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Monday 03 December 2018

Disability History Month: How to increase disabled people's rights

By David Chrimes
David Chrimes-847

Over the last couple of years, I have been trying to help my brother find a home he can live in.

This has seen us seeking to obtain accommodation from their local authority and housing association which is accessible to a wheelchair user.

Though the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) — which is established in UK law as the Human Rights Act — offers a certain level of protection to individuals, it omits legal protection in a number of areas of life, including housing. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) covers much ground that is not covered by the ECHR: for example, the right to independent living; accessible housing and transportation; and prevention of poverty. If it were to be incorporated into UK law, it would increase the rights of, and protection for, disabled people in the UK.

In ratifying the UNCRPD, the UK Government effectively has agreed that UK law should be consistent with the Convention. However, the rights given by the Convention are not yet enshrined in UK law and cannot be enforced by the courts.

Last year, the UN Disability Committee, which enquires into National compliance with the Convention, criticised the UK Government for “grave disability rights violations”.

There is clearly an urgent need for the rights of disabled people in the UK to be protected.

To raise the profile of this important issue, and to secure TUC support, I drafted an FDA motion to be put to the 2018 TUC Disabled Workers Conference, which called for the UNCRPD to be incorporated into UK law. We were delighted when our motion attracted a large number of speakers from other unions in support, and the motion was passed unanimously. The debate attracted the attention of the disability media, and was covered by the Disability News Service

The passing of our motion is just the first step on a long road, but we have undoubtedly succeeded in raising the profile of this issue. At a time when certain politicians are seeking to remove legislation which protects the fundamental rights of citizens, and as we celebrate UK Disability History Month, it is helpful to remind ourselves of the means to secure these rights. 

Are you an FDA member with an idea for a motion, or who wants to get more involved in the union's equality, inclusion and diversity work? Get in touch by emailing equalitymatters@fda.org.uk

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