Synopsis: Information regarding the number of wheelchair users in various areas of the U.K..
1.9% of the UK population uses a wheelchair, and for the first time data is now available estimating how many wheelchair users are resident in every area utilized by the 2011 census.
Simple questions don't always have simple answers, as I discovered last year. Whilst researching a local issue, I was asked "How many wheelchair users live in this town"; a very simple, very pertinent question to the issue under discussion. And unfortunately, at that time, a question without an answer.
We live in the age of big data, with continuous debates raging across the internet about just how much of our personal data should be made public, and how much should be held by government organizations. It has been suggested to me that wide scale data collection on wheelchair users could be considered discriminatory, and unwelcome.
Yet the truth of the matter remains that many policy and funding decisions that affect the day to day lives of wheelchair users (including me) need to be based on good data. And so I contacted everyone I could think of, from national charities to local professionals; I searched every variation and dredged the depths of local and virtual libraries. There was no documented methodology for determining this.
So my research began, and eventually a method was found and the calculations calculated. It is my sincere hope that the data I have produced will, in some way, aid disability rights campaigners and decision makers. No new data collection took place, but combining already publicly available data has produced this unique dataset.
I'm still astounded to be announcing this as new research. Whilst combing through journals and information sites, I noticed a worrying trend within some areas of Disability Studies. There are many papers describing the potential effects of inadequate housing or a lack of support; highlighting the developmental and emotional impacts on a child, for example, or the additional strain on family carers. Much of this is pay to read only.
However there appears to be a lack of quantitative data, highlighting how widespread an issue is or is not, what financial impacts to local services result from this issue, and the effectiveness of possible solutions to the issue. This makes it difficult for those commissioning vital services to know exactly how much funding to set aside to resolve the issue at hand.
There needs to be a shift towards quantitative research, and to publishing in the public domain. I'd also be keen to see people with disabilities taking an active role in calling for evidence based changes on a local and national level, and contributing to the available evidence.
After all, when disability data is harder to find than the number of Jedi Knights (176,632) something needs to change.