Wed 12 Jun 2019 17.41 BST
Last modified on Wed 12 Jun 2019 17.56 BST
As a disabled person and campaigner for disability rights in the 1980s, 1990s and until 2005, I would say Frances Ryan’s account of how we are treated is this country is depressingly and frighteningly accurate (What kind of a country we become: ask a disabled person, 10 June). We fought so hard for and eventually achieved civil rights and a Disability Rights Commission (DRC) under the last Labour government in the late 1990s. That highly effective commission, led and administered by disabled people, was abolished by the Labour government and disability issues were merged into the newly formed Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
If the DRC had remained intact, it may well have been much harder for the Conservative government from 2010 to slice away at our equal rights, benefits, services and status in society. Unforgivably, our local networks and our highly effective national disability movement – with its commitment to diversity and inclusion – have also been sliced away.
Getting out and about to campaign and lobby is a non-starter if assistance with basic personal care is denied. No wonder we’ve been rendered invisible. So what are we to do? I throw down the gauntlet to old campaigners, new campaigners and allies to launch a fightback and reclaim our rights and equal status in society. What do you say?
• Equality and diversity training seems to have gone out of the window again. I find it is now my companion who is addressed on my behalf in restaurants, on public transport etc. This used to be the case, but things had got better. Maybe the training is too expensive? A small thing by comparison to the meat of the article, but it did make a difference.
• We were struck by the news that more than 28,000 people in Scotland started modern apprenticeships (MA) last year, rising for the eighth consecutive year. Greatly to be welcomed is the increase in the number of those who are disabled starting an MA, up 28% on 2017-18. The proportion of those starting an MA and who have a disability is now 14%, representative of the percentage of the population who identify as disabled.
The rewards of getting these young people, many of whom boast excellent skills, into work are well worth it, often demonstrating higher loyalty and retention rates. They bring passion, skills, dedication and drive to the workplace. Recruiting a modern apprentice enables employers to fill the skills gaps that exist within their current workforce, as apprentices begin to learn sector-specific skills from day one, developing specialist knowledge that will positively affect the bottom line.
We would urge Scotland’s employers to continue to look beyond the label and take on an apprentice who has a disability, taking advantage of the excellent skills offered by many of these young people.
Chairman, Spark of Genius
Chief executive, Who Cares?, Scotland
Falkland House School
Managing director, Young Foundations
CEO, Love learning
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition
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