Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 6th December 2017

The UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities takes place annually on 3rd December. The day exists to both promote understanding of disability issues and mobilise action to ensure the needs of people with disabilities are properly recognised and met.

It’s too easy to think that in more economically developed countries such as the UK this battle has already been won. Yet, anyone disembarking a train at Crawley Railway Station in a wheelchair is forced to change platforms via the Brighton Road level crossing. It was only in the wake of national news attention when Jeremy Corbyn helped a lady with a pram across the bridge during a visit to Crawley over the Summer that a new bridge with built-in lifts was announced.

Such barriers to those with disabilities are hidden all around us in plain sight, although thanks to the hard work of Crawley’s Town Access Group they’re not so great in number as they once were, and we all have a role to play in addressing them by consciously designing accessibility into every part of life in the borough.

Unfortunately, unseen barriers, while bad, are not the biggest way our country fails those with disabilities. Persons with disabilities have faced some of the harshest cuts of the Tories’ time in Government. That isn’t simply the opinion of an opposition politician, the Conservatives’ record on disabilities has faced major criticism from the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission has highlighted that the combined impact of social security changes over the last seven years has hit households with a disabled adult and a disabled child the hardest, with cash losses of over £5,500 per year.

Now, the Government is set to scrap the Enhanced and Severe Disability Premiums as they introduce the widely-criticised Universal Credit, potentially leaving families with a disabled member even worse off. This is unacceptable and a motion I’m bringing to Crawley’s Full Council outlines steps the Tories must take to avoid the policy becoming a catastrophe. Disability doesn’t have to mean inequality, unless we let it.

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