THE BLOG

Disabled People Have a Lot Still to Fight for - 20 Years Since the Disability Discrimination Act

04/11/2015 15:17 | Updated 04 November 2016

This November is the 20th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act. It's an important time for us to celebrate this landmark piece of legislation and the incredible achievements of disabled campaigners who fought tirelessly to bring about crucial change.

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Copyright: The People's History Museum

I've been campaigning for equality for disabled people for as long as I can remember. My first foray into disability equality involved friends and family in a boycott of our local cinema when they refused to let me in to see Grease, telling me I was a 'fire risk' in my wheelchair I've never been quite sure what this meant, as I've never seen a disabled person spontaneously combust!

Back then rather than provide access for disabled people it was easier to just bar us.

Some of the strongest memories from my childhood and adolescence are of the things I couldn't do, not as a result of my impairment or being a wheelchair user, but because of poor access and even poorer attitudes.

Shops, restaurants, playgrounds, holiday resorts, schools - I'd been turned away from them all! I couldn't get on a bus until I was 30 but thanks to the Disability Discrimination Act all buses in London are now accessible for wheelchair users . There's still work to do to explain why the wheelchair space on a bus is so important, but we'll get there!

I was so fortunate to be a part of the campaign that led to the Disability Discrimination Act. As we mark this important anniversary, it brings me right back to my student days of chaining myself to railings and buses. For the first time in my life I felt I had some power and influence over my own life.

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Copyright: The People's History Museum

Thankfully disabled people today don't face the levels of discrimination as my generation. But on a daily basis Scope is contacted by disabled people telling us about the huge impact unemployment, social isolation, negative attitudes and lack of money has on their lives.

According to new Scope research, 40% of disabled people say the UK is a good place to be a disabled person and the majority (62%) of disabled people say they are treated differently because of their disability, so we clearly still have some way to go. Two-thirds (67%) of the public admit that they feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people - something I find incredibly difficult to comprehend.

Too many disabled people are unable to find, stay and progress in work, as two in five (42%) disabled people feel they have missed out on a job "every time" or "a lot of the time" because of their disability.
Disabled people also spend an average of £550 per month on disability related costs such as equipment, extra heating costs and transport.

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Copyright: The People's History Museum

This is still hugely worrying. But I'm encouraged by the energy and optimism of the disabled I meet, especially younger disabled people. They have such a determination to make things better and because so many of them have grown up with improved access to buildings and transport, etc. Their expectations are high and they refuse to accept a lesser lifestyle simply as a result of their impairment.

In getting the Disability Discrimination Act passed in 1995 we won the argument about disabled people being of equal value.

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Copyright: Rachel Hurst

No one has ever said 'You're equal enough, you can stop now.' There is no stopping us from continuing to campaign for equality and no one would ever expect us to the return to the lives we led. We have a lot to contribute to society but we need the right support in place to help us do that.

My hope on this 20th anniversary is that people will work with us, so that the in the next 20 years we make even greater progress in the equality of disabled people.