Disability Day of Action: 21 November 2018

Branch disability rep Irina Erchova and branch President Ryan Prout write: 

UCU are holding a Day of Action for disability equality in education on Wednesday 21 November to launch disability history month.

Initiated by UCU’s Disabled Members Standing Committee, the Day of Action is about organising against prejudice and discrimination.  It focuses on the challenges and barriers faced by disabled people in education. The day will culminate in a meeting in parliament that involves the TUC, campus unions, and disability equality campaign groups and organisations.

The Unions are calling for:

  1. time limits for the implementation of reasonable adjustments;
  2. review of building regulations to ensure that new buildings are fully accessible;
  3. statutory rights for disability leave;
  4. the right to access mainstream education and reverse the cuts to special educational needs and disability (SEND).

Cardiff University branch is organising its own action to support the day of action. We are calling our local campaign Hidden Disabilities: Decide to Believe. It launches a review into disability related practices and regulations in CU.

To share your experiences and concerns and/or to be involved with the campaign, please contact the branch disability rep, Irina Erchova: erchovai@cardiff.ac.uk

Decide to Believe

(Because appearances can be deceptive)

Hidden Disabilities refers to disabilities which may not be visible on sight, but can have a major impact on people’s lives. Conditions such as epilepsy, autism, diabetes and acquired brain injuries are often unknown to strangers. Invisible (hidden) disability is an umbrella term that captures a whole spectrum of chronic medical conditions or challenges that are primarily neurological in nature.

We may not always understand an illness or disability but that does not mean we should be disbelieving of people living with them. Based on data from the 2002 US Census Bureau, 96 percent of people who live with an illness live with an invisible one, and 73 percent of people who live with a severe disability do not use devices like a wheelchair. Using a wheelchair is not always indicative of someone’s disability or even the severity of his or her disability. This aid is required because someone is unable to walk, temporarily, or always.

People living daily with illness and pain do not “just want attention “.

If they ask for help—help is needed!

Invisible disabilities are impossible to spot from appearances:

  • Chronic Pain: A variety of conditions may cause chronic pain, back problems, musculoskeletal issues, physical injuries, neurological causes or headaches. Chronic pain may not be noticeable to people who do not understand this particular medical condition.
  • Chronic Fatigue: This type of disability describes constantly feeling tired. This can be extremely debilitating and affect every aspect of someone’s daily life.
  • Mental Illness: Some mental illnesses qualify for disability benefits, some don’t. Depression, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, agoraphobia, and many others may not be diagnosed as a psychiatric disorder, but they are very debilitating, and make everyday tasks extremely difficult, if not impossible.
  • Chronic Dizziness: Often associated with problems of the inner ear, chronic dizziness can lead to impairment when walking, driving, working, sleeping, and other common tasks.
  • Chronic Medical Conditions: Epilepsy, Diabetes, Heart conditions, Severe Allergies, Cystic Fibrosis, Attention Deficit-Disorder or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder(ADD/ADHD),Learning Disabilities (LD), Arthritis, Sensory impartments, Asthma, Cancer, skin conditions, and many others

Many hidden disabilities only manifest themselves time to time, but usually strike unannounced. 

Certain conditions and tendencies are specifically excluded from the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010:

  • Addiction to alcohol, nicotine or any other substance (although addictions arising from use of medically prescribed drugs are not excluded)
  • Tendencies to antisocial or criminal behaviour: e.g., setting fires, stealing, physical or sexual abuse of others, exhibitionism, voyeurism
  • Seasonal allergic rhinitis (e.g. hay fever).

The social model of disability aims to remove barriers that society puts up in the way of disabled people. The social model makes a distinction between impairment and disability. Impairment is described as “a characteristic or long-term trait, which may, or may not, result from an injury, disease or condition”. Disability is not the impairment itself but is the difficulty experienced by people with an impairment when the barriers put up by society interact with their impairment to deny them access or participation. In the social model of disability, the duty to remove barriers and provide access for everyone is transferred to society.

The Welsh Government formally adopted the social model of disability in 2002. It has made a commitment to reflect the social model in future policies and in the services it delivers and in the language it uses. The social model has also been adopted by the United Nations and is the basis of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which was ratified by the UK Government in 2009. The convention is now being cited in UK courts. The trade union movement supports the social model of disability.

If you want to know more, we have left printed materials in common areas of all Schools. Please contact us with your suggestions, questions, and comments.