My name is Alun Davies, and I’m the newly appointed first Chair of the new Bristol Disability Equality Commission. The commission is being established in recognition of the inequalities faced by Disabled people in the city, and the negative impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on Disabled people. The Disability Equality Commission will join the Commission on Race Equality and Women’s Commission as Mayoral commissions taking forward equality in the city.
I am just about an adopted Bristolian having moved here in 1991. I’ve lived all over the city, worked for the public and community/voluntary sector, and served on a number of voluntary sector management bodies. I was a city councillor, a non-executive on a health board and chaired the Disability Committee of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. On a personal level I was the parent of a Disabled child who sadly passed away at 11. I love music both listening and playing, and I have a probably slightly unhealthy interest in 1970’s rock music, tv and cricket!
I became totally blind in 1978 and have been active in the Disabled people’s movement since 1986. I understand disability entirely as a political issue. I am an adherent of and firm believer in the social model of disability.
The social model is clear and simple. People with any kind of impairment – learning difficulty, neuro diversity, mental health issue physical or sensory -are disabled not by their impairments but by cultural, economic, political, and social barriers which cause inherent and institutionalised discrimination.
That is why the commission is a Disability Equality Commission. Its role is to work to remove these barriers. My vision for the commission is that it brings together Disabled people from all backgrounds and impairments to work together in collaboration and partnership to make Bristol a city where Disabled people have choice, control, and equality.
I am under no illusions that it won’t be an easy task. Many Disabled people are unemployed, experience disability hate crime and do not have full choice and control over their own live. Housing choices are very limited, much of the pavements and physical environment is still inaccessible and Disabled people are significantly under-represented in decision-making groups and structures. Disabled children and young people often do not get either the support they need in education or the choice of the best education to meet their needs.
However, I would not have applied for the role if I wasn’t also hopeful and optimistic. The introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995 followed by the Equalities Act in 2010, despite neither going as far as I and many other Disabled people would like, have at least given us some legal recourse. This has meant businesses and service providers have had to make adjustments to their services. Public attitudes and awareness is better than it was 40 years ago and Disabled people are more evident and accepted around the city.
Most of all I am positive because of what I believe the Commission will bring to the city. We will be recruiting commissioners during the next three months, and I believe we will put together a team of enthusiastic, experienced, and skilled Disabled people who will bring a vast amount of passion and wisdom to the task.
I also believe there is a genuine commitment amongst everyone involved in the city to use the opportunity coming out of the pandemic to build back better. We must use the situation we have to make equity and social justice the heart of our response, and disability equality must be fully part of this. It is a privilege and honour for me to chair the Disability Equality Commission and I look forward to playing my part with the Mayor and everyone else to make Bristol a city I and other Disabled people are even more proud to live in.