Crip The Vote emerged as a digital movement in the first half of 2016 in the United States, and was an active voice leading up to the Presidential election that November. As noted by its founders, disabled people are America’s (and the world’s) largest minority group, but a group whose voice often goes unheard in politics, even on topics which directly affect them such as healthcare, and social services. From its origin as a hashtag on Twitter, it became a movement that spread across the internet and invited disabled voters to participate in grassroots discourse about how they could become more involved in politics and the electoral process. As the disabled community online crosses continental borders, it was only natural that once the General Election was announced on the 18th of April, #CripTheVoteUK soon followed.
It seems incredulous that a movement is necessary to point out where access improvements are needed, but that is part of what Crip The Vote does. This ranges from ensuring polling stations have full disabled access, to pressuring political parties to release their manifestos in all possible formats including BSL and SSE (Signed Supported English), large print, braille, and simplified English. The latter is thankfully becoming more common since Mencap’s campaign to include people with learning disabilities in politics. Some parties fare better than others at inclusion- the Conservative Party released their BSL manifesto too late for postal voters to see it this year.
Inevitably, a large part of the movement is based on drawing attention to parties’ policies which affect the disabled community, and urging people to vote accordingly. For that reason, many of those participating in #CripTheVoteUK are committed to ousting the Tories who have caused unrelenting misery for disabled people in the UK since 2010 – be it from increasingly unfair ATOS or Maximus assessments, cuts to Legal Aid, NHS service cuts, cuts to disability benefits – disabled people have borne the brunt of the cuts made to keep our economy afloat, while the richest pay minimal tax and hide their money in offshore accounts. (By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly voted against benefit cuts, against the bedroom tax, and for increasing benefits in line with inflation – oh, and making millionaires pay their taxes!) Disabled people in the UK are literally dying from starvation, illnesses worsened by stress and poverty, even suicide after benefit errors, going without care hours when reclassified as being in less need, even being denied the wheelchairs that would help them engage in the community by the NHS who have been told to save money by tightening the eligibility criteria. We are being shat on from all sides, and we are sick of it. That is why Crip The Vote is so important; it gives us some agency back.
It’s hard to write a vaguely objective piece when it directly affects you so much, which is why somewhere in the last paragraph I dropped the formality. I’m not a journalist, I’m a blogger at most, but one who hopes that what they write might one day make a difference. So I’m starting here:
Abled Britons, non-disabled citizens, please read this warning. A vote for the Tories is a gamble, a bet that during a Tory government neither you nor anyone in your close family will become sick or disabled. As long as you remain in a stable job with a good wage, as long as your house remains standing, they have your interests at heart. Once the bricks start crumbling, once you get weaker, once you need to leave that good job to look after a spouse or child, they will not help you. They will punish you for a situation that was not your fault, make you feel as if just surviving another day is political dissent. At times the only thing that has kept me alive is knowing that I do not want to become another statistic, have my death called a “tragedy” by politicians who voted for me to have a harder life. I know my own experience is mirrored by many of my disabled comrades, and I also know it doesn’t have to be like this. This is why we are Cripping The Vote.
(If you want to vote tactically in your constituency to give your local Tory candidate less of a chance, you can check who you should be voting for on this handy website.)