Recently at Enrych, we have been going out to the communities we serve asking them questions about how things could be improved based on the recent Disability Action Plan and the Government’s consultation about this. We have had some great responses from a diverse demographic of people. We have asked people with a variety of disabilities so that we can respond on behalf on behalf of all those who comprise this community
One thing that was very clear right from the beginning of our consultations is that around 80% of our survey respondents are strongly in favour of a task force whose focus will be improving disabled people’s well-being and opportunities. In addition to this, half of our survey respondents strongly believe that a guidance and training webpage will increase the representation of disabled people in elected office.
When asked about the effectiveness of government services for disabled people, of those who responded as many believe these work well or reasonably well as believe they do not. This provides a very much balanced picture, and there are disparities seem to be linked to personal circumstances rather than disability.
To give an example of a situation that a number of our survey respondents want to see addressed is the consequences for any establishments that refuse entry to guide dogs. Many believe that there should be a penalty charge (ie fine) for those who refuse on the basis of this being discriminatory.
It goes without saying, that all of the people who took part in our survey, were once disabled children. As a former child myself, I often wonder just how accessible playgrounds really are in terms of the layout and structure of things. This is definitely something that warrants its own research and consultation in order to get the views of families of disabled children, or even the experts on this, the children themselves. Everyone who responded to our survey is on board with voluntary standards for playground accessibility being made mandatory.
The Covid-19 pandemic is something that for many people, myself included, caused a lot of uncertainty, and the social impact was something I still feel has not really been addressed. I for one, always wondered what socialising post-Covid-19 would look like. Would we be able to see our friends again and socialise in exactly the same way? Of course, we have all shown great resilience in dealing with this, but there is an element of transparency that I feel was missing in terms of how disabled people were supported. This viewpoint is shared by our survey respondents, as close to 60% of people we asked said that they did not feel they were supported effectively, bearing in mind that the vast majority of our clients are isolated much more rigidly (no shopping for example) and for much longer periods of time. In fact, the greatest number of our respondents also declared that whilst there were local initiatives in place to ensure they had what they needed, they were not supported effectively at all by the Government even during the Covid-19 pandemic. This should be a real pointer for future reference, as it demonstrates a poor duty of care from the Government to the most vulnerable of society.
On another note, preventing bullying is something that needs a huge collective effort. Many people have experienced it to a degree, whether in the form of teasing, or worse. Everybody we asked about the topic of bullying expressed their want for more education and awareness to take place, whether this be undertaken in educational institutions or workplaces. There also needs to be more information about lawful practice, as there are still instances out there that could quite easily damage a disabled person’s confidence. One of our respondents was told "they didn’t look Autistic", another was fearful that if they didn’t work faster whilst being employed in the private sector, they would lose their job, and a third was refused work after disclosing disabilities. This is alarming and there needs to be punishment, consistently applied, for organisations that do not adhere to equal opportunities, or provide reasonable adjustments for those who need them! Additionally, if we are to truly achieve an inclusive society, we should not be thinking about removing barriers that disable people but simply not creating them in the first place.
With bullying, there is a link to safety for everyone, but perhaps this is more relevant to disabled people. We had a few comments from people on this subject, with many wanting to know which body would be setting up and looking after the safety of disabled people. Further to this, our respondents expressed their desires for more ramps for wheelchair users, more braille for people with visual impairments, and more ways to raise awareness on the topic of anxiety and depression in particular. This would be a particular help for those with hidden disabilities so that a culture of acceptance, sensitivity, and understanding can be built. As my regular readers will know I advocate curiosity; make people curious enough to ask further questions to increase their own awareness and this is something I have worked hard on in terms of listening intently to others and asking follow-up questions to confirm my understanding. As we hear regularly, if you have met one person with dyspraxia (for example), you have met one person with dyspraxia. Every disabled person has their own story – just like every person who shares the same physical traits (for example brown eyes) will have.
I mentioned earlier about lawful practice, and it is imperative that there is a shift in people’s mentality toward the blue badge. One of our respondents spoke of people’s ignorance, frequently being labelled as “having nothing wrong with them and misusing the blue badge.” One of our respondents had an incident with the police when a driver blocked them into a disabled space because they hadn’t bothered to look for a blue badge on display. How can someone come to a judgement of whether someone is disabled or not? There is no one definition of what can disable someone. I am a firm believer in disabled people’s rights and ideally, them getting these automatically because we live in a sensitive and understanding society, not through having to consistently fight for fairness.
At Enrych when it comes to disability, we are passionate about changing not only the attitudes of people generally but also the policymakers and those in key positions. We want this consultation to be recognised as much as possible and hope to see it have a major influence.