TUC manifesto for disabled people - a call to action for equality
Huma Munshi - © Private
24 June 2016
The TUC’s manifesto for disability equality and the accompanying guidance are tools for the NUJ to use to question the existing trends in the reportage of disabled people in the media as well as a means to push for a more diverse workforce.
There are 78 per cent of non-disabled people in work compared to only 48 per cent of disabled people in work, and 19 per cent of households that include a disabled person live in relative income poverty (below 60 per cent of median income) compared to 14 per cent of those without a disabled person. This unemployment and income inequality is compounded for BAME disabled people, disabled women and disabled LGBT people who face multiple forms of disadvantage.
We know that journalism is less ethnically diverse when compared to the UK population as a whole and the media also has proportionately less disabled people working within it. The NUJ is doing some excellent work to address these issues. In particular, the NUJ’s disabled members committee is campaigning for improved access to jobs for disabled media workers and fighting against discrimination on the grounds of disability.
The TUC manifesto, developed in conjunction with the TUC disabled workers’ committee, was created as a response to the draconian policies of the government and the continued stigmatisation which seeks to demonise and 'other' disabled people.
Disabled people want to work but inaccessible work spaces, workplace discrimination, and ignorance within management about managing disabled staff all make this harder. The TUC's manifesto seeks to address this. It sets out a vision where disabled people can fully access the economic, social and cultural opportunities in society.
At its heart is the social model of disability - a fundamentally different approach from the medicalised model that has so long dominated much public understand of disability. The social model of disability sees the individual first, it doesn’t medicalise people by their impairments but it seeks to remove the barriers disabled people experience.
The manifesto sets out what is needed to achieve change in employment, social care, transport, politics, arts and culture, and in social security. It is a tool to help trade unionists and others to resist government policies that hit disabled people badly, and the information helps trade union reps to negotiate improvements in their own workplaces.
Barriers can make it impossible or very difficult to access jobs, buildings or services, but the biggest barrier of all is the problem of people’s attitude to disability. Removing the barriers is the best way to include millions of disabled people in our society.
The TUC believes that disabled people are the experts on disability and that disabled people themselves should decide what they want. 'Nothing about us without us' is key principle in disabled people’s activism and the trade union movement.
The manifesto is a call to action for trade unionists and their allies to help bring about fundamental change both in policy and the public rhetoric.
What you can do -
In employment: Ask whether your employer knows about the Access to Work fund and reasonable adjustments. If not, push for training and information on both.
In your union: Organise a discussion on the TUC manifesto for disability equality. Invite a guest speaker to a chapel or branch meeting to talk about the social model and why the TUC supports it. You might have a member who can do this, or ask for someone from the union’s disabled members’ structures, or union head office; or the TUC regional office for someone from the disability network; or the TUC disabled workers’ committee. You can also contact a local disabled people’s campaign and invite them to talk about their activities (and offer to help make it possible for them to attend). Find out how you could support them. Check if they want to support and endorse the TUC manifesto.
In politics: Find out what your local politicians are doing to achieve equality for disabled people. Ask for a meeting and take along the manifesto, persuade them to support and endorse the initiative.
In the community: Discuss disability equality wherever you can because it is vital to challenge divisive myths with the truth. Trade unions have a significant role to play to bring about change and ensure disabled people can negotiate on their own terms.
The TUC's Disabled People’s Manifesto is an important tool in the fight for equality.