There has been much progress made over the past 30 years towards ensuring the UK is a safer and fairer place for disabled people. But while positive strides have been made there is still much work to be done.
Disabled People In Employment
More than half of the UK’s estimated 7 million disabled people were in employment as of 2019 – compared to 81.8% of the wider UK population in the same year. It is clear from these numbers that we as a country are not doing enough to support disabled people into work.
Accessibility in work is one of the key factors in preventing disabled people from finding work. More needs to be done to encourage or enforce changes in businesses to make them disability-friendly.
In 1995 the Disability Discrimination Act came into effect, which you can learn more about from the Careers With Disabilities website. This made it unlawful to deny disabled people employment, services, goods, education, or transport because of their disability. This was replaced in 2010 by the Equality Act, which introduced the idea of indirect discrimination.
Both of these pieces of legislation have helped improve and highlight the importance of disability rights but they are by no means perfect. Many employers also don’t understand the idea of this law meaning that they should actually treat disabled people more favourably when making adjustments under the Equality Act and as a result disabled people are still being discriminated against.
While the existence of invisible disabilities is by no means a new phenomenon, it is a concept that has not been well known until recently. Even in 2020, there is not enough awareness amongst the general public of what invisible disability is and how a disability can be debilitating even if it cannot be seen.
Campaigns such as the “Please offer me a seat” initiative on the London Underground are excellent for helping the public awareness of invisible disabilities but the fact that they remain necessary is discouraging.
The introduction by the government of PIP (Personal Independent Payment) to replace the DLA (Disability Living Allowance) has been decried by many as a blow to disabled peoples’ rights. Along with replacing the DLA it also introduced sanctions – wherein a claimant can be penalised and lose some of the benefit if they do not attend certain required meetings without what is deemed to be a valid reason.
Up to 46% of disabled people have lost out as a result of this change in benefits.
The Future Of Disability Rights
There is much work still needed to ensure that the rights of disabled people are protected. While legislation is a great step in the right direction, the enforcement of that legislation has a long way to go to ensure that disabled people get the full rights as enshrined by law.
There is also the worry that with legislation, in theory at least, giving disabled people access to all the things able-bodied people have access to that there is a perception that there is nothing left to be fought for. While it is true that we have come a long way in 25 years, there are still undoubtedly a great many more steps to go.