Disability

Casting off stereotypes

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Channel 4's new series, Cast Offs, proved to be a breath of fresh air in the world of media and disability.

In the fake reality show mockumentary, six disabled characters (all played by disabled actors) are stranded on an island.

Its writers hope it will do for disability what Queer as Folk did for gays, and certainly you couldn't imagine it being made ten years ago, let alone when I was growing up.

Back in my early teens everyone thought that my hero must be Douglas Bader. Bader had lost both legs in the Second World War and yet continued to go on flying missions, got taken prisoner of war, escaped, was recaptured and emerged from it all as a national hero.

Writing history

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Braille was created 200 years ago by a blind school student. Paul Brown celebrates the fight of blind people to win its acceptance.

Most schoolchildren are taught about the "plucky" blind teenager Louis Braille who, so desperate to read and write, invented the six-dot tactile system which bears his name. The bicentennial year of his birth is regarded by the major blindness charities as an opportunity for fundraising. For socialists it is a chance to celebrate with blind people the ingenuity of Louis Braille, and the courage of his students in perpetuating his innovation.

New Labour equality flagship on the rocks

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New Labour has had 13 years to tackle inequality but the underfunded and toothless equalities watchdog falls far short of what's needed.

Working people in Britain now largely take it for granted that it is wrong to be bullied or discriminated against for being a woman, black, disabled or gay and that there are legal powers and workplace policies which exist to challenge such discrimination. In the last quarter of the 20th century a smorgasbord of equality legislation was adopted in response to campaigning by the women's movement, anti-racists, and LGBT rights and disability rights activists.

O is for oppression

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One of the common accusations thrown at Marxism by others in the movement is that it is "economistic" - it reduces everything to the economy and class relations and therefore can't deal adequately with questions of oppression.

On the surface this can seem a reasonable point.

Oppression doesn't mirror class but cuts across it. All women suffer from sexism, whether an Indonesian factory worker or a highly paid (though not as highly paid as her male counterparts) London City trader. A factory worker's experience of her oppression, however, is very different to that of a rich woman.

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