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Disability laws haven’t worked for us

UK - Edinburgh - Fran MacilveyADULTS with cerebral palsy are still experiencing the same levels of “debilitating discrimination” as they suffered before the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 20 years ago, say campaigners.

Experts believe up to two-thirds of people with the condition continue to face “alarming” inequality and prejudicial treatment on a daily basis.

Common complaints include the lack of user-friendly facilities on public transport and the difficulty of accessing shops and business premises.

And an estimated one-in-four people are still labeled as “drunkards or drug users” because of symptoms like slurred speech.
In most cases, the discrimination is said to be unintentional. But the emotional impact is immense and many people with CP become increasingly depressed or withdrawn from society.

Fran Macilvey, the bestselling author of Trapped: My Life with Cerebral Palsy, believes the public is still ignorant about the condition and its symptoms.

The former solicitor, whose condition makes walking in a straight line impossible, says her own career was “seriously compromised” because her disability was allegedly not “on brand” in the legal practices in which she worked.

She is now calling for better education in schools and businesses to increase awareness of cerebral palsy, which affects one in 400 children in the UK.

“There remains an alarming prejudice towards people with cerebral palsy, which for many – me included – can be more debilitating that the condition itself,” she said.

“Thankfully, discrimination is not usually deliberate or malicious, but rather stems from confusion and a complete lack of understanding.

“Can you imagine what it is like to walk down the road, enter a shop, or do any number of other everyday tasks when people are convinced that you’re drunk or high?”

She added: “Precious little has changed since the introduction of the DDA, and in this regard it is failing a great many people across the UK.

“Many people with cerebral palsy are still living segregated lives. They continue to feel vulnerable and self-conscious, and are placed at a disadvantage in society.”

Cerebral palsy is a complex neurological condition that affects muscle control and movement, commonly caused by an injury to the brain before, during or after birth.

Symptoms generally include communication and sensory difficulties, problems with coordination and balance, and muscle weakness or floppiness.

While physiotherapy and other therapies can often help sufferers to become more independent, there is currently no cure.

The Discrimination Act and its current successor, the Equality Act, were introduced to stamp out discrimination and better protect those with physical and mental disabilities.

But since the original Act was introduced in 1995, campaigners claim the Government has failed to educate the public about CP or adequately protect those with CP from unfair treatment.

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