Morven Brooks, Chief Executive of Disability Equality Scotland, introduces their manifesto ahead of the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections.
Our mission at Disability Equality Scotland is to give all disabled people in Scotland a voice with trust, care and empathy. We use what we hear to advocate for and enable change to improve lives.
Disabled people face inequality and discrimination across all facets of society. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified existing inequalities and continues to pose significant challenges to policy makers. At the beginning of the crisis, we worked with our members to identify their main concerns. Our initial baseline survey highlighted the impacts on health (both mental and physical), access to essential supplies, changes to care packages, social issues such as isolation, services available and information received.
Our popular weekly poll format has proved invaluable in gaining further insight from disabled people throughout the pandemic. One notable weekly poll regarding physical distancing generated over 900 responses, with an overwhelming majority (99%) stating they had experienced difficulties. This included Infrastructure barriers, with pavements not being wide enough, challenges related to food shopping, and the attitudes and behaviours of members of the public towards disabled people resulting in instances of hate crime.
Disabled people need to be involved at every stage in decisions that affect them. In co-production with our members we have developed our Manifesto for Change: 10 Priorities for Disabled People in Scotland. Whilst taking into consideration the immediate concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, we also want to highlight a number of key concepts and policy areas that are vital to ensuring that disabled people can access and participate fully in society.
Ahead of next year’s Scottish Parliament elections, we are calling on all political parties to commit to the following priorities, which will assist in providing disabled people with a voice at the centre of government:
- Social Model of Disability: Proposes that what makes someone disabled is not their medical condition, but the attitudes and structures of society.
- Protect Human Rights: We want to ensure that the rights of disabled people are fully protected and that they receive fair and equal treatment at all times.
- Inclusive Communication: Disabled people should have access to information and channels of communication that are inclusive and widely available in formats that meet their needs.
- Opportunities for Employment: We want to see the disability employment gap reduced by at least 50%, where disabled people are recruited or supported to remain in meaningful employment.
- Support for Access Panels: The Access Panel Network must be recognised as valuable contributors to consultations on planning applications lodged in local authority areas across Scotland.
- Equitable Social Care: Health and social care support services are designed to meet – and do meet – the individual needs and outcomes of disabled people.
- Accessible Transport: Disabled people should have an accessible and affordable transport system, designed and developed in partnership with disabled people.
- Access to Justice: Disability Equality Scotland wants to see an increase in awareness of disability hate crime, including how it can be recognised and reported.
- Active Participation: There must be increased opportunities for disabled people to meaningfully participate and engage in local and national discussions, strengthening the Democracy Matters agenda.
- Supporting Young People: Young disabled people should be supported in their transition to adulthood through opportunities to influence policy, direct support, counselling, training and choice of opportunity.
To find out more about Disability Equality Scotland and our Manifesto for Change, visit our website: www.disabilityequality.scot/manifesto (this link will take you away from our website).