Can we fight discrimination with data?

I’ve finally found an hour to write a blog post for you all. Apologies it’s been so long. I’m currently musing as Kasia watches a movie on her Amazon Fire, while we bob along in our Pont Aven cabin (with Brittany Ferries) from Plymouth to Santander. We’re heading to mainland Europe for some projects on accessibility. It appears I need to be in an ocean with no internet before having a few moments to myself – all in a good way of course.

So far this year I’ve been to Finland, published my book ‘Everything is Possible’, partnered with George Baker on Accessible Travel Week and launched Accessible Traveller, spoke at the Avi Ramp conference and last week Disability Horizons rocked up to Naidex in Birmingham.

It’s been a real whirlwind, that’s for sure. Specifically though, being asked to run a stand for Disability Horizons, give a keynote speech, and do a book signing at the large disability exhibition was a real moment of seeing how far we’ve come with all of the projects. But beyond this moment of appreciation, Naidex and the other projects really gave me some new insights to how disabled people are fairing in the world and inspired some ideas on improving things too.

Unbelievably in 2016 people who are born with or have acquired a disability still struggle to; access buildings, get on some modes of public transport, avoid discrimination or prejudice, gain employment, and live with full equality of opportunities. I know this because I still fight it myself. It’s also sobering to hear so many others feeling worn down by this unfortunate reality.

Something we at Disability Horizons, and many other disability organisations, do well is support disabled people with coping and progressing within our situation. My concern of late is that our difficulties and desires are only being preached to the converted. I fear that too often the government, big companies, the media and parts of society unaffected by disability don’t understand our reality, let alone see the benefits of the solution. This being true inclusivity.

In a capitalist world that is transfixed on the numbers of everything (because of financial meltdowns and debts caused elsewhere), I feel we have to fight fire with fire. So I’ve starting looking around and asking for data on the economic cost-benefit analysis of ignoring or marginalising disabled people. However there is no such data.

If there was a way to, morally (with data protection and third party ownership), amass information on all people with long term health conditions – with their support needs, desires, and our measurable value to the world (beyond monetary value too); I believe we could start engaging and winning over those who hold the keys to our true equality.

We could politically vote for parties who represent us. We could utilise our spending power as consumers. We could educate the public in a unified way.

Otherwise I fear we’re going to be forced back to the disability rights of the 1990’s and resort to direct action. Simply to maintain our rights to exist. Something nobody wants to have to do.

These are very basic thoughts and ideas. My wish is to question our current tactics and spark debate. What are your thoughts on being disabled at the moment? Are things getting better or worse? Could the economic number crunching help improve things? Do you have any other ideas?

Anyway. I’m off to rest up with a book. I’m broadcasting on Lonely Planet’s Periscope channel from San Sebastian tomorrow. They’ve adapted lots of the city and want to proudly promote it to disabled people everywhere. Thank god for these diamonds in the rough. They give me hope, keep me positive and able to fight another day.

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