International Day of People with Disabilities

International Day of People with Disabilities

This Saturday we mark the International Day of People with Disabilities – a day designed to mark the rights, equality, equity and wellbeing of Disabled people in all areas of life.

Those with disabilities are now facing the most punitive living conditions in generations. The UK Government talks of ‘protecting the most vulnerable’. This is what protection looks like for Disabled people:

  • The cost of living outpacing inflation with no benefit increases until Spring, when inflation will be even higher.
  • Energy bills out of control, to the extent that the ludicrous question of heat or eat has been extended to heat, eat or lifesaving equipment on or off and the prospect of even middle income homes expending a third of their income on fuel.
  • A lack of carer availability.
  • A lack of home and care assessments for months on end.
  • An acute lack of affordable housing.
  • An acute lack of accessible housing.
  • Pay and employment disparities.
  • Surging hate crime against Disabled people.
  • Declining transport support, to maintain freedom and to live independent lives.
  • Local authority support services slashed to the bone or removed entirely.
  • A lack of access in every public sphere, from shopping centres to Parliament.

The theme of this year’s Day is Hidden Disabilities. Disabled people make up the largest minority in the UK – over a fifth, but remain hidden from public perception. Those who are seen are too often expected to have visible signifiers; – a walking cane, special glasses, a wheelchair – and yet 70-80% of disabilities are invisible. It is time to trust those when they say they are Disabled. It is time to believe them, listen to their needs, and rise up as a society to meet those needs.

Very few of us are leaving this world without becoming Disabled. If injury or illness doesn’t make us Disabled, old age is highly likely to do so. Nearly every one of the 79% of non-disabled people is pre-disabled. To look disability in the eye is to look ourselves, and our future selves, in the eye. This is the time to look – to see, to listen, and to recognise and honour Disabled people as fully included members of society.

These mark-the-day days can feel like tokenism. But this year, more than any other year in living memory, this day needs to be treated as a spotlight, shining not just on those with disabilities, but on the Government – a light of inquisition, asking: what are you doing for those with disabilities? What will you do for them? Look at them. Do you see them?

Disabled people have remarkable resilience, ingenuity, worth, and value. But they need the resources to make them thrive and shine. They need more than protection. They need to be seen, heard and valued.

This Saturday, those with disabilities will stand, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, a billion worldwide. They will say to their nations’ governments: “we will not fall silent. We will not be ignored. We will not stand for being left behind. This is our day – look at us, stand with us, see us, hear us.”