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25 years since the Disability Discrimination Act, we need #AllOurRightsInLaw

November sees the start of disability history month, and 25 years since disabled activists, campaigners and our allies achieved a landmark for equality and Human Rights in the UK, as the Disability Discrimination Act was passed.

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The DDA and now the Equality Act confer a duty to eliminate discrimination, promote equal opportunities and foster good relations towards disabled people and others with protected characteristics – but GDA members reflect that in 25 years, progress hasn’t come far enough:

“We hoped that things would change quite a lot but there’s still the onus on the disabled person to take action.” Maureen

“The theory is good, but where it falls down is how you make the change and make it meaningful” Kirsty

“Rights are only realistic if people know what our rights are and are able to exercise them” Chris

“How can people on low incomes fight against people with the best lawyers?” Emily

For 20 years GDA has worked at the coalface of driving forwards human rights – empowering disabled people to know their rights, and build confidence to speak out and claim them, from the grassroots. This support has never been more needed, as one member points out:

“COVID has shown that in emergency situations rights can be seen as disposable – but in the laws themselves it’s actually even more important to have those rights balanced.”

“The power of seeing another disabled person say ‘No that’s not right, and I actually know better than this – it’s the empowerment of seeing groups like GDA speak out and say we have a voice has made me realise that I have a voice too and that voice is worth listening to.” Harley

Our COVID report, ‘Supercharged, a human catastrophe’ found that many disabled people have had fundamental rights denied during (and long before) the pandemic – of particular concern is ongoing access to our rights to food, housing, employment, education and health and social care.

Key to driving the change we need, to realise all these rights, is the right to participation: so disabled people can speak out, with the support they need, when their rights are not met; to hold duty bearers to account and help shape the changes and actions we need.

Participation is a vital, cross-cutting Right which we hope to see embedded in Scots law in the near future. As part of our work with Human Rights National Taskforce Civil Society Reference Group, this week we are hosting discussions as part of the ‘All Our Rights In Law’ project – so disabled people can help shape advice on a new Human Rights Law for Scotland.

Looking ahead to the next 25 years, GDA member Amy says:
“I hope for the future that all our rights are put into Scottish Law – to enable disabled people to feel empowered, participate in whole of society. We could have wants and desires and dreams because all of our basic rights would be upheld – we could have ambitions and not spend all that time fighting for the basic things like food and shelter – that non-disabled people don’t necessarily have to think about, or face the same barriers as we do.”

This Disability History Month – join the conversation. Help us remove barriers, challenge discrimination, and make disabled people’s rights an everyday reality.

If you are interested in taking part in the ‘All our rights in law’ discussions, please contact us on 0141 556 7103 or email [email protected]

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