The World Report on Disability is impressive and will inform understanding and action to promote fairer and more accessible societies around the world for years to come.
Given the immense diversity of disability, it was not possible for the Report to describe all the health conditions that give rise to impairments, including those affecting the face nor how the interaction between people with these conditions and the social attitudinal and environmental barriers can “hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis to others”. Nor could the proven interventions to remove these barriers and to empower individuals be referenced.
For example, recent evidence suggests that many of the 1.3 million people with a condition, injury or marking that affects their appearance in Britain are effectively denied opportunities to work. Over a third of the people recently surveyed said they had avoided applying for particular roles, because they feared others would have a negative reaction to their appearance.
In the spirit of the Report, Changing Faces is determined to continue working hard to ensure that public and employer attitudes towards people with unusual-looking faces are inclusive of all – and the good news here is that 35 major employers with a combined workforce over 1 million people have committed to embed ‘face equality’, to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equally irrespective of their appearance.
But that’s not all. It is also of critical importance that people with an unusual appearance get the right information, support and social skills advice, at the right time. That’s in very short supply except through Changing Faces and some islands of good practice in the NHS. We will look to the new Clinical Commissioning Groups to ensure much improved access throughout the country.