The last few years have been tough for many disabled people. But with a clear and collective voice championing better disability rights, there can be change.
So as 2015 draws to a close and a new year begins, disability commentator Fleur Perry shares her hopes for advancements for disabled people in the year ahead – not the 12 days of Christmas, but the 12 dreams for 2016.
1. Success at Rio Paralympics
This summer will see the Brazilian Olympics and Paralympics, and I am hoping for a good haul of medals from Paraympians.
And in order to actively dispel the myth that every person with a disability is a Paralympian, I’ll definietly be leaving the hard work to the professionals. I will instead be having a nice cup of tea and watching the highlights.
2. Better standards in social care
Scope’s report released in November revealed that 73% of social care users felt that their day-to-day living needs were not consistently supported. This is in direct conflict with the Care Act 2014, and could mean that 73% of social care users could be entitled to sue. It is, therefore, in the best interests of local authorities to change this atrocious situation.
3. More accessible housing
I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again: we need more accessible housing. Last year’s promise to build 8,000 more accessible homes and an increase in funding for adaptations was a good start, but it’s not going to be enough. Nowhere near.
4. Comprehensive transport solutions
The ‘Busgate’ saga, where Firstbus PLC won an appeal against a rulling that wheelchair user Doug Paulley was unlawfully discriminated against on one of its busses, is a prime example of a buggy pusher and wheelchair user disagreeing over who has priority over the space on the bus.
However, I think they’re all asking the wrong questions. What I’d like to know is: why aren’t there enough spaces on the bus? Are there enough buses? Could a bus be designed in such a way that means the seats could be folded down somehow?
5. More training for disability rights enthusiasts
From complicated legal jargon, safeguarding and sanctions to data black holes, case studies, key rights and consultations, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to fighting for our rights. Only through effective training and good opportunities to develop the right skills can new disability rights activists campaign effectively.
6. People with disabilities in the media
How people think about disability, and how they subsequently act, is shaped by what they experience. If someone has never met a person with a disability before, their thinking is going to be a blend of fleeting images from the News at 6.
Many people’s experiences currently consist of that person on that soap opera once, you know, thingy who shouted at whoever he was; half overheard discussions about their mum’s friend’s sister’s son; the occasional human interest story from the local Gazette, and that charming woman who’s wheelchair took forever to get on to the bus when it was raining (apologies if it was me). Times are changing, but local publications seem to like the past more than the present.
7. More ramps
There are still business premises with patchy or no wheelchair access. I could quote the Equality Act 2010 here for the umpteenth time, and point out again that the purple pound is worth £212 billion, or I could simply say: “It’s a bit cold out here, let me in and I will buy a cup of tea.”
8. New technology that’s affordable
Assistive technology is just extraordinary, and so are the associated price tags. However, according to Moore’s Law, tech becomes twice as fast or half as expensive every 18 months. Theoretically, that gadget you’ve had your eyes on for 6 months could be affordable by end of the year.
9. A wider focus on disability and disability rights
Of all the news articles, conversations, controversy and chaos, one topic dominates: welfare. I agree that welfare should be debated and discussed, and that it’s a really important topic that directly affects the lives of a huge number of people. However, campaigning on other issues needs to grow.
10. More disability data
There’s surprisingly little data available about people with disabilities, and this can compound the problems of underfunded services. Funding usually requires an evidence based calculation; if the evidence is outdated or patchy, then the calculation will be very imprecise, and the funding will be spread thin.
11. Better access to the right NHS services
For some whose disability is linked to a long term condition, the right equipment, treatment, physiotherapy or advice at the right time is essential, however lack of funding or knowledge in some areas means that the postcode lottery continues to be everyone’s least favourite game.
12. People sticking up for themselves and for each other
Where’er there’s a step in your way; where’er they’ve written the menu in pale grey italic 6 point font; where’er someone intentionally or unintentionally breaches the rights of a person with a disability – I’d like to see someone smile like there’s a fly in their soup and ask why things are the way they are.