Disabled People in Rural Communities

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2012 National Disabled Members' Conference
6 July 2012

Conference acknowledges that many of the cuts in public services have hit rural communities, already poorly served, harder than urban areas. Conference reaffirms that the position of disabled people living in rural communities is particularly disadvantageous partly due to the fact that they are often on a lower income and also more reliant on public services.

Disabled people often have a higher dependence on public transport and need public transport to be accessible. However in many villages the service has been radically cut and is at best extremely limited but all too often no bus service at all. Where it exists there is no guarantee that it is accessible. For disabled people with their own car, the high cost of fuel in rural areas is a substantial burden since they often have little or no choice but to use their car.

The availability of accessible, affordable accommodation for disabled people generally is not good. For those living in rural communities not good becomes absolutely disastrous. Often, there is little public housing available for rent . Many people living in rural communities are forced to leave those communities to find accommodation and work elsewhere. Such a decision is downright impossible for disabled people.

The attacks over recent years by successive governments on this sub post office network have rendered many village shops non-viable. The reduction in the permanent resident population caused by the growth of holiday homes has led to an increase in the shops and pubs that are open on a seasonal basis only.

Access to both libraries and high-speed Internet access are now the primary source of information for many people. Internet access in rural areas is invariably slower and more expensive. Large numbers of libraries are now closed and mobile replacements, even where provided, do not offer internet access nor meet the needs of many disabled people. Given that access to information is one of the seven needs identified as critical to independent living, this situation impacts particularly hard on disabled people

Many disabled people want to work but cannot find work. For disabled people in rural communities the combination of getting to interviews and finding jobs with hours that suit them when transport doesn’t is compounded by the impracticality of working at home without a decent information highway.

In addition to the individual problems disabled people face living in rural communities, the very nature of those communities, makes it much harder to work collectively with other disabled people around issues of common interest or indeed to pursue any hobby.

The plight of disabled people in rural communities is not the prime responsibility of the National Disabled Members Committee but Conference is clear that we share a responsibility to identify and where possible rectify this situation.

Conference calls on the National Disabled Members Committee to:-

1. Work with regional disabled members committees to identify the additional burdens faced by disabled members in rural areas.

2. Work with other National SOG committees to identify similar disadvantages and opportunities for joint campaigning

3. Inform the National Executive Committee about the difficulties faced by disabled members in rural areas with a view to identifying measures that UNISON can take to make it easier for them to be active in UNISON and in their communities.