging as many people as I could think of, with the vague idea of setting up some sort of political group (or something) to try and combat all the problems that were happening, at least in the city of Leeds.
I then wrote out a two page, bullet-pointed programme for potential ideas for what such a group could feasibly do, and after getting a surprisingly large amount of interest in it [I was expecting none] I decided to convene a meeting for the 24th of January, 2018, where several wonderful and dedicated people, whose names and bio’s you’ll find on this website, showed up. We agreed to create a group initially called “Leeds Disabled People’s Group” but promptly changed it to “Leeds Disabled People’s Organisation” [at the second meeting in February].
After much debating, and constitution writing, and networking we decided that LDPO would primarily focus on social outlets for disabled people, in order to try and break the isolation that is inflicted upon many who identify as disabled due to eight years of disgraceful Tory policies, and that is more or less the origin of our ragtag band.
– By LDPO founder and Deputy Chair, Peader O’Dea