Activists fighting for the rights of women, Black people, gay, lesbian and transgender people and for the environment have promoted their causes and won victories by using publicity. But what about those of us who are Disabled?
According to the 2021 Census, we constitute about 18% (10.4 million) of the UK population and yet, in my view, we are largely ignored and our rights are repeatedly denied. By failing to recognise our needs, institutions and organisations actually make things far worse.
For example, Sainsbury’s decision to remove staff-operated tills from its Camden Town shop has caused immense problems for those with visual, cognitive and mobility impairments. We are unable to operate the automated scanning tills without assistance so have been effectively prevented from using this shop now.
Meanwhile, a lone parent friend of mine with mental health problems was evicted from her flat on the basis of the no fault legislation. The Council “rehoused” her in hotels many miles from her child’s school in Haverstock and her local support network. In addition, she had to move hotels every nine days. After some six moves she eventually got a flat near the school but only after pressure from local councillors.
I’ve had my own challenges as someone living with visual and mobility impairments. My application for a blue badge has repeatedly been hampered by such hurdles as having to prove again and again where I live, even though it’s been my home for over two decades and Council has documentation showing this.
Thanks to Councillors Revah and Atolagbe, Chairs of the Council’s Disability Panel, individual cases like those mentioned above have been addressed and gross intransigence and long delays by council officers have been overcome.
But much time is wasted on individual cases when what is needed is system changes. In part these can only be brought about by publicity and public action. These are the methods used so effectively by other groups with protected characteristics. In my view, Camden Disability Action (CDA) could and should be playing a major role in doing this kind of work.
Its protest about the refusal of London Transport to install a lift at Kentish Town Tube got wide local press coverage and attracted support from non-Disabled people. I think it should be doing more protests like that and publicity stunts or actions as well. The removal of the staffed tills at Sainsburys and the refurbishment of the Town Hall are the kind of events that offer a golden opportunity for CDA to take action and get into the public eye.
In my humble opinion we will get nowhere without such action. Posting stories on this site is fine, but how many people read them? Coverage in the mainstream media of CDA’s efforts to support Disabled people’s struggle for equality could the explain to non-Disabled people what CDA does and the discrimination Disabled people face every day of our lives.