Originally Published: October 30th, 2015
This small advance shows how far there is to go before we see genuine equality for women from the workplace to Westminster. Yet no sooner hadamong Britain’s biggest companies, then Vince Cable and Chuka Umunna . They have a point: representation is too low, while the . But for all the backslapping talk of tolerance in Britain, attitudes are shifting fast when it comes to gender, race and sexuality.
Yet one minority is all too often left out of the equality equation. It is a minority that can be counted in millions yet remains trapped on the margins of society. It is one routinely bullied and beaten, barred from buildings, excluded from the workplace, shunned by society, unable to access public transport, stuck in the worst poverty and even in the most extreme cases killed by repeated but avoidable failings of state services. Yet when it comes to people with disabilities and learning difficulties, how much do we hear beyond patronising platitudes about equal life chances?
This was brought home to me again when invited to join a panel on diversity at a political conference. The other speakers included a fair representation of modern Britain, while the discussion was interesting, informed and wide-ranging from representation of women through to the rights of gay parents. Yet there was not one word about people with disabilities – one-sixth of the population on government figures if including limiting long-term illness – until, having left it to the end, I pointed out this damning omission.
Both left and right should hang heads in shame at the failure to fight properly for this sizeable minority. This is not to ignore strides made on the legislative side; indeed, this year is the 20th anniversary of a. But despite this, there remains a between working-age people with and without disabilities. Figures for those with learning difficulties are even more depressing.
Ministers deserve credit for pushing employment for disabled people, which is rising, yet at the same timemake it harder to hold down jobs and live ordinary lives. But for all the fury over reforms, they are just one aspect of exclusion. The corrosion starts with hurtful language used on streets and in schoolyards, highlighting wider attitudes and acceptance of bigotry, yet the insensitivity runs so deep that even this paper guilty of making vile jokes about disabled children.Now we see more plans, more talk, more good intentions to get 2,600 people with learning difficulties following the . We have heard it all before, many times. Fine ideals will dissipate in a morass of bureaucracy and departmental wrangling, while frontline cuts to respite care and short breaks fuel pressures on individuals and families. Yet every day, hundreds of thousands more people struggle with life among the most disempowered and disdained group in Britain.
Equality is often defined in terms of freedom from discrimination and income equality. “But it goes much deeper for disabled people,” says Simon Duffy, director of theand doughty campaigner for people with learning difficulties. “It is about giving them the chance simply to be citizens in society. There are such low expectations for disabled people that no one even expects them to enjoy full participation.”
Duffy is right. I rang the government to discover the statistics on disabled board directors, only to be told, “That’s not information anyone collates.” The Confederation of British Industry said the same. Nor is there any mention of disability in a widely quoted “root and branch”among Britain’s 10,000 most senior employees. But then a found more than one-third of Britons believe disabled people to be less productive than others, while, incredibly, two-thirds admit to feeling uncomfortable just talking to a person with disabilities. It seems a long time since the and all those promises of changed perceptions.
This exclusion goes beyond befuddled British embarrassment. It is the dismal legacy of a lack of workplace interaction, of limited social engagement and little cultural involvement. It is what happens when a minority is ostracised from the mainstream, when scientists propose eliminating people who do not fit their idealised view of humanity, when “retard” is a term of abuse. Yet only one in six people with disabilities are born with them. So from the boardroom down, it makes sense on many levels to stop shutting millions of people out of society.
Read the original article from The Guardian here: