The House of Lords Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee has been investigating the Equality Act and its impact on disabled people, and their report, entitled “The Equality Act 2010: the impact on disabled people”, says practice in all areas must be improved.
To watch a summary in BSL, press play below, or click here for a subtitled version.
The Committee concludes that laws designed to protect disabled people against disability discrimination simply aren’t working in practice, and that employers, service providers and public bodies are still not adapting to their needs.
The Committee also found that Government action, whether through the introduction of tribunal fees, through the impact of spending cuts, or through the removal of provisions designed to help disabled people (under the guise of reducing red tape), is having a hugely adverse effect on disabled people.
Government inaction is also to blame: the Government has refused to bring into force provisions on taxis carrying passengers in wheelchairs, even though they have been on the statute book for 20 years. Provisions to make leasehold buildings more accessible for disabled tenants have also not been brought into force.
The Committee found that the Equality Act 2010, which was intended to harmonise all discrimination law across nine protected groups, should not have included disability when it was drawn up.
Although the Committee recognises that it is too late to undo this mistake, it says that the Government must do all it can, instead, to improve how the Act works for disabled people.
Chair of the Committee Baroness Deech said:
“Over the course of our inquiry we have been struck by how disabled people are let down across the whole spectrum of life.
Public authorities can easily side-step their legal obligations to disabled people, and recent changes in the courts have led to disabled people finding it harder to fight discrimination.
When it comes to the law requiring reasonable adjustments to prevent discrimination, we found that there are problems in almost every part of society, from disabled toilets in restaurants being used for storage, to schools refusing interpreters for deaf parents, to reasonable adjustments simply not being made.
The Government bears the ultimate responsibility for enabling disabled people to participate in society on equal terms, and we believe it is simply not discharging that responsibility.
Not only has the Government dragged its heels in bringing long-standing provisions of the Act into force, such as those requiring taxi drivers to take passengers in wheelchairs, but has in fact repealed some provisions which had protected disabled people. Intended to reduce the regulatory burden on business, the reality has been an increase in the burden on disabled people.
The Committee would like to see changes right at the top of Government and is calling for the Minister for Disabled People to be given a place on the Cabinet’s Social Justice Committee.
It’s time to reverse the attitude that disabled people are an afterthought. Many of the changes we suggest are simple and do not require legislation. We hope the Government will implement them quickly.”
Update: there is also a section of the report dealing with British Sign Language and a possible BSL Act. It can be found here. (Thanks to Ian Noon for sending us this via Twitter)
Read the whole report here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldselect/ldeqact/117/11702.htm
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