The value of research – commission on extra costs considers evidence

Post from Minesh Patel, Policy and Research Assistant at Scope.

The Commission on Extra Costs is a year-long inquiry that will explore the extra costs faced by disabled people and families with disabled children in England and Wales.

In September, the Commission agreed to focus on the themes of empowering disabled people as consumers, efficient supply and effective market intervention in its approach to driving down extra costs. At the same time they also held an evidence-gathering roundtable that included spokespeople from consumer champions like RICA and experts in getting markets to work for disabled people, including Motability.

Chaired by Robin Hindle Fisher, yesterday Commissioners started narrowing down the areas that they would look at in more detail, and gave thought to the main areas of extra costs that the Commission should look at. In addition, the group began to consider what the solutions might look like in addressing these costs.

  • One of the categories discussed was clothing and bedding, where disabled people may face extra costs through purchasing specialist items, as well as through having to purchase a greater quantity of non-specialist items due to overuse or damage.
  • Energy was another area, which featured regularly in the personal stories of extra costs submitted to the Commission.
  • Other areas included specialist disability products for which disabled people are charged a premium, e.g. powered wheelchairs, and insurance, where a significant minority pay over the odds or are unable to access products that meet their needs.

The solutions will vary according to the area of extra costs, but the discussion touched upon ideas such as:

  • Promoting the significant size of the disabled consumer base as a way to encourage more competitors to enter and thus open up the disability market.
  • Collective purchasing initiatives for things such as energy to enable disabled people to obtain a lower price.
  • The role of digital inclusion and web accessibility to ensure that disabled people can access the best deals that are often online.

The Commission will continue to develop and flesh out recommendations for driving down extra costs. To support this process, a second evidence-gathering roundtable will be held in January that will look at what can be done to increase the availability of and reduce the cost of goods and services in key markets for disabled people.

A Disney Princess with Down’s Syndrome?

A petition asking for Disney to create an animated hero with Down’s syndrome has already collected more than 70,000 signatures. Yet, when we posted this news on Facebook , the response was … well, let’s say it was animated!

It seems to have divided opinions quite strongly, so we thought we’d publish some of your arguments for and against.

She shall go to the ball

It is time for the big media moguls to realise that just because a child may be slow in their development, this is no reason for them to be ignored. Also, I think having a character in a Disney movie would help other children understand that his/her friend is just as capable in every day life as they themselves – Catherine

A Disney Princess should be gentle, sweet, honest and beautiful, so yes girls with Down’s syndrome fit the essential criteria as well as anybody else – Tom Jamison, Editor Able Magazine

I’m not sure that Disney would do this without a load of self-congratulation (although I accept that it would draw attention) but if they did, and set an example, I’d love to see this happen – Gus 

As the parent of a young lady with Down’s Syndrome, I would encourage an increase in the visibility of people with disabilities on stage, screen and in the media, providing positive role models for our kids to aspire to. My girl loves a Disney princess just as much as the next kid, so get on with it animators! – Heidi 

I think we need to see more positive role models with disabilities so it becomes the norm, as it should do. Humans come in all shapes sizes colours and abilities so, so should TV characters. – Gemma

Put your wand away

This is political correctness gone mad. How preposterous. I have dear friends whose daughter has Downs. She is a happy, able confident individual who does not see herself as different to other people. Why then should Disney emphasise physical differences that individuals with the condition do not perceive? – David Bell

Is it really Disney’s job to teach kids about disability or is it ours? We should be teaching our children about accepting people for who they are, whether they are a Disney Princess or a little girl with Downs Syndrome who wants to be a princess. A character in a movie can’t do this. Only we can Kimberley 

If Disney portrayed the syndrome it would be mawkish and unrealistic probably. There are some fine actors and actresses out there with Down’s syndrome. It will not be long until we have Oscar winners with this condition winning on merit – Gavin

Not every person with learning disabilities has Downs Syndrome. As a mother of an adult daughter with learning disabilities, I often find it hard that a person with Down’s Syndrome is the representative of adults with learning disabilities – Margaret 

I have a high functioning autistic grandson. He tops his grade in every subject. We asked him to make a wish (as we were at a fountain) and he said,” I wish I had a friend.” He is isolated and teased at school. He could connect so well with a film about autism and the making of a friendship – Pam 

This is a case of misdirected energy. There have to be more useful things for people to be concerned about. Why would having a Disney princess with a disability help anyone have a better life? – Jo 

Find out more about the petition to create an animated hero with Down’s Syndrome and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Looking for disability-friendly story books? Check out our list of books with disabled characters.