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International Day of Disabled people – Fighting for our rights in a post Covid world

03 December 2021

International Day of Disabled people – Fighting for our rights in a post Covid world

By Kamran Mallick

As I write this, on 2nd December 2021 it seems a little early to be talking about a post-Covid world. Yet again the media is full of arguments about whether Christmas will be cancelled, that the measures taken are too weak or too onerous and will or won’t be followed. But there will come a day when it is over, when Covid becomes one of the many everyday diseases that we live with.

The UN’s International Day of Disabled people is always a challenge for me. I want to celebrate all we have achieved, looking around me today I see Disabled people in the UK achieving so much, leading by example and living their best lives. Yet, discrimination and disadvantage are still everywhere, in every part of our lives, frustrating our best efforts. Last week I was reflecting on the increase of Disabled people on TV, in adverts, in soaps and dramas and as presenters. I realised that this increase was changing how I felt about TV – I was enjoying seeing people like me, watching stories that reflected real lives not just pity or praise. Shortly afterwards I read Frances Ryan’s excellent article exposing life in the TV industry for Disabled presenters, actors and producers - there is still a long way to go.

The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights mentions “the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family...”. The harsh lesson of the pandemic for me was that hard won rights can be lost in the blink of an eye. Inalienable means ‘not subject to being taken away’, ‘sacrosanct’, ‘inviolable’. And yet the UK government removed specific rights (under the Care Act) and disregarded others (ignoring the needs of Disabled people when drawing up Covid measures). A sobering moment for the disability movement.

It is clear that we must be ready to fight both for the rights yet to be won and to defend the rights we thought we won long ago. At DR UK we committed to building a movement – ensuring that we are ready and strong enough to take on this struggle. 

I do want to celebrate this day, there are real achievements and changes secured by Disabled people that deserve to be celebrated. 

Firstly, as a community of Disabled People’s User Led Organisations we should be proud of what we accomplished during the pandemic. Local, regional and national DPULOs across the country transformed the way they worked, focussed their attention on the needs of Disabled people and provided an incredible level of support when people needed it most. At DR UK we set up Our Voices group so that we could hear from and support DPULO leaders. They were able to tell us, in real time, the impact of lack of access to food, no guidance around safety and lack of PPE and Do No Resuscitate instructions added to records without consent.

Secondly, in my role at DR UK I meet Disabled people around the country who are not activists but who are living our values and demonstrating the truth of our arguments. People who have broken through to the public’s consciousness like Samantha Renke. Business people like Matt Pierre who set up Sociability or Martin Sibley, founder of Purple Goat. People who see industry’s lack of inclusivity as a business opportunity to be grasped by Disabled businesses. 

The International Day of Disabled people will not change our lives this year nor any other year. It is, however, a moment to reflect on our losses, our success and to remember that we are stronger when we add our voices together. Join our movement today, become a member, sign up for our e-news and together let’s make sure we have more to celebrate on 3rd December 2022. We are here and we belong.

A wheelchair user's shadow on a paved area with the word "Here" in large lettering on the ground. The shadow is stretched towards the words.