Happy International Day of Disabled People!
The world has come a long way since the forced institutionalisation of disabled people in the early 1900s, but there is obviously a long way still to go. This year, International Day of Disabled People is focused on fighting for rights in the post-Covid era.
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit everyone hard, and reductions in health services, financial uncertainty, and health concerns have affected disabled people a lot.
Although we are not quite yet in a post-Covid world, as our weekly updates will show you, BuDS strongly believes that we should always be striving to make places as accessible as possible.
With this in mind, we would like to tell you about some of the work that we have been doing to help fight for better accessibility for disabled people in Buckinghamshire during the Covid-19 pandemic, and hopefully beyond.
Cary, co-coordinator of the Fair4All Card Scheme:
“Our Fair4All Card Scheme was launched in 2020 to help disabled people prove what reasonable adjustments they are legally entitled to. It began as a scheme to prove who was mask exempt, and has grown to now offer around 30 different reasonable adjustments. It has helped lots of people already and we have plans coming up to make the scheme even bigger and better!”
The Fair4All Card Scheme was created by disabled people for disabled people during the pandemic as a follow-up to the Letter of Authority scheme. The Letter of Authority scheme provided disabled people with reassurance that they would be okay if they were stopped by police for leaving their house more than once a day during the first months of the lockdown.
The Fair4All Card Scheme has grown a lot, now helping disabled people across the county. As the pandemic changed, the team adapted to the needs of disabled people outside of just Covid-19 restrictions and are now hoping to keep expanding the scheme to help more and more disabled people.
Clare, one of our BuDDies:
“I was made redundant from my job at a care home and I missed helping and talking to people. A friend recommended volunteering for BuDS as a BuDDy, a befriending service for disabled people, and I was pleased to be accepted earlier this year. They took me through the necessary training and a month ago, I was really excited to be matched with somebody. I really look forward to our weekly phone chats and we have quickly built up a relationship. It has improved my confidence and it’s so rewarding to feel that I am making a difference. Right from the very beginning, I found my peers at BuDS to be very friendly and supportive. Although we have only met virtually, I feel really involved in the organisation and would definitely recommend volunteering to anyone who is considering it.”
The BuDDies scheme provided support to disabled people during the pandemic. A lot of disabled people became very isolated due to shielding and BuDS worked hard to support them during the lockdowns. We hope to expand this project to support even more disabled people in 2022.
Sam, who took part in Reach4Work:
“Thank you for doing the workshop today and answering my question! It’s really useful getting information that comes from an experienced recruiter as a lot of CV workshops in schools and university’s etc are education staff who stick to traditional structuring of just listing experience rather than talking about it, which isn’t always the best approach as you’ve said. I will definitely be re-jigging my CV soon!”
Reach4Work helps disabled people get into, or get closer to work through a wide range of workshops, mock interviews, and one-to-one mentoring. This is combined with gaining experience of the work environment through volunteering on our projects. During the pandemic, Reach4Work moved online, and expanded to include a digital project to help support even more disabled people in Buckinghamshire. We are very proud of this project and the amount of people it has helped get into work, even during such a difficult time.
Kate, from our Law Project:
“The law work experience project was immensely helpful to me as a law student with a disability. In particular, it has given me the confidence to know that I can make a valuable contribution and that I can talk to employers about the ways I work best. I enjoyed the experience immensely and benefitted a lot from working alongside others. I also made some valuable connections. I feel fortunate to have been part of the project as it helped me to see how inclusion can be managed well.”
This project helped disabled law students during the pandemic. BuDS knew that getting work experience was going to be difficult for students during the pandemic, and we also wanted to support young disabled people get work experience to support their careers. The team worked on law projects relating to disability. Four of the students have stayed with us as long-term volunteers which is amazing. We are hoping to repeat this project next year too.
BuDS always aims to make working and volunteering as accessible as possible. It is important people feel comfortable and confident in what they are doing, and that reasonable adjustments are made to ensure everyone can achieve the best results that they can. By allowing people to work in places and ways that work for them, BuDS achieves great results. We are always learning and will continue to work on ways to help disabled people to work effectively after the pandemic too.
Juliet, one of our staff members:
“I have been incredibly lucky to be employed by BuDS during the pandemic. I feel safe in the knowledge that they will follow guidelines and allow me to continue working remotely, a huge relief due to the fear I have felt being clinically extremely vulnerable. Working with BuDS boosts my mental health each week, as I get to socialise not only with a team who continue to make me laugh and help me gain confidence, but who also genuinely understand my disability and accommodate any adjustments that I require. They are truly the most disability friendly employer that I have known and I am incredibly proud to be a member of the BuDS team!”
BuDS is a charity which does not receive government funding. Instead, to ensure the charity can remain an independent voice for disabled people, we rely on grants and donations.
Liz, one of our Trustees:
“During the pandemic we have received various grants especially designed to help us support disabled people during these difficult times. We are really pleased to announce that we have recently received another grant of £5,000 towards our Covid-19 Information Advice and Guidance (IAG) project. This will help us continue the vital work we have been doing for the last two years, ensuring that disabled people have the information they need to keep themselves safe. Hopefully, it will give them confidence in the decisions they are making as we move into the future.”