Sayce calls for ‘strong, united message’ to change hostile attitudes


A leading national disabled people’s organisation (DPO) is to campaign to produce a “sea change” in attitudes to disability, as one of its priorities over the next three years.

In its strategic plan for 2016-19, Disability Rights UK (DR UK) says it will focus its campaigning on independent living, improving disabled people’s career opportunities, and – a new priority for the charity – influencing public behaviour and attitudes.

In a blog accompanying the document, DR UK chief executive Liz Sayce (pictured) points to a phone-in on BBC Radio 5 live last month in which disabled callers spoke of being “rejected, demonised, stared at, [and]made to feel unwelcome everywhere from playgrounds to trains”. 

Sayce says DR UK now wants to collect disabled people’s experiences of some of the worst experiences they have faced, “whether it’s being viewed as scroungers or incompetents, being feared or looked down on, avoided or bullied”.

And she suggests there is a need for a “strong, united message” that resonates with the public, as with the LGBT movement’s call for “equal marriage”, and the US “black lives matter” campaign.

The strategy document says this message needs to demonstrate that disabled people are “contributors” rather than “costs”, and dismantle the “false dichotomy between scroungers and super-heroes”.

Sayce says that contact with disabled people – in education, work and elsewhere – will play a huge part in changing the “assumptions and actions” of non-disabled people. 

“If we campaign to learn together, work together, pray together, live together – that will break down barriers,” she says.

The strategy also pledges to help build a national network of hate crime reporting centres, providing safe spaces for disabled people to report hostility and hate crime, and to work closely with other DPOs, police and the Crown Prosecution Service to combat hate crime and hostility.

DR UK will also focus on independent living as another of its three priorities, with plans to campaign to reduce the number of disabled people living in institutions and the use of coercive powers to detain and treat people against their will.

It will also focus on the funding necessary to live independently, for example through benefits and social care personal budgets; and organise a national campaign on access alongside its members.

On career opportunities, DR UK says it wants to show the government the importance of investing in peer support for skills and careers, and to focus on both the “carrots and sticks” that will persuade employers and education and training providers to take action.

The strategy highlights some of the statistics it would like to see published by the government – with regional figures for the most important areas – to allow progress towards disabled people’s equality and human rights to be measured.

These include the number of disabled people living in institutions; the pay gap between disabled and non-disabled people; and levels of disability discrimination, hostility and hate crime.

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