Nelson Mandela backs call for equality amongst disabled people

Scope, the leading national disability organisation, today launches its Time To Get Equal campaign to end discrimination and prejudice against the UK’s 10 million disabled people.

Backed by Nelson Mandela, Scope Patron Cherie Booth QC and political leaders Tony Blair, Michael Howard, Charles Kennedy and Hywel Williams, the charity is calling for equality for disabled people.

Home Secretary David Blunkett will today address MPs, policy makers, company bosses, leaders of the disability movement and disabled people at the campaign’s launch event in central London, where Scope aims to highlight disablism: discrimination against disabled people.

The event will see the launch of the new report by think-tank Demos entitled: Disablism: How to tackle the last prejudice. The report, commissioned by Scope and supported by campaigning organisation Disability Awareness in Action, brings into sharp relief the day-to-day inequalities experienced by disabled people and lays out a framework for establishing a new way of talking and thinking about disability.

Scope will be calling upon all sections of society to sign a Pledge to support disabled people achieving equality, acknowledging we all have a part to play to make this possible.

Tony Manwaring, chief executive of Scope, said: “This campaign will put the issue of disablism firmly on the public and political agenda. Disabled people in this country lead lives which are wrecked by poverty and exclusion and are much less likely than non-disabled people to be able to achieve their potential. In order to banish this from our society and effect real and lasting change Scope will be working in collaboration with other key organisations of disabled people, business and government.”

Rachel Hurst, Director of Disability Awareness in Action, said: "It is really significant that this campaign is about us all working together to eradicate disablism. Many of us directly experience disablism but we are all affected by it and must be united in our efforts to end it. I am particularly delighted that Nelson Mandela is backing this campaign - a man who not only understands the institutional nature of disablism but did something about it by building a unique society in South Africa that ensures that disabled people are given the same status and protection as everyone else."

Julie Fernandez, host of the event and actress, campaigner and wheelchair-user said, "Non-disabled people just aren't aware how damaging their negative attitudes can be. When I meet people for the first time, a significant number seem uncomfortable that I am using a wheelchair and are surprised that I am a successful actress. This lack of understanding needs to be addressed and deliberate lack of acceptance no longer tolerated. It is undermining and after all it is 2004 we are living in and not the dark ages. I am playing a role in Scope's Time to Get Equal Campaign because I firmly believe that society must face up to its responsibility of making disabled people feel accepted, valued and equal."

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