Rights campaigner to head EHRC’s disability committee


The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has chosen a disability rights campaigner as the new chair of its disability committee.

Mike Smith, who has been a member of the committee since 2007, replaces acting chair Alun Davies, who stepped down in December.

Smith, who chairs the National Centre for Independent Living, was also one of eight new EHRC commissioners to join the board in December, and will take responsibility for “championing” disability issues at board level.

He began his involvement in the disability rights movement ten years ago through working with a disabled people’s organisation in Tower Hamlets, east London, and is a board member of the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity Stonewall.

He is now a freelance consultant, but was previously a director with the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Smith said it was important that the EHRC worked and communicated with stakeholders “much more effectively”, so as to “address disabled people’s concerns as best we can”.

He said a key aspect of the committee’s work would be its inquiry into disability-related harassment.

The inquiry, announced last month, aims to discover the true extent of the harassment and violence experienced by disabled people in England and Wales.

He said: “Far too many people are subjected to abuse and sometimes they are not taken seriously or supported by the public authorities who are meant to help them.

“We hope as many people as possible will contribute to the inquiry, starting with commenting on the terms of reference which will be published shortly.”

The committee’s priorities this year, laid out in its work plan for 2009-10, include lobbying the government on the aspects of its equality bill that affect disabled people, and ensuring effective implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

It also plans to reach out to “seldom heard” disabled people, such as Muslims, people with autism and other neuro-diverse conditions, and those in prison.

And it pledges to “renew impetus” on developing inclusively-built and designed goods, facilities and services.

Smith said the committee was “making good headway” on the work plan, and would soon start planning its programme of work for 2010/11.

14 January 2010

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