I have Asperger’s syndrome, which is an autistic spectrum disorder.
My interest is in the European Year of People with Disabilities and
hope the issues I am raising will encourage other people within the
disability sector to support me and change society’s ignorance of
A few months ago, I received a copy of a parliamentary early day
motion (EDM 185) with a list of MPs who had signed it. My local MP
(Paul Truswell, Pudsey, in Yorkshire) sent it to me. I am
disappointed to see that only 66 out of almost 660 MPs have signed
it. All the EDM asks them to do is to agree that “This House [of
Commons] celebrates 2003 as the European Year of People with
Disabilities.” The number of Conservative MPs who have signed is
two, Ulster Unionists one, Plaid Cymru two, the Scottish National
Party two, Liberal Democrats 10 and Labour 49.
I am disappointed that neither the minister for disabled people,
nor the shadow minister, nor the three main party leaders have
signed up to this important year. This is a society where we talk
about access, inclusion and integration for all, but when it comes
to signing an EDM supporting such issues this is not the
Iwas led to believe that the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and
the Human Rights Act 1998 would improve things for people who are
have a disability. I feel that if this was an issue of race, colour
or creed there would be uproar from ethnic minorities, so what is
the difference in this respect between one minority and
Last year, I was fortunate to attend the Inaugural World Autism
Organisation Conference in Melbourne and someone said what I have
been saying for along time: “Difference with nothing taken away”.
We talk about equality, justice, the right to be treated with
dignity and respect. But I find it deplorable that here in the UK,
which could lead the way, we still have a long, long way to go in
recognising the disabled.
I am concerned that service users and their carers have to fight
for everything that they can get or need, such as education or
ramps to increase access and so on.
I feel that the people who are disabling others are the MPs who
haven’t signed the EDM. Anyone can be affected by disability, as
when someone becomes blind, and I bet everyone can name someone who
could be classified as disabled. Disability can and does affect us
all in different ways.
Communication and socialisation are the biggest challenges for many
people with autism. I feel we have almost a moral duty to speak up
and represent the views of disabled people and those who can’t or
are unable to speak up for themselves.
I should point out that this is not an attack on Tony Blair or his
government. It is a cry for help to those who have a disability and
equally those affected by disability. If we don’t make a stand, who
will? It is about standing up and being counted.
Richard Exley would like to launch a campaign on the issues
he has highlighted here. E-mail
The number of signatures on the EDM is now 77.