The Disability Gap still exists

composition of Illustrations from Freepik.com
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[Cover image is composition of illustrations from Freepik.com]

According to the Equality Act of 2010, “a person is said to be disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that is long-term and has a substantial negative impact on his ability to carry out his normal daily tasks.” (By long-term, this means at least 12 months duration).  

Northern Ireland has some of the largest numbers of disabled people of the UK according to a 2018 report published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) especially in relation to mental health. When researching these statistics, it became apparent that there is a trend among statistics relating to the difference of disabled and non-disabled people (Disabled/Able Bodied). There is a consistent gap that appears within various data relating to disability and non-disability. The first graph (Index A1) displays sports club memberships for a 2017 to 2019 period in Northern Ireland and was gathered via the Continuous Household Survey (CHS). This is a Northern Ireland wide household survey carried out by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

INDEX A1: Data sourced from NISRA

The data shows a considerable gap for both year ranges with regards to the number of disabled sports club memberships compared to able bodied. An explanation for this could be a lack of facilities and promotion of such clubs for disabled people, however Northern Ireland has a charity that specialises in this very area Disability Sport NI (DSNI) who are very active in initiating schemes and programmes to encourage participation.

Disability Sport NI Logo

The second set of data shows a similar gap again however this time in relation to employment. The data was collected using the Labour Force Survey and shows a UK wide employment gap. The red bars indicate non-disabled and the green bars show disabled figures.

Index A2: Sourced from Labour Force Survey

The data displays 3 areas of employment information including employment economic activity and economic inactivity. The information clearly displays a correlation between employment and economic activity with both their red figures sitting just above or below 750. However, for economic inactivity we see that both the red and green figures are closer with a deficit of approximately 27.

Its reported that approximately 1 in 5 people in the UK have a disability and with so many people who are disabled it begs the question why are only a small handful being employed?

The final graph shows the disability pay gap, the data was sourced from the Disability employment and pay gaps 2019 TUC proposals for legislative and workplace change report. The data shows how there is a significantly higher median hourly pay gap for those with learning difficulties compared to those with difficulties involving sight or their back or neck. However, this doesn’t include the layering of conditions.

INDEX A3: Sourced from the TUC proposals for legislative and workplace change report

The data has made it paramount that considerations need to be made by the government and employers to help minimise and eradicate the impact of these gaps. These are but a handful of the many societal and economic gaps that segregate the disabled from those without disabilities. A talented group of people sit eagerly waiting for their chance to shine but are overlooked or not supported to their full potential due to their disability.

I spoke with a gentleman who wishes to remain anonymous, he told me how he worked for many years after having served in the British military and then after having pursed various careers he was forced to stop work due to mental illness he has spent the past decade or longer living on benefits due to his health. When shown these graphs he said

“It breaks my heart to see these stats and know there are others out there that want to work, or are working but are being treated abysmally in regards to pay and social opportunities.”

Closing on a more positive note, there are organisations out there who see this issue and are fighting to change such as the Valuable 500 movement. This organisation seeks to garner the support and commitment of as many large named brands as possible and pledging your support a company is agreeing to do everything in their power to ensure their company is welcoming to those with disabilities.

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