I’d like to talk a little bit about the needs of disabled children who have, of course, exactly the same human rights to be safe from neglect and abuse and be protected from harm in the same way as their non disabled peers.

We know that research has shown that disabled children are more likely (pro rata to the population) to be abused – physically, sexually and emotionally – and neglected by a factor of between 3 or 4 times the average. This is a topic I am heavily involved in, please read  my popular blogs: Child Protection and Disability Part 1 and Child Protection and Disability Part 2

What we have to look at are the indicators of vulnerability such as:

  • fear of losing what services they have
  • seen as an easy target by offenders
  • a blurring of boundaries in intimate care
  • social isolation
  • less capacity to resist
  • generally being taken advantage of by some of their peers

Sadly, there is so much to look out for by those of us charged with protecting young disabled people. Frustration can lead to force feeding and rough handling, excessive physical restraint, arbitrary attempts at behaviour modification such as deprivation of food, drink, clothes and medication. On the subject of medication, the way that some young people with impairments are treated involved misuse of sedation, tranquillisers and insensitive invasive procedures.

There are some issues that I’d call neglect by societal omission such as the lack of resources – both human and financial – to provide the equipment needed by growing young people, whether this be adjustments to indoor and outdoor wheelchairs or ill fitting callipers or anything else that young people have to wait ages to have adjusted.

When we come across children who’ve been criminally abused the whole issue of communication raises it’s head again. Where is the natural justice for a young person who has little or no movement, no speech and very limited ability to indicate their feelings when they go to court? If a witness came from Mars the judicial system would move heaven and Earth to get a Martian interpreter. Often the Crown Prosecution Service may not put a case forward if giving evidence required 3 days instead of 3 hours to get the message across.

Another area of what I would call societal abuse is still the lack of access to internet sites for the disabled. This may slightly have improved but the latest figures I’m aware of is that 93% of ISP’s failed to provide adequate text descriptions for graphics, 78% used colours with poor contrast causing issues for those with colour blindness, 97% do not allow people to alter or resize pages and 89% offered poor page navigation.

The Disability Discrimination Act requires the world we live in to make alterations and access available to all, whatever their impairments. The definition of disability, that is now predominant, is the social model which says that it’s society that makes people disabled by not providing appropriate access or resources to cope with their impairment. So, just as shops , buses, taxis, galleries, offices and anywhere else need to be built with ease of access for all, so the internet should have the same requirements and regulation through the Disability Discrimination Act.

There’s so much that needs equalising in our world. The trouble is that we’re not just fighting against ignorance, there are vested interests out there who don’t accept that one human being is as valuable as the next.

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