As of this writing, the media continues to shine a less than favourable spotlight on disabled people. We continue to be castigated as 'scroungers' and 'fakers' not only by journalists and their employers, but also neighbours, friends and even family. In addition to the tabloids, the BBC adds to our considerable woes with it's "Benefits Saints & Scroungers" programme. Now into its second series, BSS aims to shine a light on a system which they imply is so easy to con, that for every single hard-to-find "genuinely deserving" claimant there are two fakers reaping great rewards. Over and over viewers are reminded that xyz fraudster "conned the system" and actors are used in the *recreation* of stories that seem to pander to stereotypes. Channel 4's "Benefit Busters" was hardly better; in fact it turned out to be a real eye-opener about how some charities and private back-to-work schemes are making millions from government contracts - no thanks to the previous Labour government which instituted those reforms and the current coalition who have seen fit to carry on with them. Mentally and physically ill people are big business - and millionaires are making a fortune off of our misery.
Many of us have to live on a daily basis with either inadequate care or, like me, no support at all. We also must not forget about Carers, many of whom are parents looking after a disabled child (school-age or adult), children looking after a disabled parent or a spouse looking after their partner. Carers also need support as well; theirs is a difficult and stressful task. Disabled people and Carers alike are largely invisible and the not-yet-disabled fail to realise that one day this could be their reality.
But try telling that to the general public at large. There continues to be an unrelenting ablest stream of bile directed at disabled people and carers. Even stories of true injustices are not free from trolls insisting that they have personal knowledge of family and friends who are making a lot of money from benefits claimed based on faked illnesses. As I said in another article, we are broadsided on a daily basis by the insensitive and uninformed, no less because of the stigma attached to being physically disabled, mentally ill or wresting with the energy-stealing demons of "invisible illness". It's bad enough for someone who struggles with physical disabilities, but for those with 'invisible' and/or mental health problems there is added trauma in processing the searing hatred coming from wilfully ignorant and wholly unrepentant able-bodied people. The trolls were even laying in wait for our "One Month Before Heartbreak" Blogswarm campaign, making pointed comments about disabled people and their carers alike on Twitter and The Guardian online.
Whether Mass or Social Media - disabled people are portrayed as sub-human by too many of the wrong people. In the words of one commentor to The Guardian: "There is something deeply sinister about attacking a group that can defend themselves the least. Picking off the weakest first because they are less likely to complain is repugnant." Like Guardian columnist Sue Marsh, I too wonder if the reasons why politicians (and the general public) are so confident they can persecute us with no chance of a backlash is because of our physical and/or mental health limitations. We are treated as though our disabilities and any benefits received are a lifestyle choice when it is the exact opposite. There are relatively few of us who would willingly choose to live with chronic illness; and contrary to popular assumptions and misrepresentation, DLA is not only difficult to apply for (roughly 40 pages of questions which must be documented), it's very hard to get approval.
Behind the new TBofB and OMBH logos
When The Broken of Britain launched in October 2010, we did not have a Brand, as such - and the graphic we have been using until now was not without its critics, being comprised as it was with silhouettes. The inherent problem was that it was perceived as not being specific enough for physical illness. It was also said that there was no particular reference towards those with mental health impairment or invisible illnesses or Carers. Initially the idea was to make use of the inverted black triangle - long a symbol for disabled people with unfortunate roots in Nazi history. It was used in concentration camps to mark inmates deemed anti-social or work-shy (amongst other things). However, it is an image that is not only over-used, but also a highly contentious one. Also, it has already been used many times for other campaigns unrelated to the specific needs of disabled people.
What you see now was borne of the same process that enabled me to finally come up with the identity of our very successful "One Month Before Heartbreak" Blogswarm. I always felt it important that the inverted black triangle be incorporated into the BofB identity, but in a way that would set us apart from other activist groups who also use it. Purple has always been a favourite colour of mine - and not that long ago on Twitter when some of us were chatting about how a new political party was needed at Westminster outside of the main three - I cheekily suggested "The Purple Party". This led to some much-needed light banter back and forth and I was pleasantly surprised not only at how many people joined in - but who. It seems that a good number of our supporters are fervent admirers of the majestic, divine Purple.
The longer this went on, the more I became convinced it of along with Kaliya Franklin, aka @BendyGirl, the Founder of The Broken of Britain. There was a time in antiquity when only wealthy people could afford to purchase purple clothing due to the painstaking process that was used to render Purple dye in that era. As such, my favourite colour was co-opted by royalty, aristocracy and the rich. Metaphysically, Purple is representative of power, spiritual strength and deep thinking. Kabbalists, those who follow the mystical side of Judaism, use Purple to denote leadership. It also is related to healing and protection from evil. Given this particular history - what better colour to use for the triangle, I thought. Something that empowers disabled people and those who support them rather than stigmatise; something bold and strong, something noble and dignified.
Once I finally had enough spoons to tackle the "One Month Before Heartbreak" Blogswarm design, it occurred to me to emphasise heartbreak but in a manner that broke with traditional imagery. In finalising that particular project, everything came together for the overall group identity. The blogswarm was about countering the propaganda against disabled people used to justify the cuts to DLA, symbolised by the inverted Purple Triangle with a heart being smashed. I've been stunned by the overwhelmingly positive response to the identity by our supporters and comperes in the design community. Building on that, the primary TBofB narrative would be about how we are not our disabilities; we have ordinary people who, through no fault of our own have to live with debilitating illness.
If "The moral health of a society can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members", then we have to carry on and build on the momentum of what has already been achieved in such a very short time. In the West, Black is representative of Death - and as long as we have life we must continue to fight for our right to be heard and to raise awareness about the challenges we face. In the words of the late, great Benjamin Franklin, "justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are".
Lisa J. Ellwood, @IconicImagery / @BrokenOfBritain
For further background information: