Disabled people and Deaf people across the States celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act yesterday and it was streamed live from The White House. It came into force in 1990.

It would take the UK another 6 years to get the Disability Discrimination Act into place – 2 years after the 1994 Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill was talked out by Nicolas Scott – the then Minister for Disabled people using political tactics driven by his own Tory government.

For those who campaigned, tied ourselves to buses on Westminster Bridge as part of the Rights NOW! campaign (many of them Disabled artists) it was nothing short of insulting. The very Minister who was supposed to fight for our rights didn’t. Some of us have long memories of that time as we have the Tories back in power (even if it’s power sharing)…

The 1994 Act was widely supported by Disabled people, all the Disability charities and would have had strong reaching consequences in giving us Disabled and Deaf people equal rights. It was written by two Disabled lawyers Caroline Gooding and David Ruebain (it is well worth searching their work, publications and current practice).

The Rt Hon Lord Ashley of Stoke (who is also Deaf) steered the 1994 Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill through parliament till it was destroyed by the Conservative Government.

As Nicholas Scott said at the time ‘it would cost too much’.

What cost is it for us Disabled people to have full access to education, employment, transport, pubs, clubs, shops, website access and so on? We also contribute £80 BILLION to the UK economy every year.

For many of us the DDA is just a second rate piece of legislation depending on ‘reasonable adjustments’. It is almost impossible to win in court and only an Employment Tribunal can decide whether you are Disabled or not (and it’s impossible to win an Employment case).

Back to the ADA celebrations … streamed LIVE online from The White House with subtitles and American Sign Language on the front page of The White House Website. Watching it late last night was something else – today I’m really disappointed that the video has no subtitles or ASL embedded into the video. You can read the  transcript of the  speech given by President Obama but not of any of the other speeches.

I wish I could say that the UK coalition government even bothers to make the effort to take Disabled and Deaf people’s access requirements into account The Big Society just launched certainly DOESN’T include us. Have you tried to interact with the publication on the Conservative website it uses Adobe FLASH!

They want us all to Race Online (by) 2012 – on page 48 of the Manifesto recommendation 4.2 says it all:

4.2 DWP should introduce an expectation that people of working age should apply for benefits online and have the skills to look for, and apply for, work online. They should work with Race Online 2012 partners to provide support to those that need it.

if you are on benefits (which the majority of Disabled people are) they plan to make us fill in the forms online. Since only 1% of websites are accessible how is this going to be possible? Disabled people will simply lose out their entitlements. Is that a fair society? It is not the solution.

OxIS (Oxford Institute of Internet Survey 2009) clearly states that:

Disability, such as a health-related problem remained a key source of digital exclusion’.

It goes on to say that only 41% of Disabled people are online compared to 75% of those without a Disability or health related problem.

We have a long way to go.I doubt much has changed in a year.

Government departments and No 10 should make ALL it’s digital content fully accessible now, automatically stream all live discussions, events etc. with subtitles and BSL interpretation, provide easy read transcripts and transcripts of audio for download. Why is that not happening?

Not to sink into the lows of my reflection on my  and other Disabled and Deaf people’s civil rights and digital rights (or lack of them).

I’ll leave you with this fantastic image from the celebrations of the ADA yesterday – of an audience member with a Deaf/Blind Sign Language Interpreter [official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton]. The Deaf/Blind alphabet is signed on the person’s hand.