Labour has apologised after it admitted that a meeting held to mark the international day of disabled people was inaccessible to some disabled people.
The meeting was hosted by Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Vicky Foxcroft, and aimed to gather the views of disabled people on what the government’s forthcoming national disability strategy should include.
Although the online event included British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, there were no subtitles, which are vital for many disabled people, including those with hearing impairments who do not use BSL.
Yesterday (Wednesday), Foxcroft (pictured, left) apologised for the access failure and said she was working to ensure it “does not happen again”.
Only last month, Ellen Morrison (right), Labour’s first elected representative of its disabled members on its national ruling body, called on the party to address the years of discrimination faced by its disabled members.
She said then that it was “very clear that Labour has deprioritised what disabled members need for a long time for both policy and access”.
Morrison repeated that message at this week’s event, telling her party that it needed to “get its own house in order”, and warning: “We are currently in a vicious cycle in our party where disabled Labour members can’t access Labour spaces or some can and face discrimination and we don’t have our own structures embedded in the party to self-organise.”
She pointed out that the Disability Equality Act Labour group had already produced a blueprint for the changes needed within a party “that has historically shut us out”.
Disabled campaigner and party member Lisa Egan left the online meeting on Monday when she realised there were no subtitles and so she would be unable to take part.
She told Disability News Service (DNS) afterwards: “No point staying where you’re not welcome.”
She said the failure to organise subtitles was “a very strong statement about who is and isn’t welcome”.
She had stated her need for subtitles on an access form she filled in before the event.
Foxcroft told DNS: “We really tried to make the event as accessible as possible, from asking attendees to let us know if they needed any adjustments, to having BSL interpreters at the event.
“In future, we will ensure all events are recorded and [uploaded] online shortly afterwards so people who are not able to take part can watch and contact me with any thoughts.”
She said she was keen to hear from anyone who was not able to engage in the event, and that “if even one person is not able to take part, that is one too many”.
She added: “I genuinely hope this doesn’t put anyone off accessing future events; we are planning on holding more on what a new deal for disabled people should look like.
“Ensuring disabled people’s voices are heard and holding the government to account on their future strategy is imperative.
“As shadow minister for disabled people, working with and co-producing policy with disabled people is the only way we can develop better policies to ensure we have a genuinely inclusive society.”
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