Opinions on Disability Laws of UK
“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Benjamin Franklin
Disabled people make about 15% of the world’s population but they are disproportionately the victims of poverty, physical and sexual violence, hate crimes and mental health disorders. Data shows us that one in every five of the poorest people are disabled (Source: United Nations Enable - Disability. 2021. Factsheet on Persons with Disabilities | United Nations Enable.). In UK, disabled women are twice likely to have faced sexual assault than non-disabled women (Source: ons.gov.uk). About 80% of the disabled people live in developing countries where there are not enough laws or accessible measures to protect them and help them lead an independent life. Furthermore, studies have shown that the life expectancy of disabled people is lesser than that of non-disabled people and is attributable to poverty, immobility, poor health behaviours, and the psychosocial distress associated with disabilities (Source: Bahk, J., Kang, H. and Khang, Y., 2019. The Life Expectancy Gap between Registered Disabled and Non-Disabled People from 2004 to 2017. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(14), p.2593.).
After lot of campaigns, protests, and fights from disabled people, UK government passed what is called Disability Discrimination law about 25 years ago. The law provided disabled people with rights and was in accordance with UN convention.
In 2010, this law was taken over by Equality act. The act is aimed at providing same level of service and to live and work free of discrimination irrespective of characteristics (sex, race, disability etc). The Equality Act lists protected characteristics – groups of people – who should be free from less favourable treatment and defines discrimination. This new act also emphasised on legal duties on non-disabled people in schools, workplaces, businesses, shops, taxis etc to accommodate disabled people (Source: Legislation UK)
But how much of these laws have protected the disabled and provided them equality? A recent study by ‘Papworth Trust’ has published facts and stats which show us that the laws have disgracefully let down our disabled community.
Here are some of the stats:
- Disabled population is twice likely to be unemployed than non-disabled population.
- 9 out of 10 disabled people who are not in work are economically inactive, which is to say that 45.9% of the disabled people are economically inactive.
- Only about 50% of the overgrounds stations and about 25% of London’s underground stations are accessible.
- About 79 of train stations of London do not have Tactile paving.
- Taxis are not accountable to not picking up disabled passengers.
Shops / Businesses:
- About 3 out of 4 disabled people have left a shop or a business because of accessibility issues.
So why are we falling short in making an inclusive country? The root of the answer to this question lies in ‘how much do we know about disability in UK?’ As Frank Gardner (British journalist who was ambushed by Al-Qaeda, shot 6 times and paralysed at legs) says “I want people to see the iceberg beneath the surface”. When we see a person in wheelchair struggling and offer assistance, it is the tip of the iceberg that we have encountered. What we don’t know is the impact of lack of equality on the lives of disabled individuals.
Furthermore, the crumbling of welfare states and increased economy-oriented businesses and countries are making public to grow apathetic towards those who do not seem to contribute financially or pay taxes. The point of view is shifting from caring for the vulnerable to seeing them as ‘Freeloaders’, ’Benefit takers’ of economy.
Most of us, from government to general population simply lack the motivation to make serious changes around us. For example, many disabled people have been asking their offices for the facility of Working from Home, which has now been provided during lockdown due to the need of non-disabled people. This lack of motivation is mostly due to the fact that many people are not experiencing disability first-hand and don’t feel the urgency. But we must work to develop empathy if at all we need to see the change.
Here is what we can do to create more inclusive UK:
- We must stop considering disabled people in afterthought and be proactive in recognising their needs. We as in we the public and the government..
- The government’s attitude can be changed by including disabled people in making laws and provisions as the saying goes in disabled community “Nothing about us without us”.
- While dealing with harassment, violence, or violation of rights etc., the laws try to provide framework for the trauma of the victim, but the burden of law falls on that individual. We must try to make it less painful process by making changes in tribunal fees, more legal aid etc.
- We, the citizens of UK must understand disability better and be better at communication and inclusivity at workplaces, buses, trains, schools etc.
We at VIP World believe in creating an inclusive, accessible and equal world for all. Hope you join us too.