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Disabled people’s struggle for equality and human rights

Published date
16 November marks the start of Disability History Month. The month is an opportunity to focus in on the disabled people’s history and struggle for equality and human rights and to recommit ourselves to fight for the rights of disabled people across our society.

Disability History Month is taking place against a backdrop of increasing structural discrimination against disabled people. Time and time again we have seen that disabled people are hardest hit by the crises we face. Disabled people were first in line for redundancies during the financial crisis, they were hardest hit by austerity, six in 10 Covid-19 deaths were disabled people and now disabled people are facing a cost-of-living crisis with lower pay and higher outgoings than non-disabled people. 

Recent TUC analysis shows the disability pay gap has increased. The pay gap between non-disabled and disabled employees is now 17.2%, or £3,731 a year and research shows that disabled people’s outgoings are likely to be higher than non-disabled people. It’s not surprising that the ONS has found that disabled people are more likely to be struggling to pay their bills.  

The pay gap is partly caused by the barriers disabled people face in our workplaces and it is everyone’s responsible to end these – when disabled people thrive we all thrive.   

Here are five resources to make sure your boss is ensuring equality for disabled people.    

  1. Get to grips with the social model of disability. The social model states that the exclusion and discrimination faced by disabled people are not inevitable and that they are caused, not by the person’s impairment, but by barriers in society. There are multiple barriers in workplaces that union members can change – they might be physical, attitudinal or related to communication – use our guide to identify and remove barriers in your own workplace.  

  1. Brush up on the law. Disabled people have protections under the law to prevent discrimination in the workplace – join our webinar as part of Disability History Month to learn more and find out what you should be doing.  

  1. Improve access to reasonable adjustments. Disabled people leave the workplace for many reasons – one is when employers fail in their legal duties to provide reasonable adjustments. Our guide with GMB can help prevent this.   

  1. Win flex for all. Disabled people often request changes to working location or hours as a reasonable adjustment - making flexible working available to everyone will make it easier for disabled people to access these changes and remove the stigma that disabled people face when they have different working arrangements. Here’s our rep guide on improving flexibility in your workplace.  

  1. Make sure your union is accessible. We have a duty as a union movement to make sure we’re creating accessible spaces as well – disabled people make up almost 20 per cent of the union members and must be involved in our decisions and actions – from our members meetings to our picket lines.  

Take a look at the events we’ve got Disability History Month and search for what your union is doing as well.  

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