by In Wales
Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 04:06:17 PM EST
I'm an appointed (unpaid) Director for Disability Wales - the national association of disabled people's organisations, striving to achieve the rights, equality and independence of disabled people in Wales.
In April 2010 we launched our Independent Living Now! campaign, which will run until March 2011. The main aims of the campaign are:
- to raise awareness and understanding of what Independent Living means for disabled people in Wales
- to call for a National Strategy for Independent Living
- to develop a Manifesto for Independent Living throughout the campaign to influence policy makers
- to collect disabled people's stories to establish an evidence base for Independent Living in Wales
- to develop a stronger coalition of disabled people's organisations and disability activists
- to develop stronger links to the wider Independent Living movement
Today we presented our petition to the Welsh Assembly, calling for an Independent Living Strategy to be developed. From the press release:
The petition "calls upon the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Assembly Government to introduce a National Strategy on Independent Living that recognises the equal right of all disabled people to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and to ensure that this is facilitated through effective and appropriate measures."
Disability Wales Chief Executive, Rhian Davies, states:
"Independent Living enables us as disabled people to achieve our own goals and live our own lives in the way that we choose for ourselves.
"The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) states that disabled people must be able to live independently and be included in the community. While some Welsh Assembly policies support the general principles of Independent Living, none provide an over-arching vision of how to make Independent Living a reality for disabled people."
Disability Wales calls upon the Welsh Assembly Government to be proactive in fulfilling its responsibilities under the UNCRPD by introducing a National Strategy on Independent Living, rooted in a right to Independent Living for all disabled people.
It is crucial that disabled people's rights are implemented in this way. The Welsh Assembly put a great deal of work into implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I walked into Butetown Youth Pavilion this evening, and one of the first things I noticed on the wall was the charter explaining what rights children have under the convention. Disabled people need their rights to be visible and respected and promoted in the same way.
Despite the fact that we now have these rights under the Convention, progress towards implementing them is incredibly slow (across the UK, not just Wales). The Welsh Assembly Government already operates with a values base that supports the development of Independent Living initiatives, unlike the rhetoric and policies we are seeing in Westminster right now.
Authorities lack awareness, public bodies lack awareness, disabled people lack awareness and until a coherent and robust strategy is in place, there will be no driving force to implement the rights set out in the Convention.
Remember that it isn't just ignorance we are faced with. Disabled people frequently have to deal with attitudes that not only discriminate, but actively set out to exclude and oppress. If you ever have the misfortune to read through a Daily Mail comments thread that discusses disability don't be surprised to see some appalling statements about disabled people. One that sticks in my mind is of a women saying that 'they' should stay at home and do their shopping online so they don't get in the way of 'normal people' in the supermarket. Would you tolerate somebody saying that to you, or to a parent with a baby buggy? So exactly why is it ok for that statement to be made about disabled people?
We have a huge amount to do to address the inequality and marginalisation and dehumanisation that disabled people experience.
Independent Living is everyone's right. It is long overdue.