Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Three disability campaigns hoping to break down barriers


In August this year, a global campaign was launched to improve the lives of more than one billion disabled people by 2030.

#WeThe15 is the biggest ever human rights movement to end disability discrimination, and build on equality. The campaign aims to transform the lives of the world’s 1.2 billion people with a disability, who represent 15% of the global population.

The launch of the campaign coincided with this year’s delayed Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Games. Their website shows a film, which was played at both the opening and closing ceremonies.

It follows Channel 4’s ongoing campaign to become the main UK broadcaster to cover the games, addressing both the skills of the para athletes, but also the everyday challenges that people with a disability face.

This movement plans to initiate change over the next decade by bringing together the biggest coalition of international organisations from the world of sport, human rights, policy, communications, business, arts and entertainment.

The key objectives of the #Wethe15 campaign are:

  • Put persons with disabilities at the heart of the diversity and inclusion agenda
  • Implement a range of activities targeting government, business and the public over the next decade, to drive social inclusion for persons with disabilities
  • Break down societal and systemic barriers, which are preventing persons with disabilities from fulfilling their potential and being active members of society
  • Ensure greater awareness, visability and representation of persons with disabilities
  • Provide education on the social models of disability to dispel global social, cultural misconceptions and explain that disability is created by societal and systemic barriers rather than an individual ‘s impairment
  • Promote the role of additive of assistive technology as a vehicle to driving inclusion.

All of these objectives are key, but the first one is the most important: to put people with disabilities front and centre when designing services as they have the most personal experience of good and bad services.

This is a ground-breaking movement for an inclusive world, particularly as the pandemic has highlighted the issues people faced pre Covid, including not getting the right support or support services being cut. It’s a fundamental human right that people have full access to the right support.

You can engage in this movement by talking directly to people with a disability. Don’t assume they can’t speak for themselves. Also be mindful that some disabilities are not visible.

Society needs to be encouraged to celebrate differences, recognising that people with disabilities have equal rights to speak their mind.

Journalists like myself in the world can effect change starting with media organisations. Together we can work towards transforming the lives of the 15%.

This article I hope will go some way to spreading the word about #Wethe15

Stay up Late campaign

Another important national campaign that I am involved in is called Stay Up Late Scotland. Going to see bands, clubbing or just to see your friends is part of every day life, but if you have a learning disability you may need support to do this.

Our in-person research found that many people with learning disabilities aren’t able to lead a full and active life, as their support worker finishes at 10pm. That means lots of people with learning disabilities leave events at 9.00pm

This opened the need for this campaign as we believe that we all have the right to stay up late and have fun.

We do know that many support workers don’t mind working different hours, as long as they also have enough time to plan.

While it’s crucial to have these global and national movements, it’s equally important for local disability actions to focus and campaign on local issues.

Disability Action ER

I’m the current chair of my local disability group in East Renfrewshire called Disability Action ER, and among other objectives we hold our local councillors and MPs to account.

We were formed in 2011 and from the outset worked with other key local organisations. One of the biggest campaigns to date is getting more accessible taxis in the region.

At the start of this campaign we just had one taxi. Now we have up to 41 operating and we hope that number will keep rising. It took six years for the campaign to come to fruition and we are making the point that it’s a basic human right for people with a disability to get out and about.

Everyone has the right to go out to shops, to visit friends or family, to have nights out and not stress over how to get from A to B.

Have a look at disability groups in your local area, and if you don’t have one then our success in just one campaign should encourage you to start one.

Groups like ours bring people together with lived experience , hearing about barriers in the way, and sharing with others how to overcome them.


Disability Action East Renfrewshire will be hosting a online conference on World International Disability Day (Friday 3rd December). 

This year’s theme is ‘Not All Disabilities Are Visible’.

The conference aims to raise awareness of disabilities that may not be immediately apparent but can still have an impact on people’s lives. These include mental illness, learning differences, chronic pain and sight or hearing impairments among others.

 Michael McEwan is a freelance journalist and disability campaigner 


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