Rights take centre stage in UK on UN’s international day


newslatestThe launch of a bid to produce a new disabled people’s manifesto for Wales was among events held this week to celebrate the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD).

The launch was held on 3 December by Disability Wales (DW), which wants to develop a manifesto that will influence political parties in the run-up to the Welsh National Assembly elections in 2016.

It follows the success of DW’s Manifesto for Independent Living, which was published ahead of the last assembly elections in 2011 and led to the Welsh government introducing its Framework for Action on Independent Living in 2013.

Rhian Davies, chief executive of Disability Wales, said: “Much has changed for disabled people since 2011 following the introduction of welfare reform and cuts in public spending, leaving many worse off financially and anxious about losing vital services.

“With disabled people comprising nearly 25 per cent of the population of Wales, there is strength in numbers and the Disabled People’s Manifesto will reflect the views and priorities of disabled people across the nation to inform and influence the programme of the next Welsh Government.”

DW will be engaging with disabled people and their organisations until the end of March 2015, with workshops on 29 January (in Neath), 12 February (in Llandudno), and 5 March (in Aberystwyth), as well as a national survey.

Meanwhile, as part of the international disability festival DaDaFest International 2014, the inaugural DaDaFest International Congress on Disability Culture and Human Rights took place in Liverpool on 2 and 3 December.

The event aimed to highlight “the multiple ways in which disability culture can impact human rights and social change”, with speakers including Krip-Hop Nation’s Leroy Moore and Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of Arts Council England.

And the user-led charity Breakthrough UK used IDPD to publish the winners of its annual National Independent Living Awards.

The overall winner was SPECTRUM Centre for Independent Living, in Southampton, while the other winners were disabled artist Rachel Gadsden, Surrey Independent Living PA Finder Service, Cherry Orchard Garden Services in Staffordshire, and Monique Jarrett, of the Independence Development Service in Manchester.

The Together! disability history month festival used IDPD to exhibit some of the decorated hands that have been made as part of its Hands Project, which “celebrates the fact that everyone is both unique and part of the same human race” by asking people to make and decorate their own hands from card or foam.

The exhibition, in Stratford, east London, included hands from Thailand, China and Australia.

The English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) and Disability Rights UK (DR UK) used IDPD to publish Being Active, a new guide aimed at supporting more disabled people to enjoy an active lifestyle.

Chris Ratcliffe, EFDS’s director of development, said: “Inactive disabled people have individual reasons why their experiences have meant they have stopped doing, do not want to or feel they cannot access sport or physical activity.

“This guide is fantastic because it doesn’t supply endless pages of links, opportunities or reasons why disabled people should be active. It provides a range of ideas and tips for leading a healthier lifestyle.”

DR UK also celebrated a new partnership with Sport England, which saw it awarded nearly £800,000 of lottery funding.

DR UK, together with Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living, Equal Lives (formerly Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People) and Cheshire Centre for Independent Living, will run a pilot scheme that aims to increase the number of disabled people using personal budgets to access sporting opportunities.

Meanwhile, Blue Badge Style used IDPD to launch public voting on which of 22 designs for “stylish, innovative and functional” wheelchair accessories will be developed into a prototype.

The 22 designs come from final-year product and industrial design students at Brunel University, as part of the university’s Co-Innovate programme.

They include a secure but stylish backpack, a cocktail holder, a waterproof wheelchair cover, a phone charger powered by wheeling, and somewhere for wheelchair-users to place a placard on a demonstration.

Fiona Jarvis, founder of Blue Badge Style, said: “The car industry has embraced technology to improve seats, but wheelchair design is stuck in the 1940s and stylish accessories are non-existent.

“Disabled people badly need some well-designed accessories that aren’t just in navy or black.”

The Papworth Trust also published its annual Disability in the UK report, which provides 33 pages of disability-related facts and figures.

Among the report’s most shocking figures, says the charity’s chief executive Vicky McDermott, is that the pay gap between disabled and non-disabled people has widened by a third since 2010, while children in families that include a disabled person are almost twice as likely to live in poverty.

The theme of this year’s IDPD was Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology, which the UN said would “work to harness the power of technology to promote inclusion and accessibility”.

The UN focused on three particular areas: the need for “disability-inclusive” development; the use of technology to ensure the needs of disabled people are addressed when trying to reduce the risks associated with disasters and emergency responses; and creating work environments that are “open, inclusive and accessible”.

And in Brussels, the European Commission and the European Disability Forum (EDF) organised a two-day conference on Building Together a Barrier-Free Europe, to mark European Day of Persons with Disabilities, also held on 3 December.

It was attended by hundreds of disabled people, their organisations, EU policy-makers, service-providers, think-tanks, trade unions and employers.

In his speech to the conference, EDF president Yannis Vardakastanis criticised the lack of “high-level political participation” in improving disability rights by the European Commission, and called for “stronger political commitment”.

3 December 2014