RI Global in the News: BBC News — Major disability conference begins in Edinburgh

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Nicola Sturgeon has opened a major international conference on disability with a vow to “redouble efforts to tackle inequality head-on”.

The first minister and the Princess Royal attended the Rehabilitation International Congress in Edinburgh,.

The congress, held every four years, brings together government, business, academics and charity groups.

About 1,000 delegates from 60 different countries are attending the three-day event.

Ms Sturgeon said the way people thought about disabled people and disability has changed a great deal since the last time the congress was held in the UK, in 1957.

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She continued: “But, as you all know, there is much more work to do.

“The economic upheaval of the last decade has exacerbated inequalities across the globe. And we have seen all too clearly what this rise in inequality can lead to. Greater alienation, exclusion and social instability.

“And disabled people have very often been those who have suffered the most. That’s why we need to redouble our efforts to tackle inequality head-on, and ensure everyone has the chance to realise his or her full potential.”

Employment rights

She said the Scottish government would use new devolved powers to create a dedicated employability service for disabled people.

She also promised to safeguard the rights of the most severely disabled people with the establishment of the Scottish Independent Living Fund.

“This is hugely important because disabled people are not a homogeneous group. They are individuals, and as such have individual circumstances, needs and aspirations – which can change over time,” she said.

The conference is being organised by the disability employment charity, the Shaw Trust.

Its chief executive Roy O’Shaughnessy said getting disabled people into work was a major issue.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “There’s still a 30% gap between those with a disability and those without in employment.

“It’s a major focus not only for us but for other organisations, including disability rights to help improve that.”