TT Profile with Disability rights activist Nikki Hughes

8 September 2020

Romany Gypsy, Nikki Hughes is a Disability Rights activist and Autism advocate from South London. The activist is visually impaired, has low mobility, and is Autistic and is on a mission to change the way that Disability is viewed and spoken about.

The mother of three told Travellers' Times, "Being autistic, we are already a marginalised community, on top of that to be Romany Gypsy makes things twice as hard".

Nikki also talks about the discrimination she has encountered as a result of her ethnicity when trying to access health care services. She said, "Racism means we don't get a lot of the support we need".  

Nikki explained that within Gypsy and Traveller communities on the whole she felt perspectives needed to change on how  Disability is viewed and highlighted that people with Disabilities can and do lead happy and fulfilling lives.

Over the last six months, Rural Media in partnership with the University of Worcester and Shaping our Lives a user-led national network led by Disabled people created a short documentary exploring the experiences of Disabled Gypsies and Travellers.

The Missing voices of Disabled Gypsies and Travellers will be released later this month. From being involved in this project we found from speaking to people that there was a real lack of information surrounding Disability including what support was available to Disabled people, what their rights and entitlements were, or that a legal definition of Disability existed.

Just like people Disabilities come in many different shapes and sizes and you may not even consider yourself or loved ones to be disabled. The Equality Act (2010) defines Disability as: 'a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.'

The Equality Act came into force in October 2010, bringing together different laws that cover discrimination into one. Under the Act, it states that disabled people should be treated equally and protection from discrimination applies in many situations such as education, employment, the exercise of public functions, goods, services, facilities, and transport.

To find out more about the Equality Act watch this short animation here:  
Remember if you are Disabled or have a Disabled family member you have rights and there is support out there for you. For help and information here are just some of the national organisations who can help or put you in touch with local groups:      
Services for Independent Living:   
Disability Rights UK:
Citizens Advice Bureau:
National Autistic Society:
Royal National Institute for the Blind:
British Deaf Association:
And, as Nikki suggests, Travellers' Times will be encouraging service providers to listen to what’s needed too.


Lisa Smith/TT News