Weekly Global Disability News 12-18th Dec

Winter blackouts: Disabled people must draw up their own back-up plans, say ministers

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A yellow and black electricity warning sign which says danger of death keep out; and Grant Shapps speaking in parliament

Winter blackouts: Disabled people must draw up their own back-up plans, say ministers

By John Pring on 15th December 2022Category: Politics


The government and the energy industry have told disabled people whose lives depend on powered equipment in their homes to draw up their own back-up plans to protect themselves ahead of possible blackouts this winter.

Both the government and the energy regulator Ofgem have confirmed to Disability News Service (DNS) that people who use ventilators, dialysis machines or other equipment must make their own contingency plans rather than expect anything more than basic support from the government or industry in the event of planned power-cuts this winter.

This week, Grant Shapps (pictured), secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS), told MPs that the government had “very developed plans” for “that sort of thing”, when questioned on support plans for “vulnerable customers”.

He told members of the Commons BEIS committee (see 16.39.20 onwards): “I don’t want to alarm anyone in that regard.

“The plans are in any case and every winter… refreshed and renewed.”

But when asked by Disability News Service (DNS) what these “very developed plans” were, a BEIS spokesperson pointed to Priority Service Registers (PSRs).

“Vulnerable customers” can sign up to the registers, which are run by electricity suppliers and distribution network operators (DNOs) and are supposed to provide extra support in the event of energy disruption, such as warning customers when their power is about to be cut off and “signposting” them to support.

But those who sign up are not exempt from blackouts, and if they need a continuous supply of electricity for medical reasons they are told to “seek advice from their local health service provider”.

Ofgem, the energy regulator, said it was “very unlikely” that there would be energy shortages this winter, and insisted it was “working closely with the government, the sector and consumer groups to ensure there is a robust winter plan in place, including a variety of contingencies that can be triggered in the unlikely event of an energy shortage”.

Full article here: https://www.disabilitynewsserv...

Outlook 2023: We need to address the disability employment gap

  • The Office for National Statistics’ latest report found that the disability employment rate was 52.7% in Q2 2021, compared to 81.0% for non-disabled people – a grossly unacceptable inequality gap;
  • Research by Accenture in 2018[1] found that companies keen on hiring disabled people outperformed others on many levels – profit margins were roughly 30% higher; net income was 200% higher; revenues were 28% higher; and they enjoyed 4x higher shareholder returns;
  • Despite this, a report by The Valuable 500 and Tortoise Media, which looked at the 2020 annual reports of FTSE 100 companies, found just 5% of them issued board-level statements on disability as part of their leadership agenda. Not one had an executive or a senior manager who disclosed that they had a disability;
  • Another 2019 study by McKinsey found the greater the representation of ethnic and cultural diversity, the greater the likelihood of outperformance, and companies with more diversity continue to outperform those with less;
  • Clearly, inclusive (and specifically disability-confident) employers are winning the race, outperforming their competitors.

Full article here: https://www.fenews.co.uk/emplo...

“The law is discriminatory”: Disability campaigners call for government to back hate crime victims

Disability campaigners across the West Country are calling on the Government to fix loopholes in the current law, which discriminates against disabled victims of hate crime.

More than 17,000 disability hate crimes were reported last year, a 211% rise in just five years - but the number of cases being prosecuted has fallen by 67%.

Victims across the UK say that getting justice under the current law is difficult and inconsistent.

Carol King, chair of charity Mencap in Torbay, told ITV West Country that in order for disabled people to feel heard, significant changes need to happen.

She said: “The fact that there’s a disparity in the number of prosecutions highlights a discrimination and it’s important that we make that level.

“Those that have a disability will feel that the law is being fairer when they bring the cases to the court and it will help.

“Hate crime causes difficulties in things like self-esteem and mental health and general wellbeing, and over a continued period of time can cause an individual to present challenging behaviour which is a burden to the already heavily pushed social care system.

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“I think not only will new legislation help their mental health, but it means that victims will have better trust in the system."

Adam Pearson is a well-known actor and disability rights campaigner.

People often make comments as "a bit of a laugh" or "just a joke", Adam said, however "slowly but surely they chip away at you."

After a government-sponsored review of the existing rules, a report from the Law Commission was released in December 2021 announcing recommendations to reform hate crime legislation.

Professor Penney Lewis, Commissioner for Criminal law told ITV: “At the moment there’s a hierarchy, with race at the top and disability and transgender at the bottom.

“We think all characteristics should be treated the same, so there should be the possibility of someone being punished for a hate crime they’ve committed the same way, regardless of whether it was racial hatred, religious hatred or hatred on the basis of disability.”

As well as simplifying the law, they want to empower victims to report abuse. A move welcomed by Ben Morris, a disability equality campaigner from Swindon.

He told ITV West Country: “There’s a massive stigma anyway around disability in society and people shouldn’t feel like they can get away with a hate crime against a disabled person.

“I feel that if it was levelled up to the level of protection victims of racial hate crime have, it would give disabled people a lot more confidence.”

In a statement, the home office told ITV News they will ‘carefully consider the recommendations and respond in due course.’

Read full article here: https://www.itv.com/news/westc...

New Research Names World’s Most Accessible Cities

A survey is pinpointing the 10 most accessible cities around the globe for people with disabilities.

Domestically, Las Vegas, New York and Orlando, Fla. are tops for travelers in this population, according to the study conducted by the Valuable 500, a group of CEOs from major companies including Apple, Google, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble that have committed to disability inclusion. The collective of business leaders first formed at the 2019 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Outside the U.S., other cities making the list include Amsterdam, Paris, Shanghai, London, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.

The designation is based on the results of a survey of 3,500 travelers with disabilities globally. They were asked to rate cities based on the proximity of accommodations to various attractions and the availability of accessibility information.

“Our research shows that across both the public and private sectors in travel and tourism industry, these cities consistently score well in the accessibility rankings,” said Caroline Casey, founder of the Valuable 500. “However, worldwide, tourist boards still aren’t making the necessary headway to remove the physical and ethical barriers to ensure cities are truly accessible for all.”

Full article here: https://www.disabilityscoop.co...

Disabled boy walks unaided for 'clothes poverty' fundraising

A 12-year-old boy with a physical disability is walking 10 steps a day unaided for charity.

Tommy, from Normanton, near Wakefield, uses a walking frame due to an undiagnosed condition relating to his motor functions.

He is fundraising to buy pyjamas for his local clothes bank Christmas appeal and has raised in excess of £2,600, exceeding his £100 target.

The Clothing Bank Brotherton described his efforts as "mind blowing".

The youngster, who attends Outwood Academy Freeston, said walking unaided and without the use of a frame was "very tiring".

"When I first [stand] up it feels a little bit weird but I'm fine when I get walking and I've got past the wobbling stage."He said he was happy to see the fundraising smash his £100 target allowing him to help children who "don't have that many clothes".

"It just makes me feel better because I'm going out and buying clothes for them, so that just makes me feel really good."

He said he imagined their faces "on Christmas morning with a big smile on their face and it just makes me really happy".

Tommy's mother, Rachel Hill, said the family was "unbelievably proud" of their son.

"Daily life is tough for Tommy," she said.

"We just did not expect this sort of response to what he has been doing, but I feel so proud and so happy for him as well."

Ms Hill said the fundraiser had "made a difference" on her son's motivational levels with walking.

"He's happy to do his steps every morning and we've really, really seen an improvement as well.

"He seems stronger, his balance is better and the feedback and response [from] people has just lifted him so much. It's been wonderful."

She said her son had initially set himself a target of buying 10 pairs of pyjamas but had bought more than "250 brand new outfits for babies, children and young people who are experiencing clothing poverty", before thanking donors.

Sally Parkinson, from The Clothing Bank Brotherton, said she was "quite emotional" by Tommy's donations.

"He's such an amazing young man. It's been lovely watching his journey. It's just mind blowing," she said.

"It will make such a difference to the charity."

Full article here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-...

Bristol Airport: Report finds 'unacceptable level of service to disabled people'

Bristol Airport has been criticised for having an 'unacceptable level of service to disabled people', according to a regulator.

The Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA) report found their overall performance for pre-booked disabled and less mobile passengers had fallen 'below its arrival standards'.

The report reads: "Bristol faced challenges with essential equipment being unavailable over the summer causing their performance to suffer.

"Although there was slight improvement from quarter one to quarter two, there was little further improvement in October.

"However, over the second quarter and October, Bristol has shown commitment to making improvements and engaged positively with the CAA and airlines including implementing an improvement plan and setting up an operational improvement group."

In response, a spokesperson for Bristol Airport said: “We are disappointed with the results of the recent CAA disability survey.

"We will continue to work with OCS, the special assistance provider, to provide consistent and high-quality assistance to all customers and put remedial plans in place to address the issues to ensure we continue providing high levels of service and assistance, our customers expect.

“Record numbers of customers with disabilities are travelling through Bristol Airport year on year, and we take it very seriously to provide assistance and help that meets individual customer needs.”

Full article here: https://www.itv.com/news/westc...

Disabled people 'excluded' from Bath city centre, argue local residents

Disabled people in Bath have been excluded from the city centre since Milsom Street was closed to blue badge holders, one Bath resident has said.Milsom Street has been closed to cars since 2020, with a temporary order in place to make the busy shopping street into a buses only road from 10am to 6pm.

This means getting a taxi or parking on the street are no longer options for disabled people, although five additional disabled parking bays were added on Quiet Street and New Bond Street.The order was extended last year. A decision on whether to make it permanent will be made next year.

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One Bath local, who was left immobile after a disease and who preferred not to have their name published over fears of online abuse, said: “The change may not sound much to Bath and North East Somerset councillors and active travel campaigners, but it’s changed my life completely.“I used to go into Bath most days. I’d meet a friend for coffee or lunch. I’d do some shopping or banking. Now I hardly ever leave my house.”They explained: “Some of us with disabilities can’t walk very far. But for those who can walk just a little way, being able to park in Milsom Street gives us access to lots of useful shops and services.”Having to park further away means having to use a wheelchair to reach the street, which they said was challenging due to cafes’ outdoor seating and Bath’s uneven pavements.They said: “Once, I could drive to Milsom Street and park. I could then walk short distances with two sticks or a walking frame and when I was done, even if I was very tired, I had a short distance to get back to the car and go home.“Now I have to be wheeled back to Charlotte Street and I need to time my visit meticulously to coincide with when a carer can take me.”They added: “Bath and North East Somerset has taken my independence and dignity away from me, just so cyclists and walkers can enjoy the city centre more.“Able-bodied people have been prioritised over disabled residents.”

Full article here: https://www.itv.com/news/westc...

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