The lives of disabled people are affected every day by “unhelpful, exclusionary or downright abusive”, according to Bristol experts.
A major study of the daily lives of people with disabilities has found that cuts to social care and austerity have hit disabled people hardest, making their lives harder.
The Getting Things Changed study, led by Bristol University, followed the lives of 448 participants to shine a light on the problems disabled people face every day.
Professor Val Williams, from the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies at the university, said: “We have tried to unravel some of the culture and practices which excluse or ‘misfit’ disabled people. All too often, practices become stuck in ways which are unhelpful, exclusionary or downright abusive for them.”
“While we found evidence of some positive changes, thanks in part to technology, there still needs to be a shift in values – in public institutions and within society as a whole.”
The research, which was carried out over three years, found that people felt their disability was still treated as a negative category in universities, the media and even in hospitals.
Scope of the project included dementia, special schools, representation of disabled people on TV, and support for parents with learning difficulties.
Researchers found “countless” practices which exclude or marginalise people with disabilities. These included hospitals where disable people could not access services easily because of lack of wheelchair access.
Professor Williams said: “local authorities are being driven by the need to cut social care budgets rather than engaging in meaningful communication with disabled people, and we see how this creates a climate where rigid processes and practices become the unquestioned norm.
“Disabled people should be seen and valued as innovators. Introducing new forms of technology and ways of doing things which will ultimately benefit the whole of society by making it more inclusive.”
The research leaders made recommendations to policy makers: public institutions should have systems in place to adhere to disability laws, disability needs to be seen as part of diversity, and personal support at universities and hospitals should be introduced.
Deputy chief executive of charity Disability Rights UK, Sue Bott, said: “Why should we disabled people continually have to fight for our rights? It’s a wake-up call to public bodies to put in place practices and processes that will guarantee our rights.”