The media and political parties are to blame for the failure of disability issues to feature prominently in the lead-up to the general election, disabled campaigners have suggested.
Issues like independent living, the accessible housing crisis, inclusive education and the disability benefit assessment process featured only rarely in election debates, discussions, and the national media.
Campaigners were responding to questions from Disability News Service about the future direction of the disabled people’s movement, following last week’s election result.
Denise McKenna, co-founder of the Mental Health Resistance Network, said: “We now have to be challenging the media far more strongly than we have been, and demanding that they give us space to be heard.”
But she also called for less focus by disabled activists on the “echo chamber” of social media, which she said resulted in “preaching to the converted”.
She added: “We will have to think about different ways of getting the message out and reduce our total reliance on social media, strengthening our community and finding ways of getting into mainstream media.”
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said: “Inclusion London has been dismayed and disappointed by the lack of coverage and conversation about disabled people’s rights and issues during the election campaign.”
She said this meant it was now “more urgent than ever” that the government, across all departments, committed to “working strategically and in partnership” with disabled people’s organisations.
She said this would be vital in the development of the Conservative manifesto pledge to produce a national strategy for disabled people by the end of 2020, and the work to build a consensus on the future of long-term social care and independent living.
Sue Bott, head of policy and research at Disability Rights UK, said: “The level of debate about disability rights was minimal during the election campaign and even when hustings were organised to give disabled people an opportunity to question the political parties, they were cancelled because of the failure of most them to engage.
“We need to work in a non-party political way to raise awareness and understanding of the general public of our human and political rights.”
Mark Williams, from Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living, said: “We have to start now to educate all political parties on our needs and make sure we are in the planning process right from day one when political parties are thinking about ideas.”
Mel Close, chief executive of Disability Equality North West, said disabled people had to keep pushing their agenda.
She said: “We keep going, keep fighting, keep working alongside whoever will listen and we challenge when they don’t.”
Andrew Lee, director of People First (Self Advocacy), said: “We need to ask questions. We should write to our MPs and ask them to question parliament about how they will speak up for people with disabilities.
“Constituents in self-advocacy groups could meet their MPs and ask the questions.”
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…