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It isn’t a wheelchair that makes my life disabled, it’s buildings without ramps It isn’t a wheelchair that makes my life disabled, it’s buildings without ramps
(4 months later)
How are you spending your summer? Sweltering in the heat on the train to work? Taking the kids to the cinema? Or catching a flight somewhere to unwind?How are you spending your summer? Sweltering in the heat on the train to work? Taking the kids to the cinema? Or catching a flight somewhere to unwind?
If you’re disabled, you may encounter problems with any of these, as transport and recreation continue to be plagued by poor treatment. The BBC’s security correspondent, Frank Gardner, who uses a wheelchair, was stranded on a plane at Heathrow airport this month (a repeated occurrence for him). Last month, the comedian Tanyalee Davis spoke of being “harassed and humiliated” for using a disabled space on a train for her mobility scooter, and ended up being trapped as she was taken 50 miles out of her way. Even watching a film can end in discrimination. In May, the British Film Institute had to apologise after staff forcibly removed a woman with Asperger syndrome from a screening in what onlookers described as a disgusting sign of “naked intolerance”.If you’re disabled, you may encounter problems with any of these, as transport and recreation continue to be plagued by poor treatment. The BBC’s security correspondent, Frank Gardner, who uses a wheelchair, was stranded on a plane at Heathrow airport this month (a repeated occurrence for him). Last month, the comedian Tanyalee Davis spoke of being “harassed and humiliated” for using a disabled space on a train for her mobility scooter, and ended up being trapped as she was taken 50 miles out of her way. Even watching a film can end in discrimination. In May, the British Film Institute had to apologise after staff forcibly removed a woman with Asperger syndrome from a screening in what onlookers described as a disgusting sign of “naked intolerance”.
These aren’t rare incidents. On Thursday, the disability charity Scope publishes figures showing the extent of social exclusion faced by disabled people. This follows the Equality and Human Rights Commission warning in 2016 that Britain’s failure to implement disability rights and address poor access amounts to treating disabled people as “second‑class citizens”.These aren’t rare incidents. On Thursday, the disability charity Scope publishes figures showing the extent of social exclusion faced by disabled people. This follows the Equality and Human Rights Commission warning in 2016 that Britain’s failure to implement disability rights and address poor access amounts to treating disabled people as “second‑class citizens”.
We are not simply disabled by our bodies but by the way society is organised. It isn’t my use of a wheelchair that makes my life disabled, it’s the fact not all buildings have a ramp.We are not simply disabled by our bodies but by the way society is organised. It isn’t my use of a wheelchair that makes my life disabled, it’s the fact not all buildings have a ramp.
Back in the 1980s and early 90s, disabled campaigners used direct action and lobbying to protest for civil rights, from accessible transport to entertainment venues. Anyone who remembers images of wheelchair users chaining themselves to buses in London as police moved in to kettle them, knows equal rights under the law have been hard won.Back in the 1980s and early 90s, disabled campaigners used direct action and lobbying to protest for civil rights, from accessible transport to entertainment venues. Anyone who remembers images of wheelchair users chaining themselves to buses in London as police moved in to kettle them, knows equal rights under the law have been hard won.
Decades later, I can’t help but think we’re edging towards a tipping point again. The Equality Act, the product of the campaigning in the 90s, demands that buildings make “reasonable adjustments” to provide disabled access, but it’s widely unenforced. Britain’s infrastructure, from the train network to public toilets, can be equally inaccessible.Decades later, I can’t help but think we’re edging towards a tipping point again. The Equality Act, the product of the campaigning in the 90s, demands that buildings make “reasonable adjustments” to provide disabled access, but it’s widely unenforced. Britain’s infrastructure, from the train network to public toilets, can be equally inaccessible.
But there are some signs of progress. Last week, the UK’s first accessible shopping day was announced. On 13 November, the government initiative backed by brands such as Argos, Barclays, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s will feature new disability-friendly ways to make it easier for disabled people to go to the shops.But there are some signs of progress. Last week, the UK’s first accessible shopping day was announced. On 13 November, the government initiative backed by brands such as Argos, Barclays, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s will feature new disability-friendly ways to make it easier for disabled people to go to the shops.
Research by the Department for Work and Pensions puts shopping and eating and drinking out as the most difficult experiences for disabled people. The government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy, launched last month, included £2m to install changing places toilets in England’s motorway services that will have adult-sized changing beds, hoists to help lift people out of wheelchairs and extra room. This is long overdue and now needs to be rolled out to all large train stations, airports, and shopping centres.Research by the Department for Work and Pensions puts shopping and eating and drinking out as the most difficult experiences for disabled people. The government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy, launched last month, included £2m to install changing places toilets in England’s motorway services that will have adult-sized changing beds, hoists to help lift people out of wheelchairs and extra room. This is long overdue and now needs to be rolled out to all large train stations, airports, and shopping centres.
Too many women are being forced to have unnecessary surgery due to the lack of toilet provision; both male and female readers have told me they routinely use “adult nappies” on long journeys, despite not being incontinent, because stations don’t have facilities. The alternative is to never travel.Too many women are being forced to have unnecessary surgery due to the lack of toilet provision; both male and female readers have told me they routinely use “adult nappies” on long journeys, despite not being incontinent, because stations don’t have facilities. The alternative is to never travel.
The government’s strategy also includes making “up to £300m” available to extend its programme to make railway stations more accessible. But Freedom of Information requests by the news site Disability News Service show the Conservatives reduced spending on the scheme over the last five years (from £81.1m in 2013‑14 to just £14.6m last year). The shift to automation and staff cuts also mean smaller train stations are increasingly unstaffed and essentially prohibit disabled people who need assistance.The government’s strategy also includes making “up to £300m” available to extend its programme to make railway stations more accessible. But Freedom of Information requests by the news site Disability News Service show the Conservatives reduced spending on the scheme over the last five years (from £81.1m in 2013‑14 to just £14.6m last year). The shift to automation and staff cuts also mean smaller train stations are increasingly unstaffed and essentially prohibit disabled people who need assistance.
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And the positive measures do not make up for drastic cuts in services and support in recent years. Making shops accessible is all well and good, but social care cuts mean many disabled people can’t leave the house.And the positive measures do not make up for drastic cuts in services and support in recent years. Making shops accessible is all well and good, but social care cuts mean many disabled people can’t leave the house.
Let’s celebrate the gains but the fight has to go on. Equal rights for disabled people are still a long way off.Let’s celebrate the gains but the fight has to go on. Equal rights for disabled people are still a long way off.
DisabilityDisability
InequalityInequality
Social careSocial care
TransportTransport
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