Census follow-up survey reveals huge impact of inaccessible services and businesses

An in-depth study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found that Disabled people face barriers to everyday activities that cause them financial, physical and psychological costs.

Based on interviews with 56 Disabled people across the UK, the study assessed people’s experiences accessing activities, goods and services.

The people interviewed, who had a range of impairments/health conditions and came from a range of backgrounds, highlighted problems with physical access, building layouts that limit access, inaccessible online services, not enough information and customer services that are not flexible enough to meet their needs.

Dawn Snape, Assistant Director of the Sustainability and Inequalities Division at ONS, said:

“Listening to participants, it was striking the range of ways they faced barriers in everyday life, and the effort and energy that went into finding ways to navigate them.  The cost of navigating these barriers was clear, both financially and in terms of physical and mental wellbeing.”

Disabled people often have to do a lot of research and preparation to find “workarounds” to the barriers they face while others relied on family and friends for support.  The extra costs often involved limited choice, while the need to prepare for activities in advance limited spontaneity and freedom.

The study said:

“The impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) caused negative experiences of isolation with limited access to support for some Disabled people, which [went] beyond the pandemic.  However, others saw the increase in online services as providing them with more opportunities to access, connect and communicate.”

The study heard about mixed experiences of online services – with some finding they helped avoid physical design barriers while others reported access problems that amounted to digital exclusion.

The Forum Manager, Laura Welti, said:

“This is a sadly predictable, but useful, piece of work by an organisation with an excellent reputation for the quality of its research.  Let’s hope government, the civil service, all businesses and service providers listen this time.

“It is appalling that businesses and service providers are heaping extra financial, physical and psychological costs on to Disabled people despite decades of campaigning and legislation.  It’s also very stupid of them as they are losing up to £240billion pf potential income by alienating or excluding so many Disabled people and their families.”

Those interviewed mentioned various priorities for future service provision, including:

a) Accessible physical and online environments that recognise and accommodate a range of needs.

b) Service providers involving Disabled people in policy and service decisions.

c) Raising awareness and empathy for people with a range of impairments.

d) The need for meaningful, readily-available help for Disabled people when accessing activities, goods and services.

The study comes weeks after the ONS published a quantitative report based on last year’s census returns around the experiences of Disabled people. 

New support for Disabled people with political ambitions

The Local Government Association (LGA) is developing a Disabled Councillors Leadership Programme.

This work, which is funded by the UK Government, is designed to increase the number of Disabled people in local politics and speed up their progress towards becoming leaders in local government. 

Councillor Judi Billing, the Lead Member for Leadership on the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board, said:

“Councillors play a vital role in shaping the future of their communities and improving the quality of life of local people. 

“We need people from all backgrounds and experiences who reflect the communities that they serve.”

She went on to say,

“That is why we have developed a soon-to-be published guide for Disabled councillors [both those who are and those who want to be] and a practical checklist for councils and political groups.  These resources aim to increase awareness, accessibility and inclusion at every stage of becoming a councillor.”

If you are a Disabled councillor, or want to be, and would like to find out more about the LGA’s offer, please get in touch by emailing leadership@local.gov.uk

You can also find out more about the LGA’s work on improving the number of Disabled people in local government in its latest First magazine online.

Report confirms widespread workplace discrimination

A report on workplace discrimination has found that the Equality Act is failing to protect thousands of Disabled workers.

Commissioned by the Association of Disabled Professionals, the report says it found:

“significant misconceptions (wrong assumptions) of employers and line managers with reference to what disability means, how Disabled people should be treated in the workplace, and the costs of reasonable adjustments”.

The research by two University College London academics comes six years after the All Party Parliamentary Group on Disability warned that around 46,000 people are “managed out” of their jobs every year.

Key findings and recommendations include:

a) The Government’s Access to Work scheme can frustrate employers and Disabled applicants by being inflexible or slow in responding – leaving the employee to start work without agreed reasonable adjustments in place.

b) The cost of legal representation at employment tribunals is much too expensive for many Disabled people and lawyers often recommend early settlement of cases because the tribunal process can be “traumatising”.

c) Employers should develop inclusive, accessible and disability-positive cultures to increase trust and create safe spaces for conversations about disability and the provision and costs of reasonable adjustments.

The report is based on interviews with 38 experts on disability – including people from the private sector, politicians, lawyers, third sector representatives, union officials and Disabled people with lived experience.

Highlighting the role of Disabled and Deaf people’s organisations, the report says they should be seen as a valuable source of advice and support.

Forum Co-Chair, Gordon Richardson, said:

“It is good to at last hear another organisation saying the same thing as the Forum has been saying for years – while we hear a lot of government talk about closing the disability employment gap, it has failed to address the problems Disabled people experience in getting or keeping employment by not funding such work. 

“Instead, it has only ever focused on Disabled people as the problem – as shown by the many government schemes that have, and still do, view us as not being able to get work because of our attitudes, our confidence and our lack of skills.

“This research reminds us that decades after discrimination was made illegal Disabled people still face ignorance and huge levels of unfairness in getting and keeping jobs.”

Between problems with the Government’s Access to Work scheme and lack of action or understanding by employers Disabled people are often let down – which increases their workplace stress and causes many people to lose their jobs.

Ableism and the Labour Market, written by Dr Sarabajaya Kumar and Dr Colin Provost, is available here.  A link to a podcast with the authors discussing their research can be accessed if you click on this link. You need to scroll down through the publications list.

Upcoming Rail Strikes

Logo for Great Western Railway - black text on a white background with the text reading "GWR".

This is an update on the action being taken by RMT members on Wednesday 27th July, and ASLEF members (train drivers) on Saturday 30th July.

Services on strike days will be extremely limited, and on Saturday 30th July there will be no GWR services on most of the network. Where trains are able to run they are expected to be very busy, and the last services will be much earlier than normal.

There will also be disruption on Thursday 28th July and Sunday 31st July.

The latest information from Great Western Railways (GWR) about the strikes, including:

when they will be updating their journey planners,

advice to customers, and

guidance on refunds and compensation,

is available at www.gwr.com/strike. Planned services in our area are also shown on the webpage.

GWR says it will have a clearer idea later this week, about the impact on services on Saturday 30th July and Sunday 31st July, and will be updating their information pages.

There will be no rail replacement services and there may well be further changes to the services, even on the day.

The Clean Air Zone

Photograph of non-electric cars, taxis and buses.

Cities around the country are introducing clean air zones (CAZs) in a bid to reduce pollution and improve the quality of life for residents.  

Removing more polluting vehicles from city and town centres will have a positive impact on the health of both residents – especially for Disabled people with impairments and health conditions such as breathing difficulties and allergies to certain chemicals.

What is the Clean Air Zone?

A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is an area in the United Kingdom where targeted action is taken to improve air quality.  A CAZ can be non-charging or charging.

These zones are created in areas where air pollution levels are dangerous to everyone’s health.  The zones improve the quality of local air, making it safer to breathe.

Whether a vehicle is charged when entering or moving through a CAZ depends on the type of vehicle and how well it filters the vehicle fumes before they come out of the exhaust pipe.  This is referred to as the vehicle’s Euro standard.   

Bristol will only charge for vehicles that have a rating of Euro 3 or lower.  This will usually mean the vehicle is more than 16 years old.

Each local authority decides how much polluting vehicles are charged when travelling in CAZ.  In Bristol, it will be £9 for private petrol cars, private diesel cars, taxis and light good vehicles.  It will be £100 for buses, coaches and heavy good vehicles.

Charges would apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week but vehicles would only be charged once in each 24-hour period.  If you live within the zone and drive a non-compliant vehicle, you’ll only be charged if you make a journey.

Why are they being brought in?

These zones are often the best way for towns and cities to improve local air pollution levels, and they have been shown to work.

Creating CAZs across England is key to improving air quality, protecting public health, and supporting the move to a low carbon future.

What are the types of clean air zones?

There are 4 types of clean air zones, Class A to D.

A) Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles.

B) Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles.

C) Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses.

D) Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses, cars, the local authority has the option to include motorcycles.

When does it start in our city?

Bristol will start charging on 28 November 2022.

Some information for Disabled people

People who have cars registered as a Disabled person’s vehicle with the DVLA won’t be charged for using the CAZ.  Those that aren’t registered with the DVLA but are Disabled people who have a Blue Badge will be exempt for one year only;

We at the Forum are currently talking with the Council about how people with a Blue Badge but don’t own a car themselves, can be exempted;

There are grants that are available for those whose current car is a pre-Euro 5 category vehicle.

Websites

You can find out more information on Bristol’s Clean Air Zone on the Council website: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/streets-travel/bristol-caz

You can find out whether you do need to pay to drive in a CAZ on the Gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/clean-air-zones or on the Council website here: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/streets-travel/bristol-caz/charges-and-checker.

For information on what grants or financial support you may be able to get, visit the Council website here: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/streets-travel/bristol-caz/financial-support.

Our Next Disability Discussion Session

Text: Disability Discussions.  The Clean Air Zone.  August 17th 12 noon - 1pm, online and St Pauls Learning Centre Classroom 2
Graphics: Women with a guide dog in front of a car

The next session of our monthly Disability Discussions will be on the Clean Air Zone.

The session is taking place on August 17th, midday to 1pm on Zoom.

If you’d like to join the session, contact Emma by emailing her at: cca.bristoldef@gmail.com

Staying Safe In Dangerous Weather

Our climate steering group have been talking to the Avon Resilience Forum. They work with people like the police and fire brigade to keep people in Bristol save when dangerous weather and events happen. As the heatwave this week shows, climate change is making this kind of weather happen more often.

Disabled people are one of the groups most vulnerable when these things happen so it’s very important we’re thought about in these plans. We are working with them to make sure that all their services are accessible and we are thought about.

Information to help you stay safe

Registering with utility providers as a priority service user

Doing this will help put you on lists so that the services are given to you first in difficult times. It will also mean that people like the fire brigade know you are Disabled person and are a priority in disasters.

British Red Cross:

These sites help you know how to be head for when difficult weather hits so you know it’s happening and can leave your house quickly if needed.

Met Office:

Your nearest Place of Safety

Places of Safety are where people can go to be safe in dangerous weather. We are working to make sure they can provide for all accessibility needs.

National Alert System

Starting in the summer, emergency alerts will be sent to mobile phones in the area if there is a danger to life nearby. More information here: Emergency Alerts – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Have your voice heard

We are continue to work with the Avon Resilience Forum and if you would like to be involved please email: cca.bristoldef@gmail.com

Disabled Coronation Street Star Reveals Prejudice from Taxi Drivers, Doctors and the Public

Photograph of Cherylee Houston.

Cherylee Houston, 47 – who plays Izzy Armstrong in Coronation Street – writes candidly about her experiences of Disability as part of the Mirror’s Disabled Britain: Doing It For Ourselves series.

“My perception of disability is entirely different to yours.

The non Disabled world sees disability as something to fear, pity, pull encouraging faces at and, most of all, to hope with all their might that it never happens to them.

Because wouldn’t that be awful?

It’s not actually.  I’m quite happy being disabled, please don’t take it away from me – I’m alright.  It’s part of my identity, it’s who I am.”

She goes on to say:

“That’s the main problem with peoples’ perception of Disability, the majority still see it as something that is a charity cause.

Why are our needs not met like everyone else’s in the usual infrastructure of society?  Why are our young rolled out to provoke empathy, to get people to put their hand in their pocket?  And what on earth is that teaching the young people in my community about their value?

My life is smattered with not being able to get into the same places / events as other people, taxis turning off their light as they see me, doctors dismissing new symptoms as not really worth investigating and people presuming that I’m incapable of many of even the most basic of things.  None of that is my disability – it’s other people’s attitudes, and attitudes are the thing that disable me the most.”

The article is a great mix of the realities of life as Disabled person and humorous examples of the comments she has received.

You can read the full article here.

This is part of a series of excellent articles written by Disabled people about their experiences as Disabled people.  You can find the full range here.

Huge Majority of the People Struggling with Fuel Poverty are Disabled People

The headlines are full of facts and figures about how many of us are being plunged into fuel poverty as the cost of living sky rockets. But nobody is joining the dots to see exactly who these people are.

A huge majority of people struggling right now are a very specific group of people nobody is talking about: Disabled people.

Disabled people are the UK’s largest minority group. A whopping two-thirds of the people using foodbanks are Disabled people or households with a Disabled person living in them.

The upshot is, it has always been tough to make ends meet as a Disabled person. But now it is impossible.

The government needs to stop talking about the big picture until it has looked at what it costs to run a household budget – and especially a household budget for those living on the slenderest of incomes. Read Disability Rights UK’s Media and Communications Manager Anna Morell’s feature on fuel poverty here.

The Forum Supports Action on the Cost of Living Crisis

On Tuesday 5th The Bristol Disability Equality Forum (The Forum) spoke at a full council Bristol City Council meeting in support of taking action on the cost of living crisis.

Our statement pointed out that:

1. 43% of all Disabled people are living in poverty.

2. Only 48% of Disabled people are in work.

3. The additional costs of being a Disabled person means needing to spend, on average, £500-600 per month more to have similar levels of well-being to not-yet-Disabled people.

4. Many Disabled people now have to worry about £86,000 debt coming their way just to meet their basic human needs.

At the meeting Laura Welti spoke on behalf of The Forum and talked about how Disabled people have been among the hardest hit by austerity and the pandemic and are already being hurt by the cost-of-living crisis.  She asked those present to think of Disabled people when thinking how to respond to the crisis and go easy on our community. The speech got warm support from across all parties.

We are glad that the council voted in support of taking serious action on the cost-of-living crisis and will be watching to make sure that the needs of Disabled people are met.