International Day of Persons with Disabilities: How comfortable are we really with Disability?

  • 02/12/2021

Approximately one in five of us living in the UK has one & two thirds of people are uncomfortable about it.

What is it? The answer is ‘Disability’.

To mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD) on December 3rd, Jonathan Fogerty, associate solicitor at CFG Law asks “How comfortable are we really with Disability?”

Only a couple of weeks ago, I was checking out of a hotel in London. A couple were standing at the reception desk next to me and I overheard them complaining about being allocated a ‘disabled room’ for their weekend stay.

“The bathroom has grab rails in it and there are emergency pull cords in the bathroom and around the bed” they explained. They were most irritated when the hotel receptionist told them that there was no other room available.

Why was it that they felt so uncomfortable about staying in a “disabled room“. Was it that they just didn’t want a visual reminder of what having a disability means or did they not want to think about having their own disability and actually needing these adaptations?

Was the sight of a few grab rails and an emergency pull cord so awful that they felt the need to complain and how can we improve people being comfortable around Disability?

Overhearing this conversation reminded me that we still have a long way to go in achieving a comfort level with disability. We need more people who live with a disability as role models in society and mentors in the workplace. We need disability to become ‘normal’ and something people just accept we get on with – and only as much as we have to – that a person who uses a wheelchair for their mobility is actually someone who works, raises a family, has an education and pays their taxes (grudgingly of course!).

I still struggle with this concept that people need training in “how to communicate with disabled people”. Why is it that?

Disabled people are just people and we communicate in the same way as able-bodied people do. Yes we might need the assistance of a bit of equipment here and there but come on.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is about promoting the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities at every level of society.

It’s about raising awareness of the lives of persons with disabilities in all aspects of political, social, economic, and cultural life.

Despite the Equality Act now being 11 years old we all need to do more to secure the rights of people with disabilities, so we can participate fully, equally and effectively in society with others, and face no barriers in all aspects of our lives. Is that really too much to ask?

This year the theme of IDPWD is celebrating the challenges, barriers and opportunities for people who live with disabilities, in the context of a global pandemic.

Lets face it, since March 2020, all of us have been impacted by huge change to the way we live our lives and as a result of domestic and international responses to COVID-19.

This year, International Day of People with Disabilities is being used to recognise that people who live with disabilities are among the most affected populations amid the COVID pandemic.

So, I ask you to take a moment on 3rd December and think about the impact you can have on diversity and disability equality. For those who have not yet done so, I would thoroughly recommend as a starting point reading the findings of the “Legally Disabled: The career experiences of disabled people in the legal profession” research that was launched last year.

And as we mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities we must reflect on our own profession and think about how diverse it really is. The legal profession needs disabled solicitors and barristers in the same way it needs black, female and LGBTQ lawyers; because without them we cannot truly reflect the diverse nature of the public we seek to represent.

For more information on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, go to and for more information on the “Legally Disabled research project, go to

Jonathan Fogerty is a wheelchair user and an Associate Solicitor at CFG Law. He sustained a spinal cord injury diving into a swimming pool as a teenager and has lived with his paralysis since then. He blogs; rarely – tweets; more often and complains generally; a lot to anyone who will listen, about access & equality for those with a disability.

See this link to his website profile page – or contact him at [email protected] or on 07935 075065.