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  • Writer's picturePhilip J Connolly

UKIM to VIM

On the 17th of August 2023 the UK Independent Mechanism (UKIM) reported on the progress in implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities see Progress on disability rights in the United Kingdom: 2023 | Equality and Human Rights Commission (equalityhumanrights.com). If you need a brief on the status of disabled people this is it. It's grim reading. There has been too little progress since 2016 on almost every UN recommendation. I asked myself, "how might the UK Government jump start progress". I think one answer is a Manhattan style project, the project that ended the war.


Like the original Manhattan project there is an obvious mission. We want to decouple disability from poverty and couple accessibility to participation. We want to do this in five years and we want to do it through mass produced solutions that are self directed, self sufficient and transfer resilience from the thriving disabled to the aspiring disabled.


The Disability Resilience Network can point to other factors in common with the Manhattan project but not the name. Since I live in Charlton the setting for the Thames Barrier and a branded opportunity area of the Mayor of London, I am going to call it the Charlton Project. Firstly like the Manhattan Project there is a pressing national need to resolve. Disabled people are the largest demographic in poverty, in unemployment, using food banks and not participating in society.

The Manhattan project cost £2 billion dollars. We will need to spend more. Where's the money coming from I hear you say. Well it already exists. DWP estimated the spending power of disabled people at £274 billion in 2020 with commerce and industry only currently competing for around 10% of that market. A little like the credit crunch crisis we need those purple pounds to move from savings accounts to investment bonds instead. Can we do it? Yes we can.


Unlike the Manhattan project where the Allied Governments had to build nuclear reactors, set up new research stations and agencies and build a new town for 13,000 residents, the infrastructure we need already exists. The people already exist too. The UK has researchers, building societies, business to business brokers and investors. The only factor missing is the relationships. The Charlton Project could soon be a success but at present the developers are trying to build Manhattan not Jerusalem. Our problem is that our vision is not their current mission or responsibility. But there is one other factor that is currently missing and for whom it is their mission and responsibility or should be - the Government. The Government just have to see their problems as their opportunities. Disability is a resource.


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