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On 5 February 2024 the Government released its long-awaited Disability Action Plan, which features a range of practical policies and changes that could make a real difference to the millions of disabled people across the UK.
At Kids, our focus is on children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who have a wide range of needs. Given that play is such an important aspect of any child’s life, we are pleased to see that the plan aims to make playgrounds not only accessible, but also more inclusive.
Yet at a wider level, the plan neglects many areas that have a big impact on disabled youth as they transition through to adulthood. In order to deliver an effective plan, the Government will need to actively listen to those who are most impacted by those areas. This is especially true as wider issues, such as cost of living, continue to further disadvantage the daily lives of disabled people.
Our response to the initial Disability Action Plan consultation made recommendations in three areas:
We believe that every child should have an equal opportunity to play, learn, grow and thrive, and opportunities to play are an important part of a disabled child’s life. The Government’s proposal was to create an online hub of accessible playground guidance on GOV.UK, as well as working with partners to raise awareness among local authorities.
We’re pleased to see that, in line with Kids recommendations, a more radical vision has been formed. This includes an understanding of the importance of inclusivity as well as accessibility; the need to ensure playgrounds have equipment that caters to all disabilities; the importance of the wider area being accessible, including pathways, car parks and toilets; the importance of work in this area being informed by disabled people’s experience; and the suggestion to create a postcode search function on the online hub.
The Government will focus on establishing a Centre for Assistive and Accessible Technology (CAAT) and determine its own scope and work programme instead of taking forward the Disability Action Plan consultation proposals. We believe that AT can really help young people thrive and give them a voice in the classroom and beyond, and we hope that the CAAT delivers on its promise.
The plan does talk about digital inclusion, but it seems to be a secondary concern. We do not want to create a two-tier society, and tackling digital inclusion is important to ensure that disabled young people feel part of all society.
At Kids we co-chair the Digital Services Consortium – an alliance of charities working together to tackle the digital divide experienced by many disabled children and their families. We believe it is important that young disabled people’s voices are heard, as their lived experience is vital to understanding the importance of the digital world for young people and how to overcome barriers to access.
At Kids, we support the whole family and are acutely aware of the issues parents and carers have when trying to navigate such a complex system. Our ‘Navigators’, who provide invaluable one to one support, already demonstrate positive outcomes for many families. Our vision is for every family to have access to a Navigator, and we’re therefore pleased the consultation highlighted to Government the need for a ‘whole-family’ approach to provide the best support. As a result, the Government will explore and develop a new, accessible online information hub for families with disabled members to make it easier for them to find resources and information about government policies.
We also welcome the plan’s progressive proposals which will benefit disabled young people across the country. This includes helping disabled people get into elected office, and investigating whether the UK should host the 2031 Special Olympics World Summer Games.
More broadly though, the plan fails to tackle major issues for disabled young people, such as transport, transitions and housing. Disabled children and young people need and deserve a Disability Action Plan that accounts for their needs and works for all, to create a truly inclusive society.