What’s the impact of being Black and disabled?

Black disabled woman in wheelchair

A much-needed report was written about the impact of being both BME (Black or minority ethnic) and disabled. This report, called “Over-looked Communities, Over-due Change” was jointly published by Scope and the Equalities National Council. Of the roughly 11 million disabled people in the UK, at least one million are from a Black or ethnic minority communities. There was a need to find a greater understanding of how BME disabled people feel about the services available to them so they can be improved.

In-depth focus groups uncovered the difficulties faced by many BME disabled people, such as communication and language difficulties, stigma (most disabled people report negative responses from others, but BME disabled people face a double stigma), social isolation (unlike some other studies there was little evidence that extended families offered extra support), inconsistent quality of care and weak links between services and communities.

Disabled people are much more likely to live in poverty than non-disabled people, but BME disabled people are disproportionately affected with nearly half living in poverty. In the UK, 44% of BME disabled people live in household poverty, compared with 32% of all disabled people and 17% of the population as a whole. Like all disabled people they can find themselves socially excluded and pushed to the fringes of society.

A not so surprising conclusion of the study was that tailored and person-centred, local and flexible services would be more valuable and accessible for BME disabled people, and of course accommodating individual preferences would benefit all disabled people.

Recommendations for service providers suggest that service provision should be:

1) Person-centred – Engage with user-led organisations to better understand the cultural dimensions of person-centred planning, and improve the planning process.

2) Local – Support existing BME disabled people’s organisations and build better working links between local agencies to create a better local offer, share knowledge more effectively and capacity build DPOs to help deliver better outcomes.

3) Advocacy – Develop networks of community and self-advocates, who can play a critical role in improving service access and outcomes for BME disabled people.

4) Translation – Refresh translation strategies, and work with local communities to develop more effective pre-translated materials.

5) Outreach – Improve outreach into local communities through strong partnership working with local organisations and employ dedicated outreach workers, who should also contribute to the development of community support networks.

The report also contains recommendations for policy-makers and service commissioners.

Let’s hope these recommendations will be adopted and, just as importantly, adequately funded.

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4 thoughts on “What’s the impact of being Black and disabled?

    1. Thanks Mary – yes, having any one characteristic or difference that society is somehow suspicious of and therefore disadvantages or marginalises is bad enough, but the effect of having two or more “protected characteristics” (as the Equality Act would call them) is profound. We have a long way to go before we can call ourselves a fair society.


  1. In a previous life I worked for adults with learning difficulties most of whom were black. Even then there was never any tailored services in terms of culture, food, haircare etc I would have thought that things had moved on by now as that was 11 years ago! Thanks for sharing


  2. I think one of the problems is that we put people into boxes – male/female, black/white, disabled/non-disabled, and we have strategies (bad ones, usually) to address each box, but then get thrown when a human being has the temerity to fit into a number of different boxes. Perhaps if we started treating people as, well, people, all of whom have different personalities and preferences and needs, we could make life easier for all of us.

    I don’t think it helps that as soon as we’re in the realms of potential discrimination people try to go ‘by the book’ and this doesn’t inspire flexibility.


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