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Frank Gardner speaks at the Jack Ashley Memorial Lecture

06 July 2016

The 2016 Jack Ashley Memorial Lecture was given by Frank Gardner, BBC Security Correspondent.

It was co-hosted by the Ashley family, the All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group and Disability Rights UK.

After opening words from Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson and John Bercow MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Frank Gardner gave a great talk about what it had meant to him to acquire an impairment during his working life.

He talked of how important it was that some people encouraged him to think about what he could do in the future (rather than focus only on what he had lost). He said a letter confirming that his job would be kept open for him was crucial. He conveyed the utter frustration of day to day life – when people start to ‘help’ him without even asking him, or when jobsworth staff quote rules that stop him doing simple things like going to the loo on a plane – and talked eloquently about how he and people around him got over and round the barriers, including in countries from Papua New Guinea to Afghanistan.    

Caroline Ashley thanked Frank on behalf of the Ashley family. Liz Sayce ended by saying that the changes that Jack Ashley led (with others) were as profound as those led by the Suffragettes; we have films like Suffragette and Selma, but where is our blockbuster on securing the first rights for disabled people?

She noted that we should not forget that Britain has been a disability rights leader in Europe and in the wake of the Referendum result, DR UK with others will be working strenuously to ensure our rights continue to advance.

We want a society where everyone who becomes disabled - like Frank Gardner, like Jack Ashley – can pursue the life and career they want; but for far too many people that is utterly not the case. That is why this week we gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee arguing for significant changes so that people can trust in employment support.

At DR UK we also ‘show not just tell’ how things could be different. For instance, our Leadership Academy, run by and for disabled people, has had great results – with 80% of delegates meeting their career aspirations and both employees and employers speaking of the benefits, in terms of unlocking talent and improving employer practices. 

Frank Gardner