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Independent Living

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.

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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.

Ugh. Normal suburban fascism...

Moving to the policy level, how do the cutbacks of the national government affect the (non)implementation of Independent Living?

As for something closer to my profession, did Independent Living Now! campaign on issues related to the accessibility of public transport?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 05:57:52 AM EST
Yes, we've recently had a large conference - "ticket to travel?" - which looked at accessibility of rail travel in particular.  Wales is notoriously bad beause the infrastructure is so old and so poor anyway.  

Disabled people can't get around independently unless public transport is accessible to them (many disabled people live in poverty so a car isn't something that they can afford.)  Transport is crucial to the whole overarching Independent Living campign.

We had an update from Arriva trains on how they are improving accessibility in partnership with local authorities and other companies supplying stock/upgrading stations...  

Passenger Focus also spoke about their survey results but the key flaw (which they admitted) was that they only interviewed disabiled people who used rail travel, and not all those who can't but would if they could.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 01:46:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
error - ticket to ride conference.

We had to consider locations out of Wales to hold the conference because there are so few accessible stations in areas with accessible venues and hotels and we wanted to make a point by having a conference that was accessible by public transport.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 01:55:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is the bigger problem in Britain? Access to platforms, or access to trains? From my (very limited tourist) experience in England and Scotland, high platforms seemed pretty universal, so I'd think getting on platforms is the main problem.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 03:01:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As new stock comes in access to the trains is less of an issue because accessibility is built in more effectively but attitudes of passengers who have made themselves comfortable in the areas designated for wheelchairs or individuals with mobility impairments are another barrier.  On board staff aren't always willing to tell people to move or to intervene if they are harrassing disabled passengers.  I've heard many horror stories.

Differences in platform heights and curved platforms means that the gap between train and platform various hugely.

As you point out, getting to the platform is the major issue.  Old infrastructure means that many railway buildings were built  donkey's years before disabled people started demanding independence.  Lifts may be inadequate or often not working.  Training for station staff is crucial when it comes to supporting individuals on and off trains and through stations.  One conference delegate stated to Arriva trains that he was fed up with staff refering to him as 'the wheelchair' over the tannoy when calling for the ramp to be brought out to get him onto trains.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 03:19:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On board staff aren't always willing to tell people to move or to intervene if they are harrassing disabled passengers.

This is horrible. I wonder if such boorishness, both in its aggressive and passive forms, is generational: what I mean is that when I was a kid, giving the seat to old people or mothers with babies getting on the bus was pretty much automatic, but it doesn't even occur to younger people today. This should really be taught. At school.

Lifts ... often not working.

Heh, and I was thinking that this is a 'speciality' of infrastructure management by my company...

As the alternative to lifts, what about ramps in place of/parallel with staircases? EU-funded reconstructions of rural stations tend to include ramps instead of lifts.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 04:25:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I've seen a number of stations with new ramps, some feel like they are miles long to be high enough to go over the tracks (for crossing platforms or exiting from different sides of the station).  

If you are getting about by yourself it is hard work in a wheelchair but it also doesn't help those who can only walk short distances.  They are more helpful for buggies/suitcases with wheels than for disabled people.  But it is better than no access at all.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 04:38:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, those from under/overpasses to island platforms are incredibly long.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 05:19:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm in awe of your flurry of activities In Wales. Keep up the good work.

European Tribune - Independent Living

The Welsh Assembly put a great deal of work into implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

You'd probably know this quicker than I could find out: Is there an UN Convention on the Rights of the Disabled?

by Nomad on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 12:36:31 PM EST
Yes, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  See here

Independent Living links to that and the convention is our tool to try to persuade the Government to implement an Independent Living strategy.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 01:39:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Would you tolerate somebody saying that to you, or to a parent with a baby buggy?

I've heard New Yorkers complain about baby buggies blocking the sidewalks, or filling up the elevators in apartment buildings. I've never heard anyone there complain about the handicapped...

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 01:13:03 PM EST
My experience of New York and Washington is that they are much further ahead and more clued up about disabled people's rights than in the UK.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 03:20:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Half the sidewalk space in Park Slope is taken up by huge baby carriages with high tech shocks, the other half with people muttering curses about the same.  The worst I've seen directed at the handicapped qua handicapped is some mild frustrated looks when there are people using the bus elevator system which takes several minutes to get one person on or off.
by MarekNYC on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 03:30:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fair enough, people do get annoyed at huge baby buggies but would it be acceptable for anyone to loudly tell a mum with her baby that she had no right to be there, no right to leave her house? Disabled people get those comments frequently.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 03:37:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Keep up the great work, we're all proud to know you

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 02:41:19 PM EST
George Osborne to be investigated by watchdog over cuts | Society | The Guardian

George Osborne is facing a formal investigation by the equalities watchdog to establish whether the Treasury fulfilled its statutory duty to assess the impact of the spending review on women, disabled and ethnic minority people.

Labour said the chancellor had "something to hide" after the Equality and Human Rights Commission announced today that it would launch a formal assessment into the Treasury's conduct prior to the spending review last month.

In a statement the watchdog said: "Under the public sector equality duties, covering race, gender and disability, the Treasury, like all public bodies, has a legal duty to pay 'due regard' to equality and consider any disproportionate impact on protected groups when making decisions, including decisions about the budget. Where decisions are found to have a disproportionate impact on a particular group protected by the legislation, public bodies must consider what actions can be taken to avoid, mitigate or justify that impact."



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Nov 26th, 2010 at 09:09:05 AM EST
They farted out an equalities impact assessment.  Wasn't worth the paper it was written on, good to see the EHRC investigating.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 28th, 2010 at 07:05:41 PM EST
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