The Equality Act is 6 years old. For the first
time the rights of what we call the protected groups, for example ethnic monitories, disabled
people, women, were all put together in one Act. And the feeling began to grow that disabled
people were not getting their fair share of attention under the Equality Act and so we
were asked to look at how disabled people have fared by the application of the Equality
Act, and we found, I’m afraid, that the Act has failed disabled people.
You must realise that disability discrimination legislation has been on the statute books
for 20 years, and throughout the period of the Committee, over nine months, we began
hearing from disabled people that it simply wasn’t working in practice.
If I can sum up it is that the Government, indeed all of us, have to be more proactive
in recognising the needs of disabled people, for example, employers need to realise that
they have to make reasonable adjustments for their disabled employees, sports grounds and
other places where the public gather to enjoy themselves or to watch games need to make
adequate accommodation for disabled people, taxis must stop to pick up disabled people,
the statutory provision requiring them to do so has been on the books for 20 years and
yet the Government has failed to bring that into force. It is a disgrace.
Well for a start we wanted the Equality and Human Rights Commission to communicate and
promote disability equality so that disabled people really knew their rights, because that
has definitely slowed down, but most importantly within the Public Sector Equality Duty it
was felt that disabled people’s voices had become very silent whereas before when it
used to be the Disability Equality Duty, disabled people were very much involved in public services,
access, planning within their local authorities, but the Red Tape Challenge seems to have squashed
that. Now, if you want to get something right, it’s so much better to involve disabled
people, for they are the experts in their own situation. We call it ‘nothing about
us without us’. And then normally, things get put right.
Disabled people have legal rights, like we all do, and yet changes by the Government
have made it much harder for disabled people to enforce those rights. For example, rises
in tribunal fees, cuts in legal aid, the removal of a conciliation service, the ending of a
very tailored telephone advice service, disabled people have been left wondering how they can
enforce the rights, which are written down in the statute book, and yet have been made