A Human Rights Approach to Disability Campaigning

Ten years ago the Equality Act 2010 came into being. It received Royal Assent on 8th April and came into law on the 1st October 2010. 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, set up under the Equality Act 2006, has responsibility for the promotion and enforcement of equality and non-discrimination laws in England, Scotland and Wales. However, its powers are few. For instance, it cannot bring enforcement action, something the equivalent bodies in the US, Australia, Belgium, Canada and New Zealand can do.

We still don’t have equality in Hate Crime Law and we all know how inaccessible planes and trains can be. There are still too many buildings which are not fully accessible to us. 

We have moved on, in the majority of situations, from the outdated Medical Model of Disability. Most statutory bodies and organisations accept the Social Model of Disability, which sees that our difficulties are caused by the disabling world we live in. 

So how do we change that disabling world? Demonstrations and petitions can make some difference, but change is slow and cumbersome. So we need to think more imaginatively. 

Why not base our demands on our Human Rights? 

When the UN Special Rapporteur visited the UK in November 2018 he made it Abundantly clear the UK was in violation of its Human Rights obligations. 

I believe the only way we can assert our rights to disability equality and reasonable adjustments, as well as living our lives independently, is by ensuring all our campaigning is linked to our Human Rights.

There are six areas we need to focus on, all of which are depicted in the graphic below. It has disabled people in the centre – where we belong. 

Picture of a group of disabled people with text of 6 different types of Human Rights law for disabled people
The 6 tenets of Disability Rights are Human Rights

The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities – UNCRPD – is the foundation of the legislation we require and by making it part of UK law we would have the protections and freedoms we need. 

By strengthening the Equality Act 2010 and beefing up the powers of the EHRC, UK law would ensure enforcement of our rights, with the ability to challenge any type discrimination.

We need a rights based legal system, which is easy to access and will give support throughout the entirety of any reasonable case. Disability hate crime law needs strengthening to ensure parity with race and religious hate crime.

The rights enshrined in the EU Accessibility Act need to become part of UK law. The inclusion of all forms of transport is vital to ensure we can travel with ease and safety when we wish to travel.

We need a government department that looks after our rights and needs. The department must be run on different rules from other ministries. It should be overseen by a commission of disabled people, who will decide both policy and strategy.

But all of the rights above will only fully benefit us if we have the foundation of an equitable and secure benefits system. The system must use a holistic assessment of our needs. Of course, it will need to be properly funded with the same type of triple-lock guarantee given to pensioners. All of that will give us security and dignity. It would replace the current system, which demonises and denigrates us. 

The last Labour Manifesto contained a pledge to enshrine the UNCRPD in UK law. We could make that the starting point for our demands.

Why not set up our own disabled peoples commission, with representatives from every DPO in the UK? Then we can begin to focus on our aims and look at how we can begin and sustain our campaign. 

Will you make your new year resolution to campaign for human rights for ALL disabled people? 


  • Despite having been to Tribunal and awarded DLA at the highest rate for life when it was replaced by PIP I was refused. Headway the brain injury association put me in contact with a lawyer who provided free assistance and PIP was awarded. I had been receiving free home care from Calerdale MBC since 1995, in recent years then they began imposing charges which rose to over £100 p.w. incl for when I was away received none. I now pay for all care privately. Since COVID-19 much support has stopped so is costing me nothing. We need Parliamentary representation. There only 5 disabled MPs across all parties. Labour should introduce a policy of full Parliamentary repreentation @ 20% of MPs across party lines

  • Equal opportunity to all.

    • Raymond Fox

      I have contacted my local AgeUK they can do nothing to help me regarding the Mobility component for Attendance Allowance. I had a heart attack recently and now need a bypass operation.
      To maintain my mobility, I now need to use mainly Taxis which costs a fortune and takes most of my attendance allowance payment my quality of life has deteriorated dramatically. I know the rules or law regarding attendance allowance because I have had it quoted at me 100’s of times by the DWP, Citizens Advice, AgeUK and other charitable organisations like yourselves who receive government monetary support. and it only gets more discriminatory from your staff when they have their theory of what it means because they construct sentences that are even more detrimental than the rules/law. A typical response is to assert that “because you are 73 you do not need mobility after all, as you get older you are not as mobile and don’t need to go out as much”. This has been quoted to me by the DWP, and even some people in your organisation. I don’t think they realise what they have said and discriminate against me directly to my face, disgusting! AgeUK has the power to defend the aged against injustice and discrimination need to consult solicitors, lawyers legally qualified groups to take Civil action against the government for age discrimination even though they are your paymaster makes AgeUK reluctant to challenge them. Perhaps you could enlighten me as to whether AgeUK has ever challenged any government in the Civil Court regarding discrimination instead of just protests. I cannot find any.

      You claim to support the aged so you either say it is Age Discrimination under the Equalities Act or you say it is not age discrimination? Could you give me your opinion? I do not need the law on this issue quoted at me because that does not make it right. There is an injustice to the aged and unfortunately, AgeUK is doing nothing about it.
      Can I ask how many aged people will have been fobbed off by the DWP by telling them they can not claim mobility after retirement age!!
      I would guess this law may have sneak through under Statuary Instrument as at least Labour MPs would not have accepted it.

      I gave the DWP a scenario – If you have an accident after retirement age and become immobile perhaps through a car accident. I was told by a DWP official ( name of DWP employee can be supplied and permitted me to quote them) “in that scenario it would be different,” in other words, they can manipulate the rules!!
      The DWP explained that they would then look at the rules including when the claimant had the accident when they passed retirement age, did not know they were going to have a car accident, and the age of the claimant at the time, in my opinion, a clear statement based on age, which is directly aimed at me because I am 73.
      However, I did not know either, that I was going to have a Heart attack and become immobile.

      It is time for MP,s to ask very serious questions of the DWP, the rules, and implementation of Mobility regarding Attendance Allowance and the Mobility component claim. I know the arguments against paying mobility to people over retirement age and they are even more discriminatory

  • This is disgraceful!

  • Ric

    “The last Labour Manifesto contained a pledge to enshrine the UNCRPD in UK law. We could make that the starting point for our demands.” I agree this would be a good place to start and to build upon. Let’s hope Keir leads us to victory ASAp. With his background as a Human Rights Lawyer I feel sure he is the man to do it.

  • Kerry

    There are too many similar stories for this to be a glitch in the assessment process. It’s been going on for years and Labour have not been much of a voice for disabled people. We need a collective voice and a review of the disability assessment process that has teeth. The DWP have become an impenetrable opaque and ultimately failing department. The figures for success at the tribunal stage are proof of this. I still feel like I have PTSD having had to go through this process in 2016 and I will shortly have to endure it again…knowing before I’ve even begun that I will be taking it to tribunal again. It all comes at a significant cost…both in terms of my mental health and well being and the cost to the tax payer.
    It just makes my blood boil when I see Tory minister after Tory minister espousing that help and support is available for those who need it.
    Sure, after months and months of cruel and pointless hoop jumping till your soul and spirit is worn to a thread.

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