Government statistics indicate that there are more than 11 million people in the UK living with a long-term disability or illness. While recognising the accomplishments of the disabled community in recent decades in campaigning for legislation against discrimination, including through the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, more change in relation to infrastructure and social attitudes will help achieve equality for disabled people.
The discussion touched on the social model of disability, which views disability in terms of the additional barriers faced by disabled people, rather than describing it in terms of a medical condition or impairment. In this model, the level of a person's disability is context specific and often has the potential to be improved. For example, when catching a train, the impact on a wheelchair user's disability can be reduced if the station has lifts and level access from platform to train.
The medical negligence and personal injury team represents disabled people in claims where that disability has been caused by negligence or by an accident on the roads or at work. A major aspect of our work involves understanding the specific access needs of each client and their families to design a package of compensation that enables those needs to be met throughout their lifetime.
In England and Wales, the starting point for compensating someone who has experienced negligence is that the compensation should put them back to the position they would have been in if the negligence had not occurred.
We cannot turn back the clock and prevent their injury; instead, compensation is tailored to meet the person's individual needs to help them enjoy their best possible life and to live as independently as possible. Through this we see an echo of the social model of disability. A suitably adapted home can provide a disabled person with the ability to cook, go out into their garden or even just open a window independently. For some disabled children and adults, an eye-tracking communication system can provide the ability to communicate with those around them.
Through access to treatment, personal assistance, equipment and property adaptation, we see how barriers faced by our disabled clients can be reduced and the opportunities this provides them and their families. More generally, we also see how society is enriched by inclusion of the disabled community.
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