Volume 2 Issue 12 - June 15, 2004

Equality issues in the UK

DNIS News Network - Scope, the UK's leading national disability organisation, launched its Time To Get Equal campaign this month. It is fighting to end discrimination and prejudice against the UK's 10 million disabled people.

Backed by Nelson Mandela, Scope Patron Cherie Booth QC and political leaders Tony Blair, Michael Howard, Charles Kennedy and Hywel Williams, the charity is calling for equality for disabled people.

UK Home Secretary David Blunkett addressed MPs, policy makers, company bosses, leaders of the disability movement and disabled people at the campaign's launch event in central London, where Scope introduced the idea of disablism: a new word coined to highlight discrimination against disabled people.

The event was also used to launch a report by think-tank Demos entitled: Disablism: How to tackle the last prejudice. Commissioned by Scope and supported by another campaigning organisation in the UK, Disability Awareness in Action, the report outlines the inequalities experienced by disabled people in their everyday lives and suggests a framework for establishing a new way of talking and thinking about disability.

Scope is calling on the British public to sign a Pledge to support disabled people achieving equality, acknowledging that everyone has to play their part to make this possible. Tony Manwaring, chief executive of Scope, said: "This campaign will put the issue of disablism firmly on the public and political agenda. Disabled people are much less likely than non-disabled people to be able to achieve their potential. In order to banish this from our society and effect real and lasting change Scope will be working in collaboration with other key organisations of disabled people, business and government."

Rachel Hurst, Director of Disability Awareness in Action, said: "It is really significant that this campaign is about us all working together to eradicate disablism. Many of us directly experience disablism but we are all affected by it and must be united in our efforts to end it. I am particularly delighted that Nelson Mandela is backing this campaign - a man who not only understands the institutional nature of disablism but did something about it by building a unique society in South Africa that ensures that disabled people are given the same status and protection as everyone else."

Actress, campaigner and wheelchair-user Julie Fernandez, who hosted the event, said, "Non-disabled people just aren't aware how damaging their negative attitudes can be. When I meet people for the first time, a significant number seem uncomfortable that I am using a wheelchair and are surprised that I am a successful actress. This lack of understanding needs to be addressed and deliberate lack of acceptance no longer tolerated. Society must face up to its responsibility of making disabled people feel accepted, valued and equal."

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