Tuesday, 30 June 2009

UK ratifies the UN Disability Convention

At long last the UK have finally ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

After much stalling on the part of our Government, Jonathan Shaw, Minister for Disabled People announced on 8th June 2009 that the convention had been ratified and that the government were fully committed to its full implementation. In a statement to the House of Commons, he said:

"I am delighted to announce that later today the UK will ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in New York. In addition, we aim to start the Parliamentary process for ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention shortly.

"There are an estimated 650 million disabled people in the world, including over 10m in the UK. The UN Convention is a powerful and explicit statement that they have – and must be able to enjoy on an equal basis – the same human rights as others. The Convention is therefore a very significant landmark, both for disabled people and for Government and society as whole.

"Ratification of the Convention is further demonstration of the Government’s commitment to equality of human rights for disabled people, and of our determination to achieve equality by 2025."

The Convention is a major landmark as it is the first human rights treaty of the 21st Century and will hopefully ensure equality for all 650 million disabled people across the world. The convention focuses on ensuring that all disabled people are able to enjoy fundamental human rights and thus participate fully in society.

It is my opinion that the UK government took far too long in agreeing this Convention and I wholeheartedly supported the criticism directed at them for seeking a number of opt-out clauses regarding immigration, education and the armed forces. It would now seem that by ratifying this Convention, the Government has accepted their legal obligation to ensure that all necessary laws are passed.

Implementation now looms and this will be a challenging process that must involve the disabled community as a whole. Their voices must be heard in ensuring that equality becomes a standard rather than a privilege.

Monday, 22 June 2009

A Newsletter of Worth

My company, DP Consulting (Disability Equality Services) Limited regularly assesses how it can increase inclusion to mainstream activities and I believe that raising awareness of disability issues does just that.

As a new medium we have implemented an innovative E-Newsletter which, in our first issue focuses on Disabled People and Work. Firstly, we take a look at the situation with the Incapacity Benefit Reform. And the second article examines Disabled People's Job Prospects in a Recession.

As disability equality consultants, we are very keen for disabled people to live and work on an equal footing with their non-disabled counterparts. So these issues are very important to us.

Please take a look and I do hope you find this informative. If you wish to receive our E-Newsletter on a regular basis please contact murali@dpconsulting.org.uk with E-Newsletter in the subject line.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Disabled People’s Voice Becomes No More Than A Whisper – The Danger of The Equality Bill

The Government has published a single Equality Bill for the UK. If passed, this will bring disability, gender, race and other strands of discrimination within one piece of legislation. The proposals for the Bill also include some major changes to disability discrimination law but not necessarily for the better.

For many disabled people, the Equality Bill is oppressive and demeaning to disabled people. Our voice is lost in the confused and incoherent message caused by the integration of equality under one heading. What the Equality Bill fails to recognise is that whilst the strands of equality have a common aim, they are all very different and require many different approaches. The understanding of discrimination on the grounds of race or gender is far more known in the public domain than that of disability and under the Equality Bill, we have a real danger of the disabled people’s voice becoming little more than a whisper.

It has taken many campaigners many years to get where we are today with disability discrimination and changes have been slow to come. I, like many, doubt that I will see true equality for disabled people in my lifetime but I am determined to do all that I can to raise inclusion for all. The UK was very much forced to bring in the DDA but it has its limitations i.e. a requirement to make buildings accessible, but there was a more than liberal get-out clause and even more liberal lead-in times which allowed business managers to skirt around the issues. There has been little decisive action taken against offenders and we are still in a position whereby large areas of goods and services are unavailable to disabled people - some by direct discrimination i.e. non-accessible buildings and others by indirect discrimination such as no dropped kerbs etc.

The proposed Equality Bill attempts to level the playing field for all inequalities but somewhat leads to inconsistencies and there are ‘priority battles’ that have not been properly ironed out. The Equality Bill fails to address the many areas that disability reform requires and in doing so can only push back disabled equality rather than move it forward.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Assisted Suicide - A Personal View

Assisted Suicide” is the process by which an individual, who may otherwise be incapable, is provided with the means (drugs or equipment) to commit suicide. In some cases, the terms aid in dying or death with dignity are preferred. These terms are often used to draw a distinction from suicide”

Another emotive subject to say the least and this issue always provokes persuasive arguments on both sides of the debate with the difficult subject of disability and assisted dying often being raised in the media.

In 2008, the number of assisted suicides in Holland went up by 10% when compared to 2007. An annual report by five regional euthanasia vetting committees stated that 2,300 cases had been reported and that they expected a further increase in 2009. This clearly shows that there is a demand for this type of policy but is it right for us as a society to be accepting of this practice?

Often the pro-sided will argue that this allows someone to end their life with dignity and we should respect their decision. However, the issue with this type of policy is that you are effectively asking someone, usually a doctor to kill you and therefore the decision can no longer be just about “your choice and your life”. It very much involves other people namely a doctor, your family & friends and indeed society as a whole. Has society become that heartless that we allow a life to end under the disguise of compassion?

Looking deeper, as a society we have to establish why people consider this action and ultimately decide it is right for them. I understand and support every person’s right to choice and the freedom to live their lives how they see fit but I strongly believe that assisted suicide poses a real danger to disabled people. The focus has to be on the disabled person’s quality of life and who has the right to make decisions about their importance to society. It is a real concern that pressure or intimidation may be used to “force” disabled people to consider assisted suicide when we should, in fact, be supporting them to understand how invaluable they are and how they can reach their true potential.

Quality of life is very individual and ultimately it is more about our frame of mind rather than the things we have but this is not unique to disabled people but all of society. As we travel through the journey of life, as humans we regularly re-assess our lives and our priorities change – what once seemed important becomes less so and things we thought we had plenty of time to do suddenly become imperative.

Living with a disability needs a time of reflection but no more than experiencing a divorce, the death of a loved one or even redundancy. The timescale of this reflection is personal with some needing longer than others but after this process we are left with a sense of our own self-worth – of knowing our own importance – and re-defining our self-esteem.

It is easy during our darkest moments to look for a “get out” clause and I believe that assisted suicide may just be that. The sad and cold hard fact is that once you take this route there is no turning back. It will be too late to realise just how we impact on those we care about and society in general.

In an ideal world, we would all be able to be “James Stewart” living “Our Wonderful Life” moment and seeing how our very existence is intricately woven into the lives of others but in real life this does not happen and we have to embrace the challenges that life throws at us – the very good and the very bad.

Grab life and live it to its fullest.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Stem Cell Research

Stem Cell Research is a very emotive subject and for many it falls down to the ethics of the research but I want to look at the idea of this type of research from someone living with a disability namely ME!

Firstly, we have to establish what Stem Cell Research actually is;

“Stem cells are thought to hold huge potential for treating a wide range of disease and disability. Scientists around the world are working on techniques to refine stem cell therapy. Theoretically, it should be possible to use stem cells to generate healthy tissue to replace that either damaged by trauma, or compromised by disease.

Among the conditions which scientists believe may eventually be treated by stem cell therapy are Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, burns and spinal cord damage”.(Source)

Secondly, we have to establish a view point. Whilst I appreciate the advantages of this research for people who wish to benefit from this type of change, for me personally, I am “against” the idea. But why?

Surely this type of research may find a treatment to my condition?

Stem Cell Research falls very definitely into that of the Medical Model of Disability. The perception is disabled people experience a medical condition and medicine is for treating people who experience illness. As a disabled person, I am perceived as being ill and must be treated. The Medical Model of Disability creates the perception of ‘normalcy” but why should we all be the same?

What it fails to consider is that my disability is me. Without it I would not be who I am or why I am. My disability has developed my personality and the growth of me as an individual. I am part of a community and part of a culture. Stem Cell Research may well be able to “cure” me but I don’t want to be “cured” and I do not want to see the eradication of the disability community.

Instead of Stem Cell Research, we should be trying to establish the Social Model of Disability and Accessibility far more widely in our society. The support of equal rights for all disabled people is a far more worthy direction to take than Stem Cell Research.

I find myself unable to support Stem Cell Research for the very reason that my disability is ME. Take away my disability and you take away the very essence of who I am.