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We have moved on, in the majority of situations, from the outdated Medical Model of Disability.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? 

Not Worthy of the Honour

On Friday the world awoke to leaks about the Queen’s New Years honours list.  Of all the people on this list, one name caught my eye.  Iain Duncan Smith is to be knighted.  I have to admit my jaw dropped.  I don’t know why I am surprised.  I suppose he is to be knighted to services to unlawful government sanctioned deaths.  Extermination of the poor and disabled.

 I have no printable words to describe my feeling and those of my colleagues and friends across the United Kingdom. I know he is probably responsible for my PTSD which started once I applied for help to enable me to stay in work.  DLA was, so I thought, there to help me when I started to experience the detrimental effects of my hidden disability. Then the DWP repossessed my Motability car due to their mistake, I might add.

 However, as tragic as this was for me, at least I was alive and could mitigate against it. The whole process left me with recurring PTSD every time the DWP contacts me. I believe giving IDS a knighthood is a kick in the teeth to every disabled person who has applied for benefits. Every Tory MP who has supported his savage regime is equally culpable in the damage done to so many of us.

The only recognition I would want for this cruel man is to recognise him as being responsible for for the deaths of 120,000 people. He led the the political choice of austerity and turned it in to an opportunity to recoup money lost by bankers, through cuts to services like social care and benefits such as Personal Independence Payment, Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit. 

Let him revel in this “honour” for as long as he holds it.  I am going to work with others to ensure when a Labour government is elected, he is tried for crimes against disabled people, the poor and disadvantaged. His title should be withdrawn.

At this moment in time, our government is rogue. The next several years will take all our courage and then some.  We need to be looking at all the methods we can use to bring the government to heel. Surely there should be more scrutiny of such honours? This award makes a mockery of the honours system. Disabled people are citizens too. We have been continuously attacked for having the audacity to be born with or having acquired an illness or impairment which left us to be victims of political choice.

I want IDS to be on notice, do not mistake weakness for helplessness. Those who followed us his wake, bear responsibility too, Crabbe, Green, Gauke, McVey and Rudd should also be held accountable. John Pring from DNS has made an excellent argument. https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/dwp-the-case-for-the-prosecution/

 Get some rest whilst you can comrades, for the New Year will be the start of the fightback. It will need every one of us. Either by supporting those who are struggling or by taking the fight directly back to the Tory government. A fight for our very lives, for our rights. We need to do everything we can to stop this government eroding our liberty and our dignity.

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