This year, as part of the events for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2016, the United Nations (UN) wants to look, amongst other areas, at the success or otherwise of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD, which I shall abbreviate to UNCRPD).
If you have been following my blog, you are probably aware that the UN decided to investigate the United Kingdom for "grave and systematic violations" of UNCRPD, which they upheld.
According to the BBC:
UK welfare reforms have led to "grave and systematic violations" of disabled people's rights, a UN inquiry has said. [Link is to 22-page report from the UN's Committee in pdf format]Changes to benefits "disproportionately affected" disabled people, the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled Persons (CRPD) found. [7th November 2016]
The UK is the only country to have been investigated thus far, as the threshold for investigation is set very high and huge amounts of data and reports have to be amassed prior to any investigation even being considered. UK charities, think-tanks and disabled persons' organisations (DPOs), inter alia, submitted the required information, and continue to submit same for matters continue to pejorate for those of us with disabilities here in the UK. The UN's CRPD committee made several recommendations to the UK government. Lamentably, the Conservative, often referred to as Tory, government refused point-blank to accept a single one of them. The committee apparently will be reviewing the UK government's response in March 2017 at a meeting in Geneva.
[Image description: © AltrinchamHQ's own image of the cobbles]
Another area the UN wants to look at this year is the accessibility or otherwise of the built environment, specifically in towns and cities. In the past couple of years my lovely hometown of Altrincham has undergone many changes to the built environment. Prior to commencing the works, residents and users of the town's facilities were asked to comment on planned changes. As a disabled person I put my concerns to the researchers and to the councillor-in-charge and enquired as to what account had been taken of disabled and/or elderly folks' needs, etc. The councillor failed to see any need to look into how all this might effect disabled folk (thus completely ignoring the requirements of UK disability legislation). I can no longer frequent one of my favourite eateries, The House Restaurant & Wine Bar as the ability to park close by has been removed (a loss of amenity). Despite making two freedom of information (FOI) requests, I never heard a dicky-bird. Alas I have long bouts of illness, which means I could not and cannot currently pursue this failure.
One of Altrincham's major stores is Marks & Spencer (M&S). The Council decided to remove the paving in front of the shop and along much of the main pedestrianised street and replace with a cobbled surface. Whilst not the traditional smooth-stoned cobbles, which can be lethal to traverse, they are small, rough-textured oblongs (see image above). I had to wait until this past Summer to try to walk on them, as much of the year I have to use my wheelchair. I find it very difficult to raise my legs when I "walk", rather I shuffle like many an elderly person. Alas, it is impossible to shuffle across the new cobbles. I can now no longer enter M&S under my own steam and independently. I actually moved from my former home in Sale to Altrincham to get away from a cobbled street upon which I kept falling. I wonder how many other disabled or elderly folk have reduced or stopped visiting the town?
[Image description: screen-shot from AltrinchamHQ's faceboo page]
The organisation in charge of Altrincham's town-centre, AltrinchamHQ, could not even be bothered to respond to my comments (see above), despite replying to many others. This is the same town-centre with a multi-storey car-park with allocated disabled bays (fantastic) close by to the lifts (elevators) that transport one to the shopping level. Fabulous one might think? Except, between the parking-bays and the lifts are manually operated doors - not electric with a push-button to open them. So, one has to await an able-bodied person to come along to let one in. In short, tokenism towards those with impairments.
A further example of poor planning are pedestrian islands in the centre of roads built to such a stupid design that a person in a wheelchair or mobility-scooter cannot safely pass someone with a pram and similar.
In a nearby town, Knutsford, a recently constructed café was built without a lift to enable disabled or infirm or elderly folk to access the actual facilities, despite the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) having been passed in 1995! (This was replaced in 2010 by the Equality Act.)
No-one seems to ever bother to check real-world usage.
The UK planning system does not in fact expect local authorities to consider the needs and requirements of disabled folk. Rather, it is expected that disabled folk will take legal action once any building has been constructed. This to any sensible-minded person is farcical. However, the authorities rely on folk not taking legal action/s. Such has become much more difficult due to Legal Aid changes introduced by the former Conservative-led and current Conservative governments.
From my perspective, as a disabled person born and residing in England, the United Kingdom as a whole, is not currently a great place to be a person with disability. Great strides were taken in opening access to society prior to 2010, but since then the deterioration has been shockingly rapid.
The Centre for Welfare Reform attempted to do a cumulative impact assessment (cia) using all available data. They discovered:
For political reasons, the costs of this debt is primarily being paid by people in poverty, by disabled people and by other vulnerable groups. As we have explained:People in poverty are targeted 5 times more than most other citizensDisabled people are targeted 9 times more
People with the severest needs are targeted 19 times more
In other words the attacks by government on disabled folk are deliberate. And they continue…