There have been some small pieces of cheer – but 2021 has to be so much more

As we end 2020, the cause of disability rights looks rather like a truck with the gear stick jammed into reverse hurtling backwards at speed.
Looming in the mirror is the cliff edge. Im wondering long it will be before we fall off it into a bygone era of complete discrimination. You know the reason. Its the word that its impossible to avoid: Pandemic.
Writing this, Im struggling with where to start when it comes to the rivers of polluted crap Covid-19 has exposed in terms of the attitude of Britains authorities towards the nations disabled citizens.
I could talk about the disturbing growth in do not resuscitate orders applied to disabled people regardless of their feelings on the matter, or the healthcare rationing decisions that were being discussed when the first wave of coronavirus threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
It was made horribly, brutally, clear that a disabled life is a life less valued than that of someone who isn’t.
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Were going to have to be very careful with you, said my wife back in March. There was real fear in her eyes. She was worried that if the virus got into our house and I was left in need of a ventilator I was at risk of being left to die.
The NHS is built on the principle that we are each equal in dignity and worth. It expresses our commitment to protect one anothers right to life and to health, no matter who we are, said Disability Rights UK back in April.
We have read about cases that have made us feel worried that those principles are sometimes not being upheld. We are concerned that the rights of disabled people, of all ages are not always being upheld.
The virus did get to me in the end. I didnt end up in hospital, but we had a frightening couple of days when medical advice was very hard to come by. So was food.
The supermarkets have been trumpeting their success in feeding the nation during lockdown. Those of us with disabilities who werent on the governments shielding list have cause to question their patting themselves on their backs.
My family was extremely lucky that we had friends willing to step into the breach when securing an online delivery slot made felt like winning the National Lottery jackpot.
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Even those on the list frequently encountered problems, were left worried about how to find support.
In an interim report on the impact of the pandemic on disabled people, the charity Inclusion London said: From the outset, disabled people have been discriminated against, forgotten, and in some cases abandoned as policymakers have ignored our needs.
That about sums it up.
Even the gestures that did emerge were a mixed bag. Those already claiming benefits such as the personal independence payment had the regular, sometimes humiliating, re-assessments kicked forward. New claimants, however, found the going an awful lot tougher.
Glimmers of light in the dark? Hard to find. But there were a few.
Were used to companies publishing their gender pay gaps because its mandatory (although the government suspended the requirement this year). However, Zurich UK, a big insurance company, voluntarily published its disability pay gap this year. I was alerted to it in the run up to the International Day of People With Disabilities.
The gap was too wide – the companys disabled workers on average earn 17.6 per cent less than their colleagues which reflects a 0.6 per cent point increase from 2019. Zurich promised to monitor the data so it could take the action necessary to improve.
It has work to do that goes beyond simply touting its Disability Confident Leader status, whatever that might be. But just publishing the number put it streets ahead of an awful lot of companies with big names and flashy brands that make a big song and dance about how they value diversity without doing anything meaningful in the way of proving it.
Across the arts and culture, the picture was similarly mixed. The release of Come As You Are early in the year (with a release across digital platforms in July) showed how far things need to move. It was lauded by non-disabled critics who were, forgive me, completely blind to the films glaring problem.
I dont care how heart-warming a film is, how sensitively it may treat the material, how funny it manages to be (it’s a comedy road movie featuring three disabled people who want to get laid), having non-disabled actors play the roles is wildly offensive to those of us who are disabled for real.
The excuses that emerged did nothing to help. To the contrary.
The balance was somewhat redressed by the Disney controlled Hulu, with its disability representation collection putting the spotlight on disabled actors. Its a pity you cant get it over here. Id particularly like to see Run. But theres talk about an international roll out coming, so heres hoping.
Crumbs of comfort there were, then. But goodness me Britain needs to do better and Im going to scream out loud the next time I hear some shiny-suited minister banging on about Britain being a world leader in disability rights. Its not. Not even close.