Lack of progress on disability rights is society’s ‘badge of shame’

Published: 20 Jul 2016

A new national effort to promote disability rights is needed as ‘progress has stalled’, the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights will say today.

Publishing the Commission’s response to the Lords Select Committee report on the Equality Act 2010 and its effect on the lives of disabled people (PDF), David Isaac has called for a new national focus on disability rights, so that disabled people are no longer treated as ‘second class citizens’.

He is calling on the government to show stronger leadership by implementing all remaining provisions in the Equality Act without delay to allow better access to transport, housing and representation in politics for disabled people.

He has also called on restaurants, theatres, concert venues, sports stadia and all those providing services to raise their game so disabled people are not at a disadvantage. Businesses must use digitalisation as an opportunity to make it easier for disabled people to use their services online. Denying access to a large customer base simply is not good business practice and large venues must make it easier for disabled customers to access and buy tickets.

David Isaac said:

“It is a badge of shame for our society that thousands of disabled people are still not being treated as equal citizens and the everyday rights non-disabled people take for granted, such as being able to access transport, housing, restaurants, theatres and sporting events, are still being denied.

“Successive governments have failed to implement rights for disabled people in full, and now is the time to move this forward. Implementing the remaining provisions of the Equality Act relating to areas such as transport and reasonable adjustments to common areas of rented houses would help put an end to this discrimination, increasing disabled people’s independence and ability to participate in society.

“However, it is not all down to government. The Commission must use its position to bring people together and businesses need to play their part. While there has been some improvement for physical access there is still a long way to go. Sporting stadia and concert venues need to do much more and raise their game. It is disgraceful that only one percent of space at sporting venues is available for disabled fans. We will be holding these venues to account if changes are not made.”

"The Commission must use its position to bring people together and businesses need to play their part."

The Commission’s response to the report also sets out the action it will take over the next year including:

  • a major inquiry to examine issues related to disabled people and housing
  • the most comprehensive research into all areas of disabled people’s lives, covering different issues faced by people with different disabilities, as well as those with multiple protected characteristics (such as disabled members of ethnic minorities)
  • a report on the impact of welfare reforms with a particular focus on the issues faced by disabled people
  • a major report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the UK’s progress
  • two projects that will support disabled people and their organisations to assess how well disability rights are protected in the Great Britain. Disability Rights UK and Disability Wales will lead a project covering England and Wales; Inclusion Scotland (commissioned jointly by the Scottish Human Rights Commission) will lead a project in Scotland
  • a report on the pay gaps disabled people face, with recommendations on the action that needs to be taken.
"Successive governments have failed to implement rights for disabled people in full, and now is the time to move this forward."

The government should immediately start to bring into force the following provisions in the Equality Act:

Dual discrimination

This measure enables claims of direct discrimination to be made on the grounds of the claimant having a combination of any two relevant protected characteristics.

Ships and hovercraft

Ships and hovercraft are covered by repealed domestic legislation and an EU regulation, not by the Equality Act. In practice, this means that there is no obligation to make facilities, such as shops and bars accessible.

Reasonable adjustments to common parts of rented residential premises (England and Wales only)

Disabled tenants, who could otherwise live completely independently, struggle to get to their second or third floor flats because landlords refuse to make common areas – such as hallways, stairways and leisure facilities – accessible. Governments must work with the housing sector to bring in changes requiring landlords to make modifications, or to allow tenants to do so.

Taxi accessibility

Many disabled people have problems taking taxis. The government has said it will commence two sections of the Equality Act. We welcome this, but more needs to done. We need all provisions in full and a timetable set out.

Bus and coach accessibility

The majority of bus and coach accessibility provisions (Chapter 2 of Part 12) exempted until 28th February 2017, with the possibility of further exemption. Through powers that were included in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, buses must comply by 2017 with the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility regulations (PSVAR) 2000, and coaches by 2020. PSVAR applies to vehicles with more than 22 passengers. The regulations cover wheelchair spaces, boarding equipment, signs, priority seats, handrails, and kneeling systems.

The requirement for political parties to report on diversity of candidates

We are concerned about the low number of disabled MPs who were elected to the Westminster Parliament in 2015. We recommend:

  1. political parties must be required to publish diversity data about their candidates
     
  2. the collection of disability data from elected Members of the House of Commons, National Assembly for Wales and Scottish Parliament to ensure disabled members get the support they need to fully participate in public life, and a disability survey of all current Members of the House of Lords
     
  3. the government reopens the Access to Elected Office Fund in England, and work with the Scottish and Welsh governments to explore options for making the scheme, or similar funds, available across Great Britain.

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