November marked the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) becoming law in Britain.
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) came as a result of prolonged campaigning and protesting from thousands of disabled people, throughout the 1990s. Many took to the streets to protest against society’s view that disabled people were helpless. Some blocked roads with their wheelchairs, while others handcuffed themselves to buses.
The introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995 meant that employers could not treat people differently due to their disabilities, and for the first time they had to be allowed into the workplace. Later, the act would also mean that service providers had to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people, like providing extra help and changing premises to allow disabled access.
This was a huge breakthrough in what could be argued as the final step in the beginnings of equal rights. The Race Discrimination Act and The Sex Discrimination Act had already brought about change for women and people of a different race, but little had been done for the plight of the disabled.
Today also marks International Day of Disabled Persons and WeAreTheCity are celebrating and showcasing some amazing disabled people. We will also be sharing news and opinions pieces centred around the day.
Below, you will find our top picks for the day:
Menna Fitzpatrick is a visually impaired alpine skier competing with British Army Officer Jennifer Kehoe as her sighted guide on the World Cup circuit.
Menna and Jen became Britain’s Most-Decorated Winter Paralympians at the 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympic Games, winning one gold, two silver and one bronze medal.
Menna was born visually impaired; she has no vision in her left eye and limited sight in her right. Her parents were determined that she would not be disadvantaged by this and, when she was five years old, they taught her to ski. Menna has less than five per cent overall vision, which means she skis with a guide. She learned to ski on family holidays in France. After being spotted at the Chill Factore snow centre in Manchester, she was invited to train with the British Parasnowsports Team with her Dad as her guide. This was a great partnership and was a great way to start racing. They began racing in the IPCAS races in Landgraaf, which they placed 4th in their first race. The following year they began to enter more races in Roll Rinn and Lachtal. This was the start of her amazing journey towards the Paralympics.
In September 2015, Menna started working with British Army Captain Jen Kehoe, who had been guiding for a couple of years with the team. They hit it off instantly and have been working as a pair for just over two years. They had a hugely successful first season together where they became the first ever British winter sports athletes to win the Overall World Cup Champions title, as well as winning the overall title for Giant Slalom. They also became British Champions in the same year.
According to the UK government’s own figures, disabled people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people, and just under 50 per cent of Britain’s disabled population are unemployed.
That is an incredible statistic, considering there are nearly eight million people in Britain who fall under the ‘disabled’ category, at least in some sense. It equates to a standing army of about four million who are perfectly skilled and educated, and yet are undervalued and unrecognised.
The figure is not much better in the United States, with only 60 per cent of men and 51 per cent of women with disabilities working.
Liz Johnson is a Paralympic gold medallist turned disability campaigner and businesswoman.
Liz Johnson is the founder of two organisations which aim to close the disability employment gap. The Ability People is the first disability-led employment consultancy, which works with companies to change their outlook on disability and transform their operations to be authentically inclusive. And recently, Liz has launched Podium, the first jobs marketplace for disabled freelancers. The new platform empowers disabled people to access meaningful remote work which meets their needs, and enables employers to access diverse talent across any sector and from any part of the world.
Having an invisible illness can be extremely difficult in the workplace as it can be hard for your managers and colleagues to understand and empathise with the intense pain you’re suffering when you look perfectly healthy on the outside.
I suffer with Sickle Cell Disease, a blood disorder which means that blood cells, unlike normal blood cells which are round, are curved and hard. This means that they don’t flow as easily and can get stuck in the small blood vessels of your chest, stomach and joints which is what’s known as a sickle cell crisis. The intense pain this causes can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks and the pain is debilitating. Because you can’t predict when a crisis will occur, inevitably it will sometimes manifest at work. In my time at investment bank Lehman Brothers, I experienced crises on several occasions and there were times when an ambulance was called and I was rushed to hospital to control the pain. These events were extremely traumatic for me and for my colleagues who were understandably uncomfortable seeing their workmate in such pain and didn’t know how to react.
Anyone suffering with an invisible illness will find that it will affect their work as it can be so difficult to focus and you are constantly aware of the feeling of ‘letting people down’ which only exacerbates the stress.