Disability History Month at the House of Lords
18 November 2021
Disability History Month (18 November - 18 December 2021) is a chance to consider the issues facing disabled people, past and present. Find out what the House of Lords is doing to remove barriers and raise awareness to improve the equal rights of the disabled community.
A history of fighting for disability rights at the House of Lords
The 1970 Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act was the first step towards equality for disabled people in the UK. Introduced by Lord Morris of Manchester, then MP, the bill required councils to provide certain services to disabled people living in their communities. During the main debate of the bill in the House of Lords, several disabled members shared their experiences, raising issues such as the extra costs of living, segregation and mobility barriers for wheelchair bound people. Parts of the Act addressed these problems, but there was still a long way to go.
‘Much more needs to be done’
The Equality Act 2010 brought together many pieces of disability and equality law. Five years after the Act became law, a House of Lords committee under the same name was established to investigate the law’s impact on disabled people. In its report, the Equality Act 2010 and Disability committee found that government inaction was failing disabled people, and stressed that improvements to housing, sportsgrounds, public spaces, transport and more, needed to be addressed.
‘We must learn from history, not live in it, but one of the key lessons which Disability History Month might highlight is the fact that this is a continuing struggle.’ – Lord Blunkett
Pressing the government for action
Since the Equality Act 2010 and Disability committee report, improvements to meet accessibility standards have been made in areas such as transport, but in June 2021 a reinvestigation of the Equality Act by the House of Lords Liaison committee found that the government has not carried out a number of provisions from the Act. The committee has asked the government to speak to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and disabled people’s organisations about the work they need to do, and publish a timeline detailing how it plans to make provisions in the Act work.
- Learn more about the Liaison committee report
The House of Lords continues to raise awareness of issues impacting the lives of disabled people. Recently, members discussed the impact of the pandemic on people with neurological conditions and access to Child Trust Funds for people with learning disabilities. Members also pressed the government on its plans to prevent people with learning difficulties and autism being detained in secure settings when an assessment has recommended they should live in the community.
The Lords recently debated building an inclusive society in a post-pandemic world, discussing issues such as the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people with disabilities.
On the 28 October 2021, members debated preventing the detention of people with learning disabilities and autism. Watch to find out how the government responded to issues raised such as average detention times and in-patient treatment.
Making sport accessible
The House of Lords National Plan for Sport and Recreation committee is looking into increasing participation in sport among underrepresented groups and recently spoke to charities and disability organisations about improving the uptake of sport within the disabled community.
Earlier this year, Paralympian and Olympian members discussed how the increased coverage and exposure of the Paralympic Games has helped changed attitudes to accessibility. Watch the video.
The House of Lords is made up of a diverse group of people with different abilities, experiences and expertise. Discover House of Lords members and their roles, and find out what topics members are speaking about in the chamber on any sitting day.
House of Lords podcast
Listen as Baroness Campbell of Surbiton and Baroness Grey-Thompson discuss disability rights and improving accessibility in the House of Lords Podcast.
What’s on in the chamber
Watch members press for change and challenge the government on disability related issues. Look out for these upcoming events:
Thursday 9 December 2021
Lord Holmes of Richmond (Conservative), will ask the government about its plans to review the operation of the disabled student’s allowance scheme to ensure it is working in a timely manner and in the best interests of those it is set up to support.
Read the stories of influential members of the Lords who have impacted disability related UK laws.
- Download the UK Parliament Disability History Month booklet
House of Lords online
Follow on Twitter
Visit @UKHouseofLords on Twitter for highlights of each day’s work in the House.