Disabled people and their organisations have raised concerns about the impact of new laws that mean passengers on public transport in England must wear a face mask or risk a fine.
Disabled people who are not able to wear a face covering for impairment-related reasons, such as those who are autistic, who rely on lip-reading, or have asthma or epilepsy, are exempt from the rules, under new regulations.
But Transport for All (TfA), which campaigns for older and disabled Londoners, said it feared that disabled passengers could face “discriminatory interrogation” from frontline staff if they fail to wear a mask.
TfA said it also feared “peer policing” by members of the public if the exemptions were not communicated “quickly and clearly” to all passengers.
And it said it was concerned about what would happen in taxis and private hire vehicles, where the new regulations do not apply.
The coronavirus pandemic has put the rights of young autistic people and people with learning difficulties in detention at increased risk, according to a new parliamentary report.
Last November, the joint committee on human rights reported on the abuse of rights – through unlawful detention, restraint and solitary confinement – of young people with learning difficulties and young autistic people who are detained in assessment and treatment units and mental health hospitals.
Now, in a new report, the committee says the risk of their human rights being abused is even greater under the COVID-19 lockdown.
The committee says the situation is now “a severe crisis” because of bans on family visits; the suspension of routine inspections by the care watchdog; increased use of restraint and solitary confinement; and the vulnerability of those in detention to COVID-19 infection because of underlying health conditions and the difficulty of maintaining social distancing in detention.
The shadow minister for disabled people has written to the government to raise concerns about its policies on protecting those shielding from coronavirus.
Labour’s Vicky Foxcroft, who herself has been shielding from the virus, said she was concerned about the “lack of transparency” around the government’s list of those seen as “clinically extremely vulnerable”.
In her letter to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, Foxcroft called on the government to introduce a “safe shielding hour” that would reduce the anxiety of those seen as particularly vulnerable to the virus when they take exercise.
She also called on him to increase clarity by publishing the level of risk faced by people with different health conditions.
And she said the Treasury should ensure that anyone who is shielding and cannot yet return to work is covered by the government’s furlough scheme.
Meanwhile, the government is preparing new advice for those who have been shielding in England.
Although reports suggest ministers will announce an end to the shielding programme – including its deliveries of food packages and medicine – at the end of July, the government said that no final decision had yet been made.
The coronavirus pandemic appears to have caused a sharp drop in the number of new claims for personal independence payment (PIP), according to government figures.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said there were about 25,000 registrations for new PIP claims in April 2020, less than three-fifths (58 per cent) of the number in the same period in 2019.
The number of requests from existing PIP recipients for DWP to consider a change of circumstances also fell sharply, from 6,070 in April 2019 to 3,720 in April 2020.
As many as 85 per cent of people who have been shielding during the pandemic feel unsafe when going outside, despite lockdown guidance being relaxed on 1 June, according to a new survey.
Disability Rights UK (DR UK) said that only two-fifths of those shielding had left home since the guidelines were eased.
Only 15 per cent said they trusted the government’s advice on shielding, and even fewer (13 per cent) thought the government was basing its policies on the best available scientific advice.
Many of those shielding said they had found it difficult to access support with securing food or medication because their impairments or health conditions did not appear on the government’s list of those seen as “clinically extremely vulnerable”.
Fazilet Hadi, DR UK’s head of policy, said: “The government has failed to deliver strong support for disabled people and those with chronic health conditions throughout the coronavirus crisis.
“It is clear that many people do not trust the government’s handling of the crisis to date.
“If it is to win trust, it must recognise that there are far more people who need proper support beyond those with immuno-suppressed conditions.”
A new project that aims to increase the number of disabled people working in museums by arranging work placements as curators has secured nearly £120,000 in development funding from the National Lottery.
Accentuate’s Curating for Change project, which plans to work with 18 museums across England to deliver eight full-time fellowships and eight part-time traineeships (two of them are joint placements), has secured the funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
As well as increasing the number of disabled people working in museums, Accentuate also hopes the project will “create a sea change” in how disability history is represented in collections and museums, and in the accessibility of exhibitions.
During the development period, Accentuate will consult with museums, specialist networks and disabled people’s organisations, and examine how online tools could make museums more accessible to disabled people.
Last year (pictured), Esther Fox, head of Accentuate, told a parliamentary event that museums needed to take radical action to address the “woeful” under-representation of disabled people in their workforce.
This week she said: “There is a huge appetite within museums to address the current underrepresentation of D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse people, but they are keen to have specialist knowledge to inspire and support them to do so.
“Accentuate knows that change is best when it comes from within organisations and we are passionate about supporting a whole new cohort of D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse curators who will lead this process.”
Accentuate works to create opportunities for disabled people in the cultural sector and is part of the cultural development agency Screen South.
Disabled women are facing “immense” levels of disadvantage and pressure during the coronavirus lockdown, according to new research.
Disabled women who have moved to working from home during the lockdown are twice as likely (57.8 per cent) as non-disabled women (28.4 per cent) to be spending more time working now than before the crisis, it found.
And disabled women who are parents of under-11s are much more likely to be struggling to cope with all the demands on their time (63 per cent) than disabled men (51.8 per cent), non-disabled women (50.3) and non-disabled men (38.7 per cent).
Both disabled men and women are more likely to report concerns about finances, with 38.1 per cent of disabled men and 34.2 per cent of disabled women saying their household had nearly run out of money, compared with 24.4 per cent of non-disabled women and 23.4 per cent of non-disabled men.
The analysis was carried out by Women’s Budget Group, Fawcett Society, Queen Mary University London and London School of Economics, and was based on a survey in April of more than 3,000 people, including nearly 700 disabled people.
*For sources of information and support during the coronavirus crisis, visit the DNS advice and information page
Picture by Christopher Lanaway Photography
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