Let’s make today, the first day of a brighter future for disabled people!

By Tom Jamison

As you can imagine, in the run-up to International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD), Able Magazine receives large numbers of press releases about different disability campaigns and initiatives, that want to use the day (3 December) as a springboard. 

Perhaps the most moving of those received this year was from disability charity, Hft who are working towards enabling people with learning disabilities to “live within their communities with all the choice and support they need to live the best lives possible”.

They’ve chosen International Day of Persons with Disabilities to launch new research conducted by Savanta ComRes, based on analysis from an online survey exploring the themes of loneliness and isolation and draws on the views and experiences of more than 1,000 people who have a learning disability.

Among the top line findings were shocking statistics, including that over a third (36%) of people with a learning disability surveyed after lockdown said they felt lonely nearly always or all the time – and that one in three people (37%) also said that they hardly ever or never go out to socialise.

While the country has been grappling with the coronavirus pandemic for almost two full years, these issues have become exacerbated, but it’s also become clear from the research that for people with a learning disability, loneliness wasn’t restricted to the pandemic, but rather that it’s a chronic and long-term experience. 

Incredibly, a third (33%) of those surveyed said that they did not feel part of their local community.

If there is an upside to all of this, I’d like to think that this heart-breaking research would act as a catalyst for change. Isn’t this the moment when we decide what kind of place we want the UK to be? Surely, preventing isolation and unfairness among vulnerable people of any kind should be part of the foundations of a fairer, more equitable society as we strive to ‘build back better’ – rather than a careless attempt to build back quicker by cutting corners. Wouldn’t it be sickening to abandon the needs of vulnerable people without a voice or to undervalue them to the extent where they simply don’t exist in a social context?

Based on the findings of the report, Hft has now made a series of recommendations to the Government to influence change and will be raising awareness of the issue through their Lockdown on Loneliness campaign.

In my view, the well-known disability campaigning phrase: ‘Nothing about us, without us’ needs to be given a new definition, starting today. International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 2022 needs to be the moment when disabled people connect with others to share thoughts, experiences, ideas and time.

It isn’t an exaggeration to suggest that the disability community have been let down more times than they deserve and especially so in recent years. Let’s make today the moment when we reach out to others, disabled or otherwise. 

The stinging reality of being disabled is proof enough that things won’t change because we want them to – but that with a different outlook and applied actions, they can certainly be better.

To view the research or to find out more about the campaign to end loneliness please visit: www.hft.org.uk/lockdownonloneliness

(Tom Jamison is editor of Able Magazine.)