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Question for Department for Work and Pensions

UIN 272164, tabled on 4 July 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent steps her Department has taken to increase public understanding of invisible disabilities.

Answered on

8 July 2019

On Tuesday 25 June, the Government launched a new cross-government approach on disability which is guided by a vision that recognises the contributions that disabled people make and where disabled people can participate fully in society. To drive forward this approach, government will establish a new cross-departmental disability team in the Cabinet Office, and the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) will be incorporated into the team. This move recognises that disabled people, including those with hidden disabilities, face barriers across the life course and a wide range of aspects of their lives and coordinated cross-government action is therefore vital.

The British Standards Institution, and others involved in supporting the “Grace’s Sign” campaign, are currently exploring the potential for developing a symbol for hidden disabilities. The project is in an early scoping phase, but its intended aim is that the symbol would be recognised by the International Organization for Standardization. Achieving this involves a multi-stage process, which can take time, but if successful, greatly enhances the chances of its sustained future use in public signage. If successful, greater use and public acceptance of such a symbol would increase awareness of hidden disabilities, and help promote an understanding of the possible access and support needs of people with hidden disabilities.

Various Sector Champions appointed by the Minister for Disabled People are working within their sectors to support all disabled people, raise awareness of their needs and drive improvements in how these are met. Examples relating to hidden disabilities include: railway franchises thinking about supporting people with a wider range of disabilities, including through quiet areas at stations; a lanyard to identify those with hidden disabilities at airports, with staff trained to recognise this and offer help; and within the retail sector, many large stores holding quiet hours (no music and dimmed lighting) to improve the shopping experience for those with some hidden disabilities (such as autism or ADHD).

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