Will the new Disability Action Plan improve blind and partially sighted peoples’ lives?
The new Disability Action Plan takes some important steps, yet it remains to be seen how much can be delivered before the general election. We’re disappointed that the Plan is not more ambitious in addressing the impact of the rising cost of living on disabled people.
Last summer, the UK Government ran a public consultation on its proposals for the Disability Action Plan. Over 1,300 responses were received, including from RNIB. We’re pleased much of our feedback has been taken on board.
Over the coming months we will be carefully monitoring the roll out of the plan’s actions and how they impact blind and partially sighted people. This is particularly important as the role of Minister for Disabled People has been downgraded since the consultation was announced. For the actions in the plan to succeed, it’s important the Ministerial role is given the same recognition and status in government as before.
Below you can read about some of the key aspects of the plan.
Improving the accessibility of UK Government communications.
We’re pleased there is a commitment to make UK Government communications and publications more accessible. Inaccessible communications have been a longstanding and serious concern for blind and partially sighted people.
It's vital that people with sight loss, and organisations like RNIB, can help shape the new guidance.
Support for disabled people to take part in politics.
We welcome the commitment to design a new way to provide financial support for disabled people to stand for elected office, and for this to be done in collaboration with disabled people. Although new guidance is to be published this year, we note that the new funding will not be launched until 2025 – five years after the previous funds closed – and therefore too late to support disabled people looking to stand for elected office this year.
Blind and partially sighted people, and other disabled people, can bring vital experiences and talents to elected roles, and our democracy will be stronger for full inclusion.
Measuring the impact of UK Government policies for disabled people.
We are pleased to see the UK Government commit to collecting and measuring the experiences of disabled people, including through a new survey.
For the effectiveness of policies to be truly understood, it’s important this includes action and greater understanding of the needs of people with different conditions. We will be pushing for there to be specific reporting related to sight loss.
Steps to tackle guide dog refusals.
We welcome the UK Government’s focus to tackle guide and assistance dog refusals through the establishment of a new working group with guide dog and assistance animal experts.
We know that far too many guide dog owners are still illegally turned away from shops, cafes, and taxis among other businesses. We welcome the Plan’s proposals that the working group will explore issues such as how best to educate the business sector on the legal rights of guide dog owners, and simplifying how access refusals are reported. An important workstream will be establishing how to deliver much-needed training to retail and hospitality staff, to ensure consistent and reliable awareness of the law.
We’re pleased the UK Government listened to our feedback and, rather than focusing on fines as mentioned in the original consultation, will be focusing on how to stop guide dog refusals before they happen.
Creating accessible playgrounds.
The Plan outlines important steps to improve the accessibility of playgrounds. Blind and partially sighted children have an equal right to play. It’s vital the guidance developed for local authorities is informed by children and young people with vision impairment, their families, and habilitation specialists. Existing guidance needs to inform this work, to make sure features include high contrast and tactile wayfinding pathways between activities and play areas.
Improving understanding of the cost of living.
One of our biggest concerns with the Disability Action Plan consultation last summer was it failed to propose any new support measures to address the rising cost of living. Whilst we are pleased we have been listened to, and that the UK Government says in the Plan that it will work collaboratively to improve understanding of cost of living for disabled people across UK Government, we know that disabled people continue to be at the sharpest end of the crisis.
It’s vital the UK Government goes beyond simply understanding the issues and that this materialises into better support.
To read the Disability Action Plan in full or easy read, go to Disability Action Plan - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)