The 8th of November 2020 marked the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995.
The Act made it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people in relation to employment, the provision of goods and services, education and transport.
It is worth remembering the Tory government at the time voted against it 16 times before the law was passed.
Just like the other civil rights movements of the last century, it was the tens of thousands of disabled people leading the movement for change and fight for equality.
The DDA was amended in 2005 to take public authorities into its remit, and in 2009 the last Labour government ratified the UN Convention for the Rights of Disabled People, seeking to promote respect for the dignity of all disabled people and safeguards for their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Since 2010, successive Tory-led governments have been implementing austerity, including abolishing the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and replacing it with the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), introducing the cruel and inhumane sanctions regime, and cutting funding substantially to Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs).
This programme of change has demonised and harmed the lives and livelihoods of disabled people, creating a hostile environment. In seven years more than 650,000 people had their payments cut or stopped after moving from DLA to PIP.
Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that 46 per cent of all those who have moved from the old system lost out financially.
The think tank Demos has shown that disabled people receiving social security were hit with a million sanctions in less than a decade since 2010, and that unemployed disabled people are up to 53 per cent more likely to be sanctioned than people who are not disabled.
The sheer fact that in 2015 the UK became the first member state of the United Nations (UN) to be investigated by the Committee on the Rights of Disabled Persons (CRPD) for an alleged violation of disabled people’s human rights, is telling of this government’s contempt for disabled people.
The committee found that the UK government’s welfare reforms led to “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights and that changes to benefits “disproportionately affected” disabled people.
The barriers disabled people face are not inevitable – they are a consequence of choices that the people in power have made.
In Battersea, since I was elected in 2017, I have campaigned for more accessible transport including step-free access at train stations. Across London many train and Tube stations are without step-free access.
A lack of accessible transport is a huge barrier to disabled people living independent lives and having access to the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers. Step-free access, accessible ticket machines and audio announcements need to be made available everywhere.
Whilst I am pleased that Battersea Park and Wandsworth Town stations will be made step-free, we need all stations across London to be accessible for all. So, 25 years on from the DDA, the fight for disabled people’s rights and equality continues.
That’s why we need a National Disability Strategy, co-produced with disabled people, which incorporates the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons (UNCRPD) into British law.
This will promote and protect disabled people’s rights and ensure they have full equality under the law. We must make this society accessible and inclusive for disabled people.
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