Tag Archives: disability

Global Disability Summit

People with disabilities account for 1 billion of the world’s population. Too often they are among the most marginalised and discriminated against groups – and too often international development efforts have continued to leave them behind.

The upcoming Global Disability Summit, held in London on 24th July, is a chance to change this by building on the work of Liberal Democrats in government to promote disability-inclusive development. The Summit, hosted by DFID, the government of Kenya, and the International Disability Alliance will be the first of its kind with attendees from governments and NGOs from across the world.

A liberal worldview recognises the inherent value of every individual, and as Liberal Democrats, we must challenge the inequalities faced by people with disabilities in developing countries.

In government, the Liberal Democrats helped lead the change on disability-inclusive development. Lynne Featherstone championed the rights of people with disabilities during her time at DFID. Her work led to the ground-breaking Disability Framework – putting disability at the heart of what DFID does and ensuring it moved from a ‘tick box exercise’ to being mainstreamed across all of DFID’s work.

It’s common sense that all programmes should reach people with disabilities – schools should be accessible, healthcare inclusive, stigma challenged – the individual recognised and given the opportunity to flourish.

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Temporary reprieve for funds for disabled election candidates

Last month, David Buxton wrote about how the Government’s freezing of the Access to Elected Office Fund meant that he simply couldn’t stand in the 2017 General Election:

For the 2015 General Election, I obtained a grant of £40,000 from the Access to Elected Office Fund, which I used to participate in the Liberal Democrat candidate-selection process. But I could not have participated without the Fund’s support.

And​, last year,​ I was effectively barred from standing in the 2017 General Election because of the absence of the Fund.Many o​ther deaf and disabled candidates from ​the Lib Dems and from ​other parties ​are affected too, ​including Emily Brothers from Labour who is blind, ​and Simeon Hart for the Greens who is deaf, both of whom feature in the More United campaign​.​

The Access to Elected Office Fund used to help deaf and disabled people from all political parties, to stand for election, at any level. It ran from 2012-2015, and was intended to create a level playing field, given the additional costs that disabled people can incur when standing for election.

British Sign Language Interpreters, assistive technology for blind people and mobility transport all cost money. But the Fund was frozen, put “under review”, in 2015.

That review has not been conducted or completed, and the Fund has not been re-opened. The Fund has now been closed for longer than it was open so we are calling on the Government to restore it with immediate effect.

More United ran a campaign to restore the fund and Lib Dem MPs, including Christine Jardine and Stephen Lloyd, wrote to the Government to tell them of the importance of supporting disabled candidates.

This week, they won a legal challenge and secured the fund for the 2019 elections.

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A new campaign to restore the political disability fund

I’m taking part in a campaign launched by the cross-party group More United today, to restore the fund that supports deaf and disabled people into political office and I’m asking you to join me by sharing this video and signing the petition here​​

This campaign matters a lot to me. And this is why.

I was the first deaf British Sign Language-user elected to public office, when I was elected as a London Borough councillor in 1990 and again as a District Borough Councillor in 2007.  From 1992, I lobbied Parliament and ministers to provide greater funding for candidates with disabilities. In 1997 and 2001, I stood for Parliament on a self-funded basis, raising money to pay for BSL interpreters and support in written English.

For the 2015 General Election, I obtained a grant of £40,000 from the Access to Elected Office Fund, which I used to participate in the Liberal Democrat candidate-selection process. But I could not have participated without the Fund’s support.

And​, last year,​ I was effectively barred from standing in the 2017 General Election because of the absence of the Fund.

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Sal Brinton talks of being stuck in House of Lords as peer refused to move to let her past

The House of Lords debated the proposed works to the Palace of Westminster this week.

Sal Brinton took advantage of the opportunity to make a plea for the refurbished Parliament to be properly accessible. She highlighted some of the ways in which the current set-up fails disabled people. She also spoke of an experience where one peer wouldn’t actually let her past to leave a Lords debate, making her late for a meeting.

My Lords, in the wonderful elegance of parliamentary language, we have talked much already about “patch and mend”. The restoration and renewal of the buildings and the facilities in the Palace of Westminster are vital and urgent and I believe that we need to use much franker language given the neglect of the past. I support the Motion and oppose the amendment. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, that 20 years ago I was bursar of Selwyn College, Cambridge, when we needed to renew and restore our main court that had seen little—frankly, virtually no—maintenance and progress since it was built a century before. Student rooms still had gas and electric fires and the electric cabling was on its last legs, with much of the urgent work not visible or easily accessible. Does this sound familiar?

Since Selwyn was the poorest college and had very little resource to invest over the years in the buildings, the “patch and mend” approach was clearly failing us. We knew we had to do the work in one go, no matter how disruptive it was. We were also clear that we had to ensure it did not happen again, and that maintenance must be built into the future life of the buildings. This is also true for the Palace of Westminster after this major work. What steps are being taken to ensure that detailed maintenance costs of the building, and not just the ordinary life of the building, are being built into the baseline budget and then ring-fenced? The future of this historic and important building is just too important to get wrong.

When my noble friend Lady Thomas of Winchester, who cannot be in her place today but I hope will soon be able to rejoin us, gave evidence to the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster, she spoke for many of us who face accessibility issues in the Palace. I am grateful that the Joint Committee has taken the evidence on accessibility from a number of people, but I seek reassurance that there really will be a step change under the full decant option. It is not a “nice to have” option, and now is the best time to do the core work. So I am pleased to see in paragraph 7 of the Motion that there will be,

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Lack of Services for Disabled Children – Parliamentary Campaign Launch

Yesterday, the Disabled Children’s Partnership campaign was launched in parliament. Lib Dem Leader Vince Cable came along to show his support, as well as many other MPs, peers, charities and family representatives. I was also pleased that former Care Minister Norman Lamb MP, was also able to come meet families. 

The Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP) is an exciting new coalition of over 50 disability and children’s charities. I sit on their Public Policy Group as a member of the Fragile X

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Baroness Celia Thomas writes…Disability rights and Labour wrongs

Who would have thought that a valuable addition to the Licensing Act which would have made life better for disabled people had been scuppered by Labour Peers?  And yet that is what happened on Wednesday evening.

The amendment, which sought to improve the accessibility of licensed entertainment premises (pubs, clubs, restaurants etc.) for disabled people, was tabled by the Chair of the Lords Equality and Disability Committee, Baroness Deech, a crossbencher, and signed by me, as Liberal Democrat Disability Spokesperson, a Labour Peer and another crossbencher.

The Committee, which was set up last year at my suggestion, to look at how the Equality Act was working for disabled people, took evidence from, amongst many others, local authorities and from the National Association of Licence and Enforcement Officers. They were keen to help make premises more accessible but said they needed a small addition to the licensing objectives in the Licensing Act to be able to take action. Without the amendment, a licensing authority can only ‘suggest’ the provision of a ramp, for example, or that a restaurant should not store toilet rolls in the disabled toilet thus making it unusable.  With the amendment, the licensee would be told that if no reasonable adjustments were made, the licence would be in danger of being lost.  

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Supporting vision rehabilitation

All councils in England provide a service called vision rehabilitation which offers crucial training and advice to people living with sight loss. Evidence shows that many blind and partially sighted people are failing to receive vital vision rehabilitation support. RNIB’s current campaign, See, Plan and Provide, is calling for improved access to vision rehabilitation assessments and support.

Vision rehabilitation provides crucial training and advice to people experiencing sight loss. This includes support to help them live in their home safely and negotiate the many obstacles and risks in the external environment. It gives people the skills and confidence to maximise …

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Compelling portrait of a disabled person who was one of the USA’s greatest Presidents

BBC 4 have surpassed themselves with “World War Two: 1945 & The Wheelchair President”. Professor David Reynolds presents a remarkably gripping and informed biography of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, focussing mainly on the final year of his life. It’s a must-see for any politics anorak and is available for the next 20 days here.

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Sal Brinton on the change of attitude needed so that disabled people can start to live their lives

Sal Brinton was part of the House of Lords Committee which produced today’s report which reviewed the impact of the Equality Act 2010 on disabled people. Its conclusions were pretty damning. It’s worth setting out in full the five major themes that they identified:

First, in planning services and buildings, despite the fact that for twenty years the law has required anticipatory reasonable adjustment, the needs of disabled people still tend to be an afterthought. It is time to reverse this. We are all living longer, and medical advances are keeping us alive where in earlier years it would have failed to do so, but not necessarily in good health. We should from the outset plan for the inevitability of disability in everyone as they get older, as well as for those who suffer accidents and for all those other disabled people who are the subject of our inquiry.

Our second theme, closely related to the first, is the need to be proactive, rather than reactive or process driven. Many of those involved—Government departments, local authorities, the NHS, schools, courts, businesses, all of us—wait for problems to arise before, at best, attempting to remedy them. We should be planning so that disabled people can as far as possible avoid facing the problems in the first place.

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Disability is nothing to hide, so let’s not act like it is

Henry and Natasha campaignAs a candidate for my home town in May’s local elections, I’ve helped residents fight for repairs to roads, I’ve lobbied for more action on dog mess and I’ve campaigned to prevent closures to residential homes.

As a blind candidate for my home town in May’s local elections, I’ve done all this while helping changing a few attitudes along the way. I spoke here about a mother who was delighted to see someone like her visually impaired daughter standing for election but a lot more has happened too – I’ve even received messages from young disabled people saying that me standing is a confidence boost for them.

I’m sure many readers will agree with me that standing for election is a mix of emotions – there are ups and there are downs.

But after the diversity debate, there’s a particular part of being a blind candidate that needs to be tackled head on – and so I turn to Lib Dem Voice.

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Baroness Liz Barker writes: The Tory threat to UK foreign policy

Lynne Featherstone and Lindsay Northover were outstanding DfID Ministers. During their tenure, with the support of Liberal Democrats in both houses, and throughout the party, for the first time,  radical commitments such as an to end Female Genital Mutilation by 30% by 2018 were included in UK Government policy.  Furthermore, those Liberal Democrat ministers, insisted that commitments to the rights of LGBT people and people with disabilities be central to FCO and DfID policy and programmes.

They did so, not just because of our unshakeable commitment to human rights, but because the UK’s unique history with the Commonwealth nations and relationships with European partners, give an unparalleled position from which to be an influence for good in the world.

This summer, the UK government has an opportunity to attend the 2016 Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference,  which will be co-hosted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of Uruguay. It will involve the main international donors who support and fund LGBTI programmes.  It is a rare opportunity for the UK government to leverage the political commitment of the coalition government by involving other governments,  and the private sector,  in developing good practice guidance on funding, supporting NGOs to bring about change on difficult subjects. 

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Opinion: Enablement For All

I had the opportunity to tour a small business this week which makes cutting-edge prosthetic devices.  It was fascinating – technology nowadays has moved on so much that electronic sensors in an artificial foot can detect when you stub your toe on a curb and compensate for your loss of balance so that the foot/prosthetic device stays stable and you don’t fall.

We are all familiar with international athletes, ‘bladerunners’, who are able to achieve so much in their sport because of the specialist blade limbs that enable them to compete at the highest level.  What I wasn’t aware of was swimming ‘flipper’ limbs are also available, and a range of other devices.  This company makes all of them, enabling those who have been in road accidents or lost limbs through illness or in war, to live their lives to the full.  I came away in wonder, having seen how the devices are made out of sheets of plastic draped over moulds, simple materials changing peoples’ lives.

Enablement.  It is, in my opinion, what the Liberal Democrats are all about.  We exist to create a “fair, free and open society” and we value “liberty and equality.”  We enable.

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In full: Baroness Northover’s speech to launch the DFID disability framework

Lindsay NorthoverBaroness Northover is parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for International Development. Here is the speech she made today, in the Houses of Parliament, to launch the DFID disabilty framework:

I’m delighted to be here with you today, to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Although the UK Department for International Development and many of you in this room have been increasingly focused on disability inclusion in recent years, it is now that we are really beginning to see this issue get the attention it deserves.

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Martin Horwood writes … an important day for disability and international development

A Remarkable Young ManSelect committee reports are often considered to be rather dry, even to the most politically active among us, which is why I feel particularly compelled to highlight the 11th report of the International Development CommitteeDisability and development.

The select committee decided to hold this inquiry because they had been told repeatedly by organisations like Sightsavers that our country’s aid system was not delivering for disabled people overseas. Lynne Featherstone also paid attention to these organisations and started championing the rights of disabled people in her first year as a minister, describing disability as the great neglected subject in international development.

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Baroness Sal Brinton writes…Disabled rail travel: We’re not just treated like second class citizens, we’re treated like packages

Link is Very Friendly to WheelchairsWhen people in wheelchairs meet one another, disabled travel experiences are a frequent topic of conversation. Rail, buses or taxi we have often encountered brilliant helpful staff, but frankly, sometimes appalling service.

My train commuter run to Parliament from Watford Junction to Euston is usually very smooth, with unfailingly helpful London Midland and National Rail assistance staff, but both stations are staffed for as long as trains are running. Unstaffed stations can be really patchy.

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The Independent View: Improving the lives of disabled people is essential for a stronger economy and fairer society

The role that Liberal Democrats play in drafting their party’s manifesto is unique in British politics.  So is the party’s approach to disability.

At the 2010 General Election the Liberal Democrats were the only party to produce a manifesto for disabled people. This pledged better employment support and improved recording of disability hate crime.

And in Government, the two Coalition Ministers responsible for social care reform are from Lib Dem benches – Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb.  Their commitment to improving social care support for disabled people has been clear.

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LibLink: Lynne Featherstone in New York for the Commission on the Status of Women

New york police  Some rights reserved by Amiga-Commodore Development Minister Lynne Featherstone spent two days in New York earlier this week at the United Nation’s annual Commission on the Status of Women. She posted a series of blogs from the Big Apple. Here are some highlights.

Day One:

I’ll be attending a whole load of events as well as talking to my counterparts from around the world to ensure the CSW negotiations lead to a

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Martin Horwood MP writes…Putting people with disabilities into the international development picture

One year after her appointment as the first ever Liberal Democrat minister at the Department for International Development (DfID), Lynne Featherstone has already earned a reputation for picking up difficult subjects and setting ambitious goals. In her first year, she put the issue of female genital mutilation on the national and international agenda and famously declared that she wanted to see it gone within a generation and then started to take the practical steps to make that happen.

Now Lynne has taken up another challenge for some of the world’s most vulnerable people: to champion the inclusion of people with disabilities. …

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Lynne Featherstone writes … My visit to Uganda: “Disability is not inability”

Lynne Featherstone in UgandaMore than one billion people worldwide – that’s 1 in 7 people – live with a disability. And last year’s Paralympics reminded us that people with disabilities can achieve incredible feats. But for every disabled person celebrated for their achievements, there are millions more in the developing world who are treated as sub-human, hidden from view and forgotten. They are the great neglect in international development and I am determined to right this wrong.

Last week, UK Paralympic wheelchair basketball star Ade Adepitan travelled with me to Uganda with …

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