As 2016 ends and 2017 dawns, Disability Horizons CEO Martyn Sibley looks back over the past year – the positives, negatives, challenges and successes. But it’s not all about retrospect. It’s also a time to look forward to what we hope will happen in 2017, and to think about how Disability Horizons will continue to make a difference to the lives of disabled people. We’ll need your help to do so though – and you could win £30 of Amazon vouchers too!
It’s hard to deny that 2016 has been, how shall I put it? Tricky, to say the least. The constant economic pressures have remained since the financial crash many years ago, and some might even argue that they have increased this year, especially for disabled people. The political world has divided people and instilled fear (dare I say the words Brexit and Trump?!) And to top it all off, the sheer volume of celebrity deaths has been ever increasing.
Yes, in 2016 it seemed like the world had been getting a bit sadder every day. So what does this all mean for disabled people? Is it all doom and gloom?
The economic struggles have led to welfare, health and social care spending cuts, while the political discord has led to the portrayal of disabled people as a costly burden. A burden with little economic value at that. To top it off, horror stories about the Department for Work and Pensions having dealt with struggling disabled people in an inhumane way have surfaced.
It’s hard to see any quick solutions here. That’s why this year we started our sister site, Disability United, to address these exact issues. Since July, we’ve published stories of injustice, gathered hundreds of signatures for the Disabled Facilities Grant petition (which raised awareness and held the government to account), and we’ve vastly grown our community.
If you are facing injustice, or know of others who are, please sign up to the mailing list. We’d love you to get in contact with us so we can share your story and hopefully make a difference. Our plan for it in 2017? To keep the Government, councils, and businesses on their toes.
Disabled or not – nobody should be deprived of their human rights.
Rio Paralympics 2016
But it wasn’t all bad in 2016. We did of course have the Rio Paralympic Games in September, with Team GB bringing home 147 medals, 64 of which were gold, putting them second in the league table. As a result, it sparked an uplift in the coverage of disabled people in the media, and a shift in the tone around the topic of disability.
I’m thinking in particular about the work Channel 4 and The Last Leg did to stop disability being a taboo subject, to get people talking about it. We’re also now seeing more disabled presenters on camera, and disabled people in jobs off camera, too. We’ve also seen more characters with a disability in TV soaps, such as Lisa Hammond in Eastenders and Cheryle Houston in Coronation street.
But although much has improved in the way disabled people are being portrayed and the way society perceives them, there is still much to be done.
Looking back at your stories featured on Disability Horizons this year, it’s clear that disabled people are doing more and more amazing things, whether it be with travel, technology or even extreme sports. Every year disabled people are exploring the world further, going to new places and for longer.
In addition, life at home and in the local community is improving. This is in part thanks to new and ever-evolving assistive technologies, but also thanks to our passion and persistence. The aim of Disability Horizons is to help showcase all of this, to highlight to the world just how much disabled people are capable of. To prove that we have just as much value as anyone else, and that without barriers, we can achieve great things.
If we can protect our human rights, maintain our vital independent living funding, and improve our societal image, things will get better. We’re seeing more accessible public places, more inclusive technology that overcomes inaccessible barriers (online and offline), and a world of opportunities at our fingertips.
We also want to continue to show businesses that disabled people are consumers, too. Our spending power is estimated at £212bn, so businesses should be fully accessible and inclusive. Let’s not forget our employability, too. With encouragement and support, I believe this can be a win win for disabled people and our economy.
Next year Disability Horizons Media Group will be pushing everything in the right direction. Disability United for social justice, Disability Horizons for lifestyle entertainment, Disability Academy for personal development, and so much more. I’m even starting a podcast!
But before we start on our 2017 adventures, I want to take this moment to thank my team. Without our editors Liz and Fleur, the awesome content wouldn’t be there for you all to consume. Without Filipe and Zubee our website and social media wouldn’t be as amazing as it is. Without George and Rob our accessible travel resources wouldn’t have seen the light of day. Plus the many others I can’t name but thank all the same.
We need your help
At the end of the day it’s you, our community, who keeps our mission relevant and our momentum rapid. Thank you for everything in 2016!
Now time for your help in 2017. To make sure that Disability Horizons continues to entertain, inform and advise you, and in turn help make a difference to the lives of disabled people, we’d be very grateful if you could fill in our short survey. It will only take 10 minutes of your time, and will help shape what we deliver and do for you over the coming years.
You’ll also be in with a chance of winning a £30 Amazon voucher if you do, too!
Lastly, if you are looking for opportunities to support and innovate the world of disability – please do get in touch. We’re always looks for new writers and volunteers.
Here’s to a fantastic New Year! A year of compassion. A year of collaboration. A year of defending. A year of progress.
By Martyn Sibley