Review of the Disabled in the United Kingdom
Society, in general, has been developed to accommodate the able bodied. The consequence is that dependency is automatically associated with the disabled. As such, the disabled are expected to merge seamlessly with a society that has been designed for and by the physically sound.
To effect this integration, the disabled are provided with numerous rights and privileges. However, several of these provisions are difficult to access for a disabled person.
In general, the disabled are regarded as acquiescent and thankful patrons and not as regular clients, endowed with responsibilities and privileges (Stevenson, 2001. P. 169). The disabled have consistently, contested subjugation and demanded incorporation into mainstream society with dignity. Such people have demonstrated their administrative capacity, as is evidenced by the fact that the British Deaf Association and the National League for the Blind had been headed and administered by the disabled.
These organizations had initiated campaigns for obtaining rights for the disabled in the 1890’s (Cole, 2006. Pp. 149 – 150). With the advent of the 1980’s, the disabled have continually enhanced their presence, and have in the process, emerged as an important segment of society. The United Kingdom was witness to quite a few protests, which served to increase the awareness of the general public regarding the plight of the disabled. Notable among such protests were those that had been conducted by the Disability Action Network (Marks, 1999. P. 3).
Moreover, within the UK, organizations like the British Council of Disabled People have proved to be very effective in substantially mitigating the seclusion of and enhancing the self respect of the disabled. A similar task, at the international level, had been carried out by organizations like The Disabled People’s International (Marks, 1999. P. 3). The act of viewing disability, purely from the perspective of a physician, served to sideline the social significance of this problem. In fact in the 1970’s, a child diagnosed with the Down’s syndrome would have been considered incapable of being educated.
All this has changed and at present, several such pupils are permitted to attend regular school and take the usual seven to eight GCSE’s. Moreover, there is no segregation by their peers (Cole, 2006. Pp. 149 – 150). The 1920’s saw a dramatic increase in the number of disabled persons, due to the advent of disabled veterans. Several protest measures were adopted, all over Britain, to bring in legislation to uphold the rights of the disabled. The outcome of these protests was the enactment of the Disabled Persons Act in 1944, which allowed for a three percent reservation in jobs.
The 1995 Disability Discrimination Act rescinded this reservation, it is unfortunate, that the disabled are deemed to be a burden on society (Cole, 2006. Pp. 149 – 150). It is essential to impose restrictive measures on the able bodied, although, only to a limited extent, in order to accord similar access to the disabled. The Disability Discrimination Act is the culmination of a protracted struggle to implement the rights of the disabled. It was enacted on the 8th of November 1995.
In the year 1999, the UK parliament enacted the Disability Rights Commission Act, which brought into being the Disability Rights Commission. Two major goals of this commission are to ensure equal opportunity and to prevent discrimination, Vis – a – Vis the disabled. However, from the 1st of October, 2007 these objectives have become the duty of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (The Disability Rights Commission , 2007). Under the Disability Discrimination Act, the employer is under an obligation to make reasonable changes to the workplace, in order to make it conducive for a disabled person to work effectively.
Moreover, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, specifies guidelines to determine the reasonableness of modifications to be made in the workplace (Employment rights and the Disability Discrimination Act). Some of the cases, in which the tenets of the Disability Discrimination Act had not been adhered to, are discussed in the sequel. In Vernon v. Roper, the golf club had refused the appellant to use a motorized golf cart. The court opined that it was incumbent upon the golf club to make such provisions as would have made it conducive for the appellant to avail himself of the club’s facilities (Lawson & Gooding, 2005.
P. 153). In Glover v. Hannah’s cafe, the claimant had a specially trained dog that helped him to find his way, as he was blind. In addition, to his blindness, he had also been afflicted with diabetes. He was prevented from entering Hannah’s café, to obtain a snack for maintaining his blood sugar level, because of the dog accompanying him. The court took strong exception to this callous act of the restaurant staff and awarded exemplary damages (Glover v. Hannah’ Cafe, 2003).
The UN General Assembly adopted The International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities, on the 13th December 2006. This convention would bring considerable pressure to bear upon countries that do not adequately protect the rights of the disabled. Moreover, the countries, which ratify this convention, have to perforce, submit periodic reports regarding the progress made by them in protecting and promoting such rights (International disability rights and the UN Convention).
Despite the aforementioned pieces of legislation, disabled people in the UK are highly underprivileged. They remain unemployed for longer durations than their able bodied counterparts. In addition, the disabled obtain lower wages. However, the government takes disability issues very seriously, as is evidenced by the fact that the annual expenditure incurred in this context is to the tune of £ 19 billion (Giddens, 2006. P. 288).