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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
South: Disability rights
Ian Paul
Ian Paul
Producer Politics Show
BBC South

Mobility scooter

In 2005 the latest Disability Discrimination Act became law. It was aimed at improving rights and access for millions of people.

But many disabled campaigners are arguing that the improvements still are not good enough and want more legislation.

You might feel it is all rather a minority issue - but a surprising 10m people in the UK have rights under the Disability Discrimination Act.

only 17% of people with learning disabilities are in paid work
disabled 16 year olds are twice as likely to be out of education or work as their non-disabled peers
disabled people are more likely to be out of work, those in work are likely to be in lower paid jobs
disabled people are more likely to be unemployed than any ethnic group
disabled people earn 30% less than non-disabled
25% of disabled people experience hate crime or harassment
50% of parents with learning disabilities have their children taken into care

That includes people with cancer and HIV as well as wheelchair-users, blind and deaf people.

Some of the statistics make disturbing reading.

New Bill in June 2006

Lord Ashley is to introduce an Independent Living Bill to the Lords next month.

The Disability Rights Commission is backing it and disabled people have helped draw it up.

Amongst other things it will enable disabled people to say no to having to live in residential care, choose for themselves what they want help with, and be able to get a good education and qualifications.

Also all new houses are to be built accessible for disabled people.

Lord Ashley
Lord Ashley: Introducing legislation

It will undoubtedly prove controversial, particularly the expense of making houses accessible to everyone.

But is it so unreasonable to want to be treated the same as everyone else?

Part of the point is to change everyone's attitudes to disability.

I am over six foot and have to go through tremendous contortions to squeeze into bus seats - but nobody treats me any differently because I am less able to fit in smoothly with modern life than shorter people are.

Nobody remarks on my "problem", nobody complains about me getting in their way - I am just a bit different from everyone else.

As indeed is everyone else a bit different from everyone else. Can we ever make disability as "invisible" as my height?

The joke is on us

Another thing that is perfectly acceptable is for me to make jokes about my height. But the disabled making jokes about disability? That is surely not on, is it?

Well, take a look at the BBC's Ouch! Website and you will find just that.

Liz Carr
Liz Carr: Don't be precious about it. Because we aren't

They have launched a monthly podcast hosted by comedian Liz Carr and actor Mat Fraser.

In which you will find a phone in called "Vegetable, Vegetable or Vegetable" in which Carr and Fraser have to guess the disability of a disabled caller. Bad taste?

Maybe not if you want to change attitudes. "We want to talk about disability in the way disabled people do down the pub," says Damon Rose, the Ouch! Producer.

Politics Show South also caught up with Liz Carr: "People are so scared about what to say around disability.

"We have this whole mantle of political correctness where people don't know what to say and what to do around disability.

"And this just throws that out the window and says: you know what? Don't be so precious about it. Because we're not.

"Language does matter, of course it does, but what matters more is respecting people and allowing people to be themselves."

Changing attitudes is all well and good, but there are still some concrete problems that need to be addressed.

The cost of adapting buildings is one obvious (and much-trumpeted) one. But what about schools?

Mainstream education

As part of the government's policy of inclusion, disabled pupils are being taught in mainstream schools.

The NUT says this puts enormous strain on teachers, because schools often lack the resources to pay for specialist staff.

It is, they say, "inclusion on the cheap". Conservative policy is for disabled children to be taught in special schools.

So what do you think? Should we be trying to treat disabled people exactly the same as the rest of the population, or should there be special treatment for special needs?

Drop us an email and we will put your points to our invited guests.

The Politics Show

Join Peter Henley live this Sunday at the Southampton Centre for Independent Living.

The Politics Show on Sunday 04 June 2006 at 12.00pm on BBC One.

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11 Sep 05 |  England


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