To mark a day of world-wide celebration the DeafLondon team attended a parliamentary reception at Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament, Westminster.
The event has hosted by Shadow Minister for Disabled People, Debbie Abrahams, MP, and featured a pretty impressive line-up including the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Owen Smith, MP.
DeafLondon were, of course, seated in the front row as we waited to hear the panel discus the theme of the event – what needs to be done to enable deaf and disabled people to live full lives?
Proceedings kicked off with Owen Smith detailing Labour’s plans for engaging the disability sector, and by admitting the mistakes they made in the run-up to the general election 2015.
We then heard from Lord Low who spoke of his work on protecting the human rights of disabled people and his frustration that the progress made in recent years seems to have been lost.
Arslaan Hussain spoke of his own experience of being a young man diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and the life-changing effect that had on his independence.
Models of Diversity’s Director of Disability, Chelsea Jay, called for the media to fairly represent disability, slamming the current treatment of disabled models by the fashion industry and their open disregard for current equality legislation.
Mikey Argy, Thalidomide campaigner, shared good practice for influencing change – including the need to avoid ‘sob stories’ and finding a proactive MP to support your cause.
After the presentations concluded the floor was given to the audience and a particularly tough Q&A session began. One overriding theme was the effect cuts were having on the disability sector, with Owen Smith stating that £23 billion has been cut from national disability budgets. Debbie Abraham added that in the period 2013-2014 there were additional 590 suicides by disabled people in direct response to the cuts.
The audience could be described as hostile but given the importance of the subject, and the life-threatening situation we find ourselves in, who can blame them?