Today, Sunday 10 Feb, the women-led disability group Handi Social and women Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests protest movement) held a peaceful women’s procession (walk and roll) in Toulouse, south-west France, for the rights and dignity of disabled people. It’s on the anniversary of the disability equality law passed on 11 February 2005. Slogans include: “Stop handiphobie, validisme, capacitisme, Oui à la Convention ONU et à la vie autonome. Les z’handi en colère. Rien pour nous sans nous…” Translation: “Stop disability hate, ableism. Yes to the UN Convention (UNCRPD) and independent living. Crips are angry. Nothing about us without us.” Watch livestream on Facebook here
One of the main campaigns is against the “loi Elan” (legislation speeding up new build of social housing) which cut the proportion of accessible housing down to a tiny percentage. (Of course, when elected, President Macron had promised to make disability one of the priority issues of his five-year term in office.)
In Toulouse, Handi Social has done several direct actions to press their demands. In October 2018, wheelchair users (with assistance dog) blocked a railway line at Toulouse Matabiau station to demand urgent access adaptations to the station. They won the access works to be brought forward and completed by 2019, instead of the railway’s original deadline of 2024.
They are also pressing for increased disability benefits, and not reduced by a partner’s income. (This is especially important for disabled women in couples with either non-disabled or disabled men, as her financial dependence on him creates added relationship pressures and restrictions for her, and can lead to domestic violence.)
This chimes with a key demand which Yellow Vest women are pressing, for a decent income for all, at least at the level of minimum wage before tax:
In November 2018, Toulouse MP Adrien Taquet had flour thrown over him when he made a speech about access, which in fact has got worse under Macron. Locally, Taquet represents President Macron’s party, La Republique en Marche! which wants to undermine workers’ rights and other provision, including cutting pensions and abolishing the maximum 35-hour work week.
In December, wheelchair user activists and Yellow Vest supporters blocked the runways of Toulouse airport for an hour and a quarter, protesting against backtracking on access provision. Watch the video here — scroll down to bottom of webpage.
The police have arrested disabled activists on these actions. But people feel very strongly that they have done nothing wrong, as long as disabled people are denied access and other basic rights (which should be implemented according to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities).