The following statement was issued by Coventry Council of Disabled People on the International and European Day of Disabled People December 3rd 1997

Disability in one country ...

There are several different models of disability including the medical, the social and the environmental, however what matters most in the international arena is the political model. Disability is not a constant condition. A person's disability can vary according to location or situation, for example a person with quite severe impairments can work in a responsible position, given suitable equipment and access to the workplace however if social barriers to employment such as strict medical criteria or other prejudiced selection criteria based on appearance are in place employment is not given.

The Social and Environmental models are not separate models competing for a political correctness award they are actually interrelated. Even if attitudinal barriers are overcome the individual will not be able to be employed without the physical barriers being lifted as well. Social barriers can be overcome by education and awareness training for all employers, but this can still leave the Physical barriers standing if their is not sufficient funding available. This is an economic barrier which becomes all the more greater for the individual if he/she is unemployed

At work in an accessible environment and with equipment provided, the impact of the individual's impairment can be minimised. they can be an equal member of the workforce, yet once outside of work they will be disabled once again. If for any reason they are unable to drive a car, they will in all likelihood be unable to use the public transport system. They will not be able to benefit from the advantages of equality in the workplace because they will never be able to get to work in the first place.

Catch 22, political action vs political correctness

If the home is not provided with the same facilities as the workplace, whether it be an adapted toilet or a computer communication device. Or if a carer/enabler is not available at the right time, this individual may not even be able to get up for work. Furthermore the cost of these services at home and the difficulties of finding statutory help mean that it is often necessary to be working in order to provide a sufficient income to pay for them all. Regrettably in most towns social services care policies are still geared towards a population who are presumed to be either retired or incapable of work. in spite of their constant resort to the "dictionary of political correctness"

These kinds of differences and inequalities appear within the same town, disabled people are divided from each other and non disabled people by these barriers. Awareness training alone cannot remove them all, what is needed is political action not political correctness. There has to be legislation to re-inforce good social practise and outlaw discrimination. To compel adaptation to public transport, the workplace. There has to be both the money to carry it out and economic penalties for those who do not.

and abroad

Disabled people do not only live in Cities in Western Europe. The individual who cannot gain work because of a disability in this country may find better access and better job opportunities in the United States of America, on the other hand if they lived in Sierra Leone, there may be none of the equipment available we take for granted.

How can equal opportunities be provided in Countries which have recently been at war such as Rwanda and Bosnia, or Afghanistan. where disabilities are caused not only by the realities of war such as land mines, but by the relative poverty in comparison with the countries of Western Europe and the United States?

International Barriers

Disabled people cannot move from a poor country to a rich one or one with better equal opportunities as there are such other factors to be considered as immigration barriers. A disabled Citizen of Mexico, cannot take up residence in a Spanish speaking part of America such as Miami or Los Angeles, to take advantage of the Americans with Disabilities Act because he/she is not considered an American. A disabled inhabitant of Hong Kong cannot take up residence and access the facilities available in this country because he/she is not British.

And in this country itself whist we are all legally speaking European Citizens we are denied the protection at work afforded to our fellow Europeans. These are not social barriers, They are not environmental barriers, they are not even economic barriers, but they are political barriers.

Disabled people cannot ever be equal if they are treated differently according to which side of an artificially drawn border they happen to be born on. The inequality between nations is as great as the inequalities which exist between disabled and non disabled people in any single nation.

This is what the International Day of Disabled People is all about.

DISABILITY KNOWS NO BORDERS, Equal opportunities should not either !

Challenge to Tony Blair


Copyright 1997 Laurence Arnold & Coventry Council of Disabled People
This Page was created on, Sunday, February 16, 1997
Most recent revision Monday, March 10, 1997