New Disability Action Plan: What’s in and what’s out?
The plan, published by the Minister for Disabled People this week, is open for consultation for 12 weeks. It sets out actions the UK Government plans to take this year and next to improve disabled people’s lives.
While there’s much to welcome, it’s disappointing there’s no mention of any new support measures to address the rising cost of living.
We examine some of the positive aspects of the plan, and other issues below.
Tackling guide dog refusals
It’s good to see a proposal to consider increasing the penalties for businesses or services that refuse access to guide dogs. We know that far too many guide dog owners are still illegally turned away from cafes and taxis, for example.
Raising the profile of assistive technology
The plan proposes raising the profile of assistive technology within Government. However, more action is needed to address the inaccessible costs of assistive technology and lack of training on how to use the technology.
Support for disabled people to take part in politics
We welcome plans to review the support for disabled people to take part in politics. We hope this review will improve the experience of people with sight loss running for election. On top of this, there’s more to be done to ensure blind and partially sighted people can consistently vote independently and in secret.
Increased disability inclusion in emergency planning
We are pleased that there is recognition that there needs to be increased disability inclusion in emergency planning. However, as the pandemic showed, the Government must go further to ensure that the needs of disabled people are not an afterthought.
Street design and climate change
We also welcome the plan’s aim of ensuring that measures addressing climate change consider and respond to the needs of disabled people, such as in relation to street design. Currently these policies are often implemented without adequate input from disabled people and the groups that represent them. Reducing our carbon emissions and the needs of blind and partially sighted people are not inherently opposing forces and we stand ready to assist in aligning them.
Educating businesses in disability awareness
The plan includes proposals to create a “Disability Enabled Badge” to incentivise businesses to make their services more accessible. We welcome the intention to train staff in disability awareness, which we hope would improve blind and partially sighted people’s experiences and confidence when accessing products and services independently.
We’d like assurances that the training and criteria for receiving a badge will be robust and that businesses would be held to account, given providing reasonable adjustments in service provision is already a requirement within the Equality Act.
Improving wellbeing and opportunities for disabled children
There’s a proposal to establish a task force to help improve the wellbeing and opportunities of disabled children. Children and young people with a vision impairment currently face a postcode lottery of support, so a focus on their particular needs is much needed.
There’s also a proposal to increase the accessibility of playgrounds. This is important as blind and partially sighted children have an equal right to play.
Improving support for disabled parents
The Plan also proposes setting up a task force to improve support for disabled parents. It’s important blind and partially sighted parents have an opportunity to shape the work of the task force. RNIB also has information and resources on parenting as a blind or partially sighted person which could help inform the work.
Planning for the Future
RNIB is pleased the Plan has recognised how an essential principle of inclusive design is to build in inclusivity from the start, rather than add it later on in the design process. For disabled people, this means designing policies and services that are accessible and which promote inclusion rather than creating barriers and exclusion. The Plan is proposing to commission research to better understand emerging issues and evolving priorities for disabled people in the next 5, 10 and 20 years.
Next steps and how you can respond
Over the next few weeks, we will be continuing to analyse the content of the Plan. We will be responding to the consultation to make sure our views are heard and the breadth and depth of barriers blind and partially sighted people face in all aspects of life are understood and reflected in the plans.
You can also read the Disability Action Plan and let the Government know what you think by responding to the consultation before 6 October: Disability Action Plan 2023 to 2024: consultation document - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).