SPECTRUM 2017 Disability Manifesto out now!

There are more than 13.3 million Disabled People and people with long-term health conditions in the UK – a very sizeable part of the electorate in 2017.

We believe it is essential for Disabled People’s voices to be heard in the debates around the 2017 General Election – not only because they represent a large number of votes but, more importantly, because they are deeply affected by so many of the key issues at the heart of political debate.

On the 25th May 2017, SPECTRUM Centre for Independent Living will be launching our Disabled People’s DISABILITY MANIFESTO – a pragmatic and realistic range of proposals which shows how the Government, any Government, could address the unfairness, the indignities and the discrimination that Disabled People have faced because of austerity measures.manifestocover2017


The launch of the DISABILITY Manifesto will be the start of our campaign to bring the needs, and the solutions that Disabled People are proposing, to the eyes and minds of the electorate, and into the minds of politicians and policy makers.


Is “Special Educational Needs” a term that should be used in 2013?

inclusion_symbolTo begin our series of blog posts on Inclusion in Education, Berni Vincent discusses the term ‘Special Educational Needs’….

There was a time when User Led Organisations (ULOs) would ardently debate the use of terms and language that present an inaccurate and disempowering image of Disabled People.

In recent times ULO have been forced to focus limited resources and energy on maintaining survival with no guarantee that future funding will be available. This has meant that debates on language and other issues related to ULOs’ history and philosophy have more often than not taken a back seat as we struggle to just survive.

In such difficult times when user led organisations are struggling to survive and Disabled People face cuts to support packages and disability hate crime is on the rise, it is even more important that we get back to basics and debate the issues so that we can understand where negative language came from and how it feeds into the stereotypes that society has of Disabled People.

Term like ‘Special Educational needs’ is one such hot potato that in days gone by was avoided by ULOs and replaced for the preferred term ‘inclusion in education – a term that represents involvement in the educational process rather than putting the focus inappropriately on special.

Despite some positive developments in the area of supported education Government departments continue to use the term ‘Special Educational Needs’.  One example being The Department of Education consultation report (March 2011) “Support aspirations a new approach” which is littered with positive aspirations. Labelling Disabled People as having special educational needs seems to take little account that in the midst of terminology there is a unique human being who just happens to need support with accessing the barriers in education.

How do ULOs get back to a place where we can debate the key issues. What does special needs have to do with education? Have our needs as disabled people changed? Is it ever appropriate for a ULO to use this term and if it is how can we communicate this in a way that stays true to our philosophy and educates and avoids alienating those less politically informed organisations that we approach for funding and rely on. Send us your comments through the blog or tweet @SPECTRUMCil using the hashtag #InclEd

ULOs need to be seen as organisations that are not fearful of looking at different sides of an argument. Reflection and debate is necessary to organisations. We have a responsibility to educate, share history to grow and evolve future generations, newcomers and developing leaders.

Berni Vincent July 2013

Breathing New Life into Personalisation

The Hampshire PEP are pleased to announce that their Conference this year will be held on the 20th of March in Winchester, featuring a wide range of speakers, including Michelle Daley, Bob Rhodes, Shahana Ramsden and Sarah Carr.

We hope to be able to show people that personalisation is not just about social care, but is also affecting the way people get support in education and employment. There will be plenty of interactive workshops throughout the day, as well as an opportunity to question our expert speakers and  the Director of Hampshire Adult Services, Gill Duncan.

We are sure it will be an informative day as well as being a lot of fun. It is also a great way to meet other people and network and we hope it will encourage more people to get involved in User Led Organisations in Hampshire, Southampton and Portsmouth.

For more information, please download our joining pack with all the details of how you can be part of this exciting event.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @HantsPEP

Disability Agenda Sets Worthy Goals

On February 14, the Disability Rights Commission launched what will probably be its last major inititative before it is merged into the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights in October 2007.

The Disability Agenda sets out what the DRC consider to be the major public policy challenges that Britain is facing and the action required to meet them.  These include promoting a culture of human rights and equality, bringing an end to child poverty, increasing life chances through learning and skills, ending poverty and widening employment opportunity, increasing participation in public, civic and community life, developing a social care system fit for the future, tackling health inequality, meeting the future housing challenge and building stronger safer communities. 

All very worthy aims and remarkably similar to the 12 basic rights that SCIL adopted 20 years ago. Although at first glance, the agenda just looked like a bunch of worthy aims but with no substance, the DRC has drawn up a list of recommendations for each aim, which hopefully both central and local government as well as others will consider when drawing up their future strategic plans.

It is still unclear how much attention the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights will give to disability issues but hopefully the Disability Agenda will be adopted by the new Commission and others in an effort to effect change over the next 10 years.

UN Convention Adopted To Protect Equality Of Disabled People

Yesterday, The United Nations General Assembly adopted a landmark disability convention, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities the first human rights treaty of the twenty-first century and one that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said represents the “dawn of a new era” for around 650 million Disabled People worldwide.

‘Today promises to be the dawn of a new era – an era in which Disabled People will no longer have to endure the discriminatory practices and attitudes that have been permitted to prevail for all too long. This Convention is a remarkable and forward-looking document,” Mr. Annan said in a speech read out by Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown.

The convention sets out in detail the rights of disabled people. It covers civil and political rights, accessibility, participation and inclusion, education, health, employment and social protection.
The convention also recognises that attitudes need to change if disabled people are to achieve equality.
 It will be open for signature and ratification on
30 March 2007, and will enter into force after it has been ratified by 20 countries. 

The convention recognises the social model’s definition of disability. It states that ‘disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others’. Despite this, the convention continually uses ‘people with disabilities’ rather than the term ‘Disabled People’  

The convention runs to fifty articles although article 19 may be of particular interest to blog readers as it is entitled ‘Living independently and being included in the community’. It says:

‘States Parties to this Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that:

(a) Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement;

(b) Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community;

(c) Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities and are responsive to their needs.’

Article 24 covers Education and emphasises that Disabled People should be able to ‘access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live.’, and that they ‘receive the support required, within the general education system, to facilitate their effective education;’

The convention as a whole makes interesting reading and of further interest will be how quickly countries ratify the convention and what effect it will have, around the world, to protect Disabled People’s human rights. 

Will Disability Issues Become A Family Affair For Next PM?

A possible turning point occurred this week in terms of the fight for Disability Equality in the United Kingdom. It wasn’t a new piece of legislation, it wasn’t the launch of a new Commission, it was the fact that we became aware that two of the most powerful figures in the UK political arena have Disabled Children.

David Cameron and Son

David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, has a Disabled son who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and this week it was revealed that Gordon Brown’s four month old son has cystic fibrosis. We are therefore in a possibly unique position where who ever is the next Prime Minister will have hopefully a greater understanding of Disabled People and the discrimination and barriers that are faced by Disabled people every day.

Now, I am not suggesting that David and Gordon will naturally support all the aims and objectives of the Disability Movement and our fight is far from won. For example David Cameron feels special schools should stay open as a way to preserve “parental choice”. However, hopefully now Disability issues will be seen as important and not seen just as a good opportunity for a nice photo shoot with a bunch of crips.

This is not about nepotism either. It is just human nature that if you have personal experience of something, that you are more likely to have an opinion, and less likely to let ill-informed advisers tell you that there’s no problem.

Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister, it will be interesting to see whether in five years, Gordon and David’s personal experiences with their children will have influenced their policy making regarding disability issues.

Active Euthanasia for Disabled Babies Being Considered

Thirty three years ago on November 5th 1973, I was born in Frimley Park Hospital. It was immediately obvious that I was disabled and my mother was advised on more than one occasion to leave me at the hospital and forget about me. As is very common, doctors told my mother a series of negative predictions about my future. Apparently, I would be blind, deaf, have epilepsy, never be able to talk or communicate. They even used the classic ‘he’ll be a cabbage’ line.

So why am I telling you all this? Last Sunday was my thirty third birthday and flicking through the papers I was horrified but unfortunately not that surprised to read that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology is calling on the health profession to consider permitting the euthanasia of seriously disabled newborn babies. Apparently the college is arguing that “active euthanasia” should be considered for the overall good of families, to spare parents the emotional burden and financial hardship of bringing up the sickest babies.“A very disabled child can mean a disabled family,” the report says.

One contributor to the Sunday Times article, John Harris, a member of the government’s Human Genetics Commission and professor of bioethics at Manchester University argued “We can terminate for serious foetal abnormality up to term but cannot kill a newborn. What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it okay to kill the foetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?”  The saying ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ springs to mind. There seems to be very little appreciation amongst the medical profession that people with impairments can enjoy a good quality of life and contribute to the richness of the society in which we live.

The Nuffield Council of Bioethics are publishing their report ‘Critical care decisions in fetal and neonatal medicine: ethical issues’ on the 16th November and it will be interesting to see whether the opinions of Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology are echoed in the report. Unfortunately I am unable to attend the launch of the report however as always I’ll keep you posted through the blog.

In 1973, I had a chance to prove the doctors wrong. In 2006, disabled babies may no longer be given that chance.