Inquiry makes a splash after securing ‘tide-turning promises’


A 15-month parliamentary inquiry has called for determined action to tackle the barriers to inclusion and equality faced by young disabled people.

Members of the Trailblazers campaigning network, all young disabled people themselves, played a crucial role in the inquiry, giving evidence and questioning more than 50 senior figures from the private, public and voluntary sectors at nine parliamentary evidence sessions.

The inquiry by the all-party parliamentary group for young disabled people has already led to key bodies within the airline and cinema industries setting up working parties to address issues raised in the evidence sessions.

The inquiry report calls for “urgent reform” in the public and private sectors to address the “significant barriers to young disabled people leading full and independent lives”.

Among concerns heard by the inquiry were the lack of wheelchair-accessible housing, access problems with public transport, the barriers to reporting disability hate crime, discrimination in the job market, and the extra costs facing disabled students entering higher education.

The Removing Barriers, Promoting Independence report makes recommendations across public transport, the job market, cinemas, higher education, tourism, disability hate crime, housing and independent living, and the airline industry.

Tanvi Vyas, campaigns officer for the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, which runs Trailblazers, said that “integrating fully with non-disabled peers and taking up the same opportunities can take enormous tenacity”.

Vyas, who herself gave evidence to the inquiry, said: “If we are to genuinely improve quality of life and opportunity for young disabled people in the UK we need decision-makers, businesses and institutions to get out of a ‘ticking the box’ mindset towards accessibility.”

Paul Maynard, the disabled Conservative MP who chairs the all-party group, said the inquiry had seen young disabled people “come face to face with MPs, ministers and senior business leaders”, while they had witnessed “some potentially tide-turning promises and seen some genuine commitment towards change”.

But he said that “good intentions” were not enough, and added: “We must act now to ensure that for the next generation, entering higher education, establishing a career, setting up a home or enjoying the same social activities as non-disabled peers need no longer be an ongoing battle.”

Trailblazer Hannah-Lou Blackall told the parliamentary launch of the report that taking the lead role in the evidence sessions had raised interest in the parliamentary process among fellow members.

She said: “We hope this report is just the beginning and we will continue to see young disabled people at the forefront of policy development on the issues that really affect us.”

David Sindall, head of disability and inclusion for the Association of Train Operating Companies, said the report was one of the best he had seen in nearly 30 years specialising in access and inclusion, and he praised the “constructive” approach taken during the inquiry.

Maynard said he now wanted to see Trailblazers give evidence to an inquiry into the accessibility of public transport for disabled people, announced this week by the Commons transport select committee.

21 November 2012

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