Oxford Disability Law and Policy Project publishes its Up to the Challenge report examining the National Disability Strategy

Associated people

The report is part of the Emerging Issues in Disability Law and Policy Series which has been launched to mark the 4th anniversary of the Oxford Disability Law and Policy Project, established in February 2018.

To mark COP26 and Disability History Month, the Oxford University Disability Law and Policy Project held a webinar, in November 2021, on whether the National Disability Strategy (NDS) does enough to address the twin crises of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Our discussants demonstrated that the NDS does not meet these urgent challenges. In bringing disabled people, disabled people’s organisations, disabled academics and professionals together to highlight the emerging and pressing issues in this fast-moving area, the report turns panellists’ compelling presentations into a series of papers. These essays provide an overview of the emerging issues at the intersection of disability, climate change and COVID-19. 

Contributors to the report include Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK; Professor Peter Beresford OBE, Visiting Professor at the University of East Anglia; Dr Sasha Kosanic, Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University; Dr Sarah Bell, critical disability and health geographer, at the University of Exeter; Jumoke Abdullahi, Communications and Media Officer at Inclusion London; Jane Hatton, Founder of Evenbreak; Dr Kay Inckle, Campaigns and Policy Manager at Wheels for Wellbeing; and Phillip Wilcox, author.

The report highlights that inclusive climate governance (Jodoin et al, 2020) is needed now more than ever, as the twin crises of COVID-19 and climate change interact and exponentially lead to an increase in inequalities facing the 14.1 million (DWP, 2021; Scope, 2021) disabled people in the UK. In light of growing international policy-making and research (Gutnik and Roth, 2018) on the need for inclusive climate action, the oversight in the recent National Disability Strategy is striking and an abrogation of the UK's international human rights obligations.

Dr Marie Tidball, Co-ordinator of the Oxford University Disability Law and Policy Project said:

The National Disability Strategy does not integrate any kind of action plan to implement disability-inclusive climate policies which empower disabled people’s full and effective participation in climate action and climate governance. Nor does it produce a cross-governmental plan to ensure an inclusive response to and recovery from the pandemic.

This evinces a failure to meet the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (OHCHR, 2020: 9; see CRPD/C/GTM/CO/1, CRPD/C/HND/CO/1 and CRPD/C/PAN/CO/1), namely, that States incorporate and mainstream disability inclusion in their policies and programmes on climate change.

Our report, Up to the Challenge, is particularly timely as, last week, the High Court declared the National Disability Strategy is unlawful due to inadequate consultation with disabled people in Binder, Eveleigh and Paulley v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions ([2022] EWHC 105 (Admin)).

The Report’s 21 recommendations to government and policy-makers are designed to increase their awareness of the requirements and capabilities of disabled people as agents of change in addressing the harmful impacts of climate change and COVID-19 in our day-to-day lives. In doing so, these recommendations draw on the eight key principles of a disability-inclusive, human rights-based approach to climate change and key requirements for disability-inclusive climate action (OHCHR, 2020).


The Emerging Issues in Disability Law and Policy Series brings together academics, disabled people, Disabled People’s Organisations, and practitioners to learn from the experiences and perspectives of disabled people and emerging issues in disability law and policy which require greater focus from policymakers and academics. This iterative process is designed to strengthen the interface between the professional and lived experience of disabled people and academia and public policy-making to engender further policy-relevant research. It is hoped this will bring the challenges faced by disabled people from emerging issues to the fore to help academics better frame their research objectives in a way that is sensitive to and relevant for our diverse population. Recommendations are designed to facilitate action to improve law and policy for disabled people.