Disability Rights UK Newsletter

DR UK marks Grenfell fire anniversary by highlighting broken promises on PEEPs

The Times published a letter from DR UK and two partners urging the Government to legislate for personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs).

We joined Grenfell United and Welsh Disabled leaseholders’ group Claddag to demand that ministers fulfil their promise to act on all the recommendations of the independent inquiry into the fire. The three organisations also published an open letter on Tuesday, the fifth anniversary of the fire, to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other key cabinet members. It urged them to accept the PEEPs recommendation. Read the open letter on PEEPs.

The inquiry’s first report recommended that owners of buildings should have a legal duty to prepare PEEPs for those who would face additional difficulty or danger during an emergency evacuation. But the Government announced last month that the obligation would be too expensive. You can sign a petition demanding the Government implement the recommendation.

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “The anniversary has been a painful time for the survivors, the bereaved and the wider community. As I took part in memorial events on Tuesday, I knew that 40% of the Disabled people living in Grenfell Tower died. As with many others, I could only shake my head in despair at the knowledge that the Government was still failing Disabled people living in buildings which pose an additional risk to them.”

Independent columnist James Moore wrote about our letter to ministers, suggesting that “this morally bankrupt  government” preferred to see disabled people left to burn rather than accept the safeguards recommended by the first phase of the inquiry – including PEEPs.

The Guardian was among many papers to speak to Grenfell residents, including wheelchair user Mariko Toyoshima-Lewis. She said the council and tenant management organisation failed to deliver on a promise of an accessible flat. Firemen had to ‘drag her out’ from her third floor flat.

Meanwhile, as various memorial events were held across London, the BBC website ran a long analysis piece about the on-going police investigation and the possibility of individuals, companies or other organisations being prosecuted when the public inquiry ends.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy, who is overseeing the police investigation, said that, although he has sometimes been shocked at what he has heard at the public inquiry, “there is nothing [in the inquiry transcripts] which our criminal investigation is not aware of”.

He said the police will follow the evidence with a view to deciding which cases could be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service for decisions on criminal charges.

Airlines told to improve support for Disabled flyers

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has ordered airports to set out by next week how they will improve services and support for Disabled people following high-profile recent failures.

Disabled passengers have been left for long periods on aircraft after landing as the aviation industry struggles to recruit sufficient staff following the pandemic – sparking a wave of cancellations and long delays. (See last week’s e-news and the BBC podcast). As well as needing assistance with wheelchairs and to disembark, Disabled people are more likely to require support from airport liaison staff when flights are delayed.

In its letter to airports and airlines, the CAA describes the recent “significant service failings” (experienced by some Disabled passengers) as “simply unacceptable”.

The CAA’s letter warns: “We will continue to closely monitor the quality of service provided and if these significant service failures continue, we will consider whether further action is needed, including using enforcement powers.”

The authority notes a recent increase in the percentage of passengers requesting the assistance service.

The letter said: “It is not clear what is causing this increase in demand for the assistance service, but through working with airlines, airports should ensure that support offered meets the particular need of each passenger, both to ensure that the assistance is appropriate but also to make the general operation more effective.”

Disabled people can pre-notify airlines and airports that they will need support and the CAA said that it will work with stakeholders to spread that message.

Dan White, DR UK policy and campaigns officer said: “We are pleased that the CAA has recognised that the experiences on planes and at airports of some Disabled people have been unacceptable. We’re glad to see they have responded quickly and hope this will mean Disabled people can look forward to better support if they book flights for a summer holiday – or indeed throughout the year.”

Campaign builds to exclude Disabled drivers from expanded London Ultra Low Emission Zone 

An online meeting later this month will discuss the impact on Disabled people of Transport for London’s (TfL) plan to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) across the capital.

You can register here for the 90 minute online meeting, which will run from 2.30pm on 27 June.

Disabled people’s organisations are calling on Mayor Sadiq Khan to exempt all Blue Badge holders from the ULEZ.

Kush Kanodia, a disabled social entrepreneur and adviser on disability issues, said imposing the charge on Disabled people during a cost of living crisis would place a devastating burden on them. He said lawyers have suggested the scheme could breach the European Convention on Human Rights – including the right to a private and family life and protection from discrimination. Other legal challenges could be based on the Equality Act’s requirements to make reasonable adjustments.

An Inclusion London briefing on the proposals said: “We believe that the current proposal to extend ULEZ to Greater London will have a devastating impact on those Disabled people who regularly need to drive into London and will therefore compound the existing cost of living crisis for many of them. In light of the existing cost of living crisis, we urge the Mayor of London to grant to all Blue Badge holders an exemption from the ULEZ daily charge. As of March 2021, 2.7% of the population in London are Blue Badge holders, meaning that there are 247,000 Blue Badge holders who are already exempted from the London Congestion Charge.”

DR UK policy adviser Dan White said: “Many Disabled people regularly drive in London because public transport is not fully accessible and alternative transport services such as Taxicard are very limited in scope. This is another worrying example of how policymakers are failing to consider the impact on Disabled people of measures to reduce carbon emissions which we all recognise are necessary.”

If you cannot attend the meeting but would like to share your views on how the ULEZ expansion could affect you, please email


TfL’s consultation on the plan ends on 29 July.


Survey reveals 42% of Disabled people were “inactive” in 2021

Research from the Activity Alliance has revealed that the Covid pandemic has affected Disabled people’s activity levels. Some four million Disabled people in the UK – 42% – would have been classified as “inactive” over the past year, according to a survey published by the alliance.

Being inactive means taking part in less than 30 minutes of physical activity each week.

According to the survey report, this amounts to 42.4% of all Disabled people, an increase of 2.6 percentage points from before the pandemic. Amongst non-disabled people the figure is 22.6%.

Get Yourself Active’s Communications Officer Mikey Erhardt said: “This survey is another set of troubling results. Through our work, we know that pervasive barriers prevent Disabled people from being active.”

Barriers include rising costs and negative attitudes amongst providers, issues highlighted in the survey.

Mikey said: “We want to see the sports and leisure sector work much harder to embed co-production in practice. They must partner with Disabled people in designing and delivering physical activity. This is the most important way to ensure we can all access the benefits of sport and physical activity.”


Disabled drivers facing long delays in licences

Disabled drivers are facing long delays in processing driving licence applications by the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). The backlog for motorists with medical conditions has risen by 65% in 12 months.

Drivers must declare certain conditions to the DVLA. These include diabetes, sleep apnoea, epilepsy or a heart condition.

An investigation by Heycar (an online car dealership), revealed the 65% rise, with more than 300,000 Disabled drivers affected by delays.

Factors causing the backlog include DVLA staff working from home without remote access to a vital database and industrial action.

DR UK understands that the DVLA expects to reach ‘normal’ turnaround times later this year, with the end of September targeted for 90 per cent of medical applications to be processed within 90 days. However, current delays are seriously affecting the lives and mobility of Disabled people.

As well as the extensive delays in processing licence applications, many Disabled people are finding it extremely difficult to contact DVLA, leaving them uncertain about what is happening to their application. Delays result in Disabled individuals making monthly payments for vehicles that they cannot use.

DR UK Policy and Campaigns Officer Dan White said: “Of course we understand that the recent pandemic has caused a backlog and delays within many services, but it is not acceptable that Disabled drivers receive a worse service from the DVLA than non-disabled people, with some drivers waiting up to six months for a new or renewed licence. The DVLA must find ways to cut processing times for licence applications from Disabled drivers and improve its communications.”

DR UK has written to the agency’s chief executive asking for the situation to be resolved as soon as possible.

For more information, including medical driving licence FAQs, please visit the Heycar medical licence guide.


Pop star re-writes lyrics to remove insulting language

Grammy-winning American pop star Lizzo has changed the lyric in her song Grrrls after Disabled people complained about the use of a derogatory term related to cerebral palsy.

The BBC reports that she apologised for inadvertently using an offensive term –  saying that as “a fat, black woman” in America she knew the negative power words could have.

“Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language,” she wrote in a statement posted to social media.