Disabled people’s rights are human rights. We have fought long and hard for their recognition in law. In 2007, the then Minister for disabled people, Anne McGuire, signed the UK (and all her parts) up to the UNCRPD. Ten years later, the international community are scrutinising how we’ve done, and the report card doesn’t look good.
The UNCRPD is a convention that disabled people wrote and believed would signal the end (or at least the beginning of the end) of their oppression. So how is it that in 2017 disabled people are lying in incontinence pads because their no is money to pay for someone to help us to the toilet?
How is that disabled people are having to drag themselves up stairs in inaccessible houses? How is it that disabled people have to give 24 hours notice to travel anywhere despite it taking moments to put a ramp down? How is that with the technology and skills we have as a nation, we cannot find a solution so that buggies and wheelchair travel on the same bus? How is that the stigma of mental ill health (yup, people with mental illness are disabled people too) still means that many disabled people don’t get the support the support they need to recover or are detained against their will? How is that we are still less likely to be employed, less likely to go to university and more likely to live in poverty? How is that we are the victims of hate crime just because of who we are? How is it that a young journalism student can be told he cannot graduate with his non disabled peers because he has cerebral palsy?
In Scotland, we have heard much of social justice and human rights, about a social security system with dignity at it’s heart, about a social care system that brings ‘choice’ and ‘control’ to the user. This is welcome, and unique. Even a cursory look elsewhere in the UK and abroad, shows this rhetoric is different. But the reality is, as it has been put, we now need to move from an ‘era of declaration to implementation’. If you are lying in a soggy pad, or trapped in an inaccessible home, or socially isolated because you’ve been stigmatised and have no support, kind (however strong and well intentioned) words only go so far. What disabled people need now, is deeds, not words.
The truth is, that will cost money and it will take ingenuity and skill to get this right. Decades of oppression cannot be easily overturned – but it can be overturned. We need to use the innovation that is inherent in disabled people – just getting out of bed in the morning needs a ‘work around’ – to find the solutions. And, we need to put our money where our mouth is.
It’s time to see disabled people as contributors, not benefactors. Invest in us and you will not be let down. With support, we can work, we can play an active role in family and community life, we can volunteer, we can learn and we can transform – ourselves, our communities and our society. And guess what, if you get it right for us, you’ll get it right for many people. Short sighted austerity from the UK, Scottish and local Government’s, has failed – everyone actually. If we’re serious about improving the life chances of disabled people, we need to act like it. Sort it out, it’s 20 bloomin’ 17.