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Disability Rights Commission Newsletter

Disability Rights Commission
Email Bulletin no. 18
May 2003

Welcome to the May issue of the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) email bulletin.

In this month's issue:

1. Disability Equality: Making it happen
2. Gaps in disability law leave 1000’s unprotected
3. Court of Appeal takes positive approach to individuals with cancer
4. DRC success stories
5. DRC Third Anniversary – analysis of services shows discrimination faced by 1000’s of disabled workers
6. “I get as much fun out of being disabled as I get trouble really!” The DRC talks to Peter White….
7. DRC calls for tougher penalties to end “daily humiliation and discrimination” experienced by assistance
    dog users
8. DRC policy on voluntary euthanasia
9. Challenge for small businesses’ to make services more accessible
10. New report shows increased awareness of DDA
11. Possible Ryanair/BAA Group Litigation Order
12. “Breaking Point” – the launch of Mencap’s new campaign
13. Disability Film Festival
14. Making sports facilities accessible for all
15. DRC call for Beacon Councils to lead the way
16. DRC speaks to the British Dental Association about service provision to disabled people
17. Your feedback - spread the news!

1. Disability Equality: Making it happen

First review of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995)

Between May and August 2002 the DRC consulted widely on its proposals for law reform. We have carefully considered the responses and changed our proposals as a result.

Our proposals seek to clarify and strengthen the DDA and to ensure that those groups who particularly experience stigma and discrimination (e.g. people with mental health conditions and progressive or genetic conditions) have protection.

The Government, through its public announcement about a draft Disability Bill, accepts that disabled people still lack full rights. The DRC wants the Government to:

Include the Disability Bill in the next Queen’s speech
Take up specific recommendations by amending legislation currently going through Parliament – in particular the Planning and Criminal Justice Bills
Support and promote a European Disability Directive
Agree a system of tax allowances for business
Broaden the consultation into the future of equalities machinery to include consideration of what kind of strengthened equality law is needed for the future, drawing on our proposals for change.
To view a summary of the DRC Legislative Review, please go to:

http://www.drc-gb.org/whatwedo/publicationhtml.asp?id=249&docsect=0&section=3

To download the full review in pdf format, click on:

http://www.drc-gb.org/uploaded_files/documents/4008_249_Legislation Review.pdf

For a word format, please go to:

http://www.drc-gb.org/uploaded_files/documents/2008_249_LegReviewDisability  Equality - Making it happen.doc  

2. Gaps in disability discrimination law leave 1000’s unprotected

Following the DRC’s major review of current disability law (please see above), the Commission is calling on the Government to immediately close a legal loophole allowing employers and businesses to discriminate against people with conditions such as cancer and Multiple Sclerosis.

The DRC is calling on the Government to urgently introduce legislation to cover people with progressive conditions to ensure that they are protected against discrimination from the point at which they are diagnosed. Currently the DDA only provides protection when symptoms develop, which make it difficult for someone to carry out daily activities.

To read the full announcement, please go to:

http://www.drc-gb.org/newsroom/newsdetails.asp?id=415&section=1

3. Court of Appeal takes positive approach towards individuals with cancer

The Court of Appeal recently confirmed that individuals with progressive conditions such as cancer would be covered by the DDA if the effects of treatment of the condition impact on their day-to-day activities.

This is following the case of Mr K, who was dismissed from his job after he was diagnosed as having prostrate cancer. When he tried to make a claim under the DDA, the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal found he could not continue with his claim, as he didn’t meet the definition of a disabled person, as his cancer was asymptomatic.

Mr K underwent radical surgery for his cancer. As a direct consequence of the operation, he developed urinary incontinence.

The DRC supported Mr K’s case to the Court of Appeal. This was to clarify if individuals who have progressive conditions fall within the protection of the DDA if medical treatment is required and then develop impairments due to the treatment. The Court of Appeal’s judgement went in Mr K’s favour.

Although future changes in the legislation may prevent such cases being taken to court, for the time being individuals with progressive conditions may find it easier than previously to establish if they are disabled for the purposes of the DDA.

4. More DRC success stories

Local Authority adjusts its parking scheme

Miss L has muscular atrophy and drives an adapted car. She is a carer for her parents, who are both disabled and live separately from her. She frequently has to take her parents for medical appointments in her car.

The local authority announced that a paid parking enforcement scheme would be initiated on the council estate where her parents live, and that no car parking spaces would be available for visitors. This meant that Miss L would have to park outside the estate. Yet because of her disability, she would find it impossible to walk to her parents’ home, from which they would all have to walk back to the car. Following Miss L raising this with Local Authority and getting no result, she contacted the DRC.

The DRC asked the authority if any exemptions to the scheme could be made. The authority then stated that safeguards were in place to ensure that carers of elderly and disabled residents would have free car parking access onto the estate. It also wished to inform the DRC that other individual cases would be looked at and that the scheme was flexible enough to cope with this.

Format’ll do nicely!

Mr A, who is blind regularly receives correspondence from a government department. However, although he has continually requested that this correspondence be sent to him in Braille, as this is his preferred format, the department have failed to do so.

On behalf of Mr A, the DRC wrote to the department, which responded immediately. The department then wrote a letter of apology (in Braille) to Mr A, giving assurances that all future correspondence would be sent to him in Braille. The department also stated that Mr A would now have a specific contact within the department in the unlikely event of the issue arising again.

The department has also agreed to disability awareness training, specifically on alternative formats. This will now benefit many more disabled service users.

5. The DRC’s Third Anniversary – Figures reveal widespread discrimination faced by 1000’s of disabled workers

The DRC celebrated its third anniversary on 25 April. At a parliamentary reception to mark the date, we launched our review of the DDA, “Disability Equality: Making it happen”.

The DRC also released figures on cases involving workplace discrimination, which accounted for more than half of the cases supported by the DRC last year. Employers’ failure to make adjustments for disabled workers made up more than a third of those cases.

Of 1,781 cases of disability discrimination investigated by the DRC last year, 55% related to workplace discrimination. The DRC supported nearly 1000 disabled people with specific cases of discrimination at work (981 individuals). Of these, 334 complaints were around making a reasonable adjustment.

To read the full DRC announcement, please go to:

http://www.drc-gb.org/newsroom/newsdetails.asp?id=411&section=1

6. “I get as much fun out of being disabled as I get trouble really!” The DRC talks to Peter White….

Peter White is the BBC’s Disability Affairs Correspondent. He has been blind since birth and was the first totally blind person to produce reports for television news.

“Disability is at the centre of our lives – it is an important part of who we are. You can’t go into a public place without people noticing your disability. It is important.”

The DRC met with Peter to talk about his career, his outlook on being a disabled person and society’s pre-conceptions of disability.

To read the full interview, please go to:

http://www.drc-gb.org/newsroom/newsdetails.asp?id=429&section=4

7. DRC calls for tougher penalties to end “daily humiliation and discrimination” of assistance dog users

Businesses that continue to flout environmental health guidelines which allow assistance dogs to enter food shops and restaurants are subjecting disabled people to “daily humiliation and discrimination”, says the DRC.

Speaking after the successful legal challenge by Denise Canniffe, whose dog Jude was refused entry to a public house, the DRC called for the courts to give tougher penalties to service providers who discriminate in this way.

To read the press release, go to:

http://www.drc-gb.org/newsroom/newsdetails.asp?id=426&section=1

8. DRC policy on voluntary euthanasia

In the past year there have been a number of high-profile cases of assisted suicide and publicity for the “right to die” campaign by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and others. In addition, two private member’s bills have been introduced into the House of Lords this session, one seeking to overturn the description of food and fluids as treatment that can be withdrawn form people where they are being given artificially and one seeking to change the law to allow assisted suicide. While neither of these bills has much chance of becoming law, debate on these issues continues in Parliament and the media.

As a result, the commissioners of the DRC have drawn up a formal statement of the DRC’s position.

The DRC has not made a general moral judgement on whether voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide should be legalised, but is basing its view on the effect that such legalisation would have on the lives of disabled people. The DRC takes very seriously the principle of autonomy expressed in the phrase “a right to die”. However, it believes that the right to live is equally important.

Alongside the wishes of people like Reginald Crew and Dianne Pretty, the DRC acknowledges the voices of disabled people who express a real fear that their lives could be put at risk if voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide were legalised.

To read the full statement, visit the DRC website at:

http://www.drc-gb.org/campaigns/campaigndetails.asp?id=307

The recent news of the assisted suicide of a British couple without a terminal illness justifies the DRC’s concerns that framing any law to include adequate safeguards is not currently possible.

To view our full announcement about this, click below:

http://www.drc-gb.org/newsroom/newsdetails.asp?id=410&section=1

A recent medical survey on law reform to legalise assisted suicide reveals that that 60% of doctors are opposed to assisted suicide and that 76% would refuse to practice “positive euthanasia” if it were made legal.

To find out what the DRC says about the survey, please go to:

http://www.drc-gb.org/newsroom/newsdetails.asp?id=427&section=1

9. Challenge for small businesses to make services more accessible

Maria Eagle MP, Minister for Disabled People has challenged small businesses across the country to make their services more accessible. She has called on businesses to go the extra mile for their disabled customers as she launched Access All Areas, a nation-wide award scheme.

"Access All Areas means precisely that. Disabled people should be able to expect the same opportunities in their daily life as anybody - whether going to the shops, socialising or playing sport. These awards are about recognising the sort of good common sense changes that make real business sense too”, said Ms Eagle.

The DRC Head of Practice Development David Sindall is one of the judges.

For more information on Access All Areas, go to:

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/mediacentre/pressreleases/2003/may/aaa1503.htm

10. New report shows increased awareness of DDA

The Government has published new research about the experiences of disabled people and levels of awareness (among both disabled and non-disabled people) of the DDA. The report also provides an opportunity to compare results with a similar survey conducted in 1996 and examines levels of awareness of the DRC since it opened for business in 2000.

Awareness of the DDA has increased in recent years. In 2001, 62% of people were aware of the DDA compared with 42% in 1996.
Around one in five of all respondents (18%) had heard of the DRC.
Disabled people more commonly report difficulties accessing leisure services than private or health/local authority services. In 2001, 26% of disabled people had difficulties accessing leisure services, this is higher than in 1996. The level for private services (9%) was similar in both years, this proportion being similar to that (7%) for health/local authority services. People with mental health problems or visual impairments were most affected.
“Getting to” service providers remains the most commonly reported difficulty in accessing services. It was less commonly reported in 2001 (27%) than in 1996, but remains the most common difficulty and was also the most common problem with accessing health/local authority services in 2001(46%).
To read the report in full, go to:

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/IH114.pdf

11. Possible Ryanair/BAA Group Litigation Order

The DRC has recently announced the possibility of a group litigation order against Ryanair and the British Airports Authority regarding a charge made to people who hire wheelchairs at the airport. Since making this announcement, a significant number of Ryanair passengers have contacted us with information regarding the charges they have faced.

The DRC believes it may be appropriate to commence a "class action" in which Ryanair passengers who have had to pay such charges could join in the DRC’s current legal case. People should be aware that:

There is no certainty that any such action will be started
The DRC will only be able to support a limited number of claims
There can be no guarantee that any action will succeed
It is likely to be more difficult to pursue a claim if it is made more than six months after the date on which a “hire” charge was paid.
If you were a Ryanair passenger who had to pay such charges, and would like the DRC to consider supporting a claim on your behalf, please complete the online questionnaire, or contact us on:

Tel: 0161 261 1840
Fax: 0161 261 1703
Textphone: 0161 261 1702
E-mail: ryanair.Glo@drc-gb.org

12. "Breaking Point" - the launch of Mencap's first e-campaign

Mencap's first e-campaign, "Breaking Point" is calling for carers of people with severe or profound learning disabilities to get help before they reach breaking point.

Mencap's recent survey of families in this position revealed that many family carers have found themselves at breaking point.

Breaking Point should draw attention to the desperate situation faced by people who care for their profoundly disabled sons and daughters at home, who are often left to cope on their own, with help only made available in a crisis. While these carers love their sons and daughters, and care for them willingly, they are unable to go on caring indefinitely without a break.

To find out more and support the campaign visit www.mencap.org.uk/breakingpoint

Email your MP and fill out an on-line quiz for the chance to win a Nokia Mediamaster 22IT.

Further details about the extent of the crisis faced by families will be published during National Learning Disability Week 16th - 21st June 2003.

13. Disability Film Festival

The London Disability Arts and the National Film Theatre (NFT) will host the Disability Film Festival on 5th – 8th June. Running for the fifth year, the festival provides a unique forum for the art of disabled filmmakers. Held at the NFT, 61 films will be played, including short and feature length films, animations, documentaries and experimental pieces. Each film will also be sub-titled, audio-described and BSL-interpreted.

For more information, please go to:

http://www.disabilityfilmfestival.net

14. Making sports facilities accessible to all

Sport England has published guidance that aims to make sports facilities fully accessible to disabled people.

‘Access for Disabled People’ gives advice on how to design new sports buildings and alter or adapt existing buildings to ensure good access. It includes everything from entrances to lifts, emergency escape, changing areas, toilet provision, social areas and spectator/viewing provision.

The guidance can be applied to all sports facilities and is aimed at designers, clients, building control officers, local authority access officers, access consultants and voluntary groups.

To order a copy of ‘Access for Disabled People’” telephone
0870 5210 255 or download it from the Sport England website on:

http://www.sportengland.org/resources/pdfs/guidance-notes/Disabled.pdf

15. DRC calls for Beacon Councils to lead the way

The DRC has recently released a consultation response on the Office for the Deputy Prime Minster's Beacon Council Schemes testing criteria. In this response, the DRC recommends that "inclusive provision of services for disabled people" should be what councils are judged on in the 2004 - 2005 assessment.

This is viewed as particularly important as from the 1st of October 2004 councils will have to meet new duties under the Disability Discrimination Act regarding access to their services for disabled people.

The DRC is calling for Beacon Councils to go above and beyond basic legal duties and provide services for disabled people in an inclusive fashion. The DRC also states that Beacon Councils should be setting the example for other councils on inclusion.

For the full DRC consultation response, please go to:

http://www.drc-gb.org/campaigns/campaigndetails.asp?id=311

16. DRC speaks to the British Dental Association about service provision to disabled people

The DRC recently attended the British Dental Association’s Conference to raise awareness of the new 2004 duties on the provision of services for disabled people.

Rosemarie Lees, Practice Development Officer, led a seminar titled “The Effects of the New Disability Discrimination Act on Dental Practice”. This seminar gave advice and information to dentists and the dental sector on the new duties coming into effect in October 2004 on the provision of services to disabled people. It also gave practical advice on how dentists can best develop an inclusive service within their means.

For a full copy of the speech, go to:

http://www.drc-gb.org/newsroom/newsdetails.asp?id=428&section=4

17. Your feedback - spread the news!

We welcome your comments and suggestions on this email bulletin. Please send them by replying to this email.

Please forward this bulletin to your friends and colleagues and encourage them to subscribe to this free service. They can do so by following this link:

http://www.drc-gb.org/bulletin.asp

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For up-to-date information, please visit the DRC website at:

http://www.drc-gb.org